Saturday, 11 April 2009
I return triumphant.
It's taken several days, some inside knowledge and a dawn raid on my local stockist but... I have them !
Willie's Delectable cacao bars - Venezuelan 72 Rio Caribe Superior and Peruvian 70 - San Martin.
As I walked home I noticed that my shopping bag was infused with the smell of the cacao - how extraordinary - a rich, warm, slightly cloud forest FLAVOUR was wafting up towards me through the rain.
On my first skirmish to find these new bars, a few days ago, I noticed that although the shelves were bare of Willie's cacao (despite a new sign indicating where they should be), there were still an awful lot of people milling around the aisle.
I stood and watched them for a while, and they all did as I did - they picked up another brand of dark chocolate to try instead. I think it's that feeling of not wanting to go home empty-handed and I couldn't help thinking that Willie had really missed a trick here. His biggest stockist - with no stock, just before Easter and just after Channel 4 had broadcast his series of programmes showing production of the bars over three consecutive evenings. But I would later revise my opinion.
And this is why.
I bought one of the market leading brands thinking - how could it be horrible ? It wasn't cheap and although the packaging for all the dark chocolate is a bit samey, it was a name I recognised and associated with high quality - and, I hoped, taste.
Ummm. Not quite what happened. I broke off a square and nibbled tentatively. Yes certainly the strong flavour of actual cacao came through, but no smell, and the aftertaste was horribly bitter - confirming everything that people have said about dark chocolate. I actually threw the bar away, it wasn't my kind of taste at all.
So it was with some trepidation that I opened the ingeniously packaged Willie's Delectable Cacao. The neat chocolate brown box contains not one but two squares - "one for now, one for then", the packaging tells me. It's a completely different shape to anything else on the shelves; neat and easy to carry around with you but ingenious too. The concept and design is a revelation and a perfect fit - it couldn't be anything other than Willie's chocolate.
So, what if, after all the planning, I didn't like it ? The disappointment would be crushing, not least because I've been recommending Willie's 100% cacao to everyone since it was launched last year.
Again, the smell was incredible as I opened the box. It's stronger from the Venuezuelan 72, and sniffing the box I noticed that Cuban raw cane sugar is used. I'm not sure how easy that is to obtain in the UK and wonder how it influences the flavour, since you can't actually taste any sugar. Inside the two bars are very neatly wrapped with gold paper which is high quality. The bars themselves are glossy and thick, and break with a satisfying snap. And the taste..... it had so many layers, of fruit and chocolate, and something smoky, but my overall impression was of a smooth true chocolate flavour that lasted. For a long time after eating, I could still taste the flavours in my mouth and the most amazing thing was that there was absolutely no bitter aftertaste. After every bite, right at the end, I got a clear tang of lemon warmed by tropical sun.
I found that the chocolate bar reduced my appetite later - something I've heard said before about this chocolate.
It's genius what Willie has done, making a 72% chocolate bar that hasn't a hint of bitterness. I think that those people who bought alternatives when they found the shelves empty of Willie's cacao might have been equally disappointed, and when they too get to snap into one of Willie's squares, the "long forgotten flavours" will be forgotten no more because the flavours are unparallelled.
That the chocolate would be a success was never in doubt for me; how incredible it really does taste .... well, that has been revealing.
Willie has updated his website, and all credit goes to the company behind such innovative design - Link & Co.
Finally, as I read the information on the back of the box, I note that I have one from the 1st batch. I wonder whether I should have eaten it at all ? Shouldn't this be saved for posterity ? My Granny kept a tin of tuna which my Father had caught on honeymoon, and some 20 years later it still sat in her larder. Will anyone be able to resist Willie's Delectable Cacao and should it perhaps be put in a time capsule and buried well out of temptation's reach ?