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Say bonjour to Le Chocolat Des Français. Exhibiting at the Speciality and Fine Food Fair in London's Olympia recently, this French chocolate brand proudly fuses together passions for good chocolate and bold, contemporary art.
Back in 2014, co-founders Matthieu Escande, Paul-Henri Masson, and Vincent Muraire set about disrupting the chocolate industry by marrying their love for good quality chocolate and their passion for creative arts. Since then, the award-winning business has gone on to create a dizzying range of French-made organic chocolate decorated with designs from more than 400 artists.
I enjoyed chatting with Vincent at the London foodie show, and he kindly sent me home with a selection of his favourite products - a milk chocolate hazelnut bar, a sea salted dark chocolate bar, and a drum of milk and dark chocolate covered hazelnuts.
Le Chocolat Des Français Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts Review
The vivid artwork for this 80g bar was designed by Cléa Lala, an artist inspired by fashion and contemporary art. The link between chocolate and love was exposed in a study by the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships in 2014. Personally, I believe this artwork plays on the seductiveness of chocolate and its impact on our relationships.
This 41% milk bar was made near Paris using cocoa beans from Ecuador and Peru along with toasted hazelnut nibs.
Le Chocolat Des Français Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts ingredients:
Cane sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, hazelnut (10%), cocoa mass. Minimum cocoa solids 41%.
Beneath the decorative wrapper was a copper-toned woven foil wrapper, surrounding the milk chocolate bar. The face of the classic shaped bar was littered with scuffs and marks from the foil wrapper. The rear of the bar revealed a generous scattering of toasted hazelnut nibs inside the chocolate.
The initial aroma was rich and creamy, with notes of caramel and vanilla. The snap was clean, and the bar easily broke into the 24 predefined segments.
The flavour in this sweet bar took a while to come through in the taste, with a creamy, almost buttery flavour from the Ecuadorian and Peruvian chocolate jostling against the occasional hint of hazelnut throughout the melt. The overall flavour was incredibly gentle, with both aspects working together so as not to overwhelm or overpower each other. The aftertaste was a balance between the flavours of hazelnut and an almost caramel-like sweetness.
Overall, this was a refined and delicately-flavoured bar. Be careful not to pair it with bold and punchy flavours, such as a strong coffee or heavy red wine, as its subtleties will be lost.
Le Chocolat Des Français Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt Review
Paris-based illustrator Kei Lam designed a colourful image portraying a waiter rising from a mug of hot chocolate with the iconic Citroen 2CV served on a platter.
Similar to the bar above, this 71% intense dark bar was also made near Paris using the same cocoa beans from Ecuador and Peru. There was also a sprinkling of sea salt heralding from the South of France.
Le Chocolat Des Français Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt ingredients:
Cocoa mass, cane sugar, cocoa butter, Camargue sea salt. Minimum cocoa solids 71%.
The bar itself was wrapped in the same copper toned woven foil as the previous bar. It too boasted the same classic 24 segment design.
As I peeled back the foil, the unmistakable waft of smokey Ecuadorian cocoa arose. Hints of leather and tobacco crept through but the smokey quality dominated. There was a slight sweet nuttiness to the aroma too.
A crisp, clean snap made for easy portioning. Upon tasting it, I was greeted by a dry bitterness to begin, as the smokey qualities started to materialise. A dose of buttery creaminess swooped in to battle the bitterness, followed by the subtlest hint on salt to keep the sweetness at bay. As the sweet aspects subsided, the bitterness ramped up again as the rich 71% dark chocolate revealed yet more of its smokey characteristics. The dry, rich aftertaste was almost nutty in flavour, with the smokiness humming away in the background.
This was yet another cleverly balanced bar. There was a risk with 71% smokey, bitter cocoa that it would have been too dry and overwhelmingly bitter. However, Le Chocolat Des Français has tamed its many properties and created a roller-coaster of a tasting journey in a chocolate bar.
Le Chocolat Des Français Dark & Milk Chocolate Hazelnuts Review
The 150g drum boasted bright pink artwork by Parisian illustrator Marie Assénat. Her visions of Paris and French life decorated the tub. Inside were dozens of 31% milk and 60% dark chocolate-covered caramelised hazelnuts from a chocolate artisan in the heart of Provence.
Le Chocolat Des Français Dark & Milk Chocolate Hazelnuts ingredients:
Milk chocolate (35%) (Sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, cocoa mas, emulsifier (soy lecithin), natural vanilla flavour), dark chocolate (35%) (cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifier (soy lecithin), natural vanilla flavour), hazelnuts (28), sugar, coating agents (arabic gum, shellac, glucose syrup). Milk chocolate 31% minimum cocoa solids; dark chocolate 60% minimum cocoa solids.
The eye-catching vivid pink cannister contained an assortment of milk and dark chocolate coated hazelnuts. Each had been coated in a glaze to give it a shiny appearance, but had the issue that it glued many of the coated hazelnuts together in clumps of three or more.
As for taste, the dark chocolate was the more enjoyable out of the two, with slightly more depth of flavour and a mildly bitter finish which was ideal against the sweetness and deep nutty flavour of the caramelised hazelnuts. The milk chocolate wasn't as strong, although it offered more sweetness. Even so, it didn't stand out as much against the hazelnuts.
I do wonder whether the glaze affected the taste too, as the chocolate didn't melt as i would expect it to, instead holding its rounded shape. Personally, I'd like to compare these against an unglazed version but suspect the less-shiny version would win.
Le Chocolat Des Français Chocolate Bars Review
RRP: £5.50 | Le Chocolat Des Français | Shop now
Art is very important to the team at Le Chocolat Des Français but the chocolate doesn't play second fiddle. The flavours of the chocolate bars were subtle and delicately balanced. The moreish hazelnuts were enjoyable but tended to clump together, and I'd prefer a more intense chocolate to balance out the sweetness.
Do you feel packaging is just as important as what's underneath it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.