Never mind Spice Island - if you're unaware of the enormous contribution to the chocolate industry made by Chantal Coady, founder of Rococo, over the past quarter of a century, you must have been on a desert island far, far away. Recently honoured with an OBE for her efforts (uniquely, 'for services to chocolate making'), Coady has not only succeeded in building her highly acclaimed chocolate empire from scratch in that time, but has also been busy generously supporting chocolate producers in the UK and around the world.
Just over ten years ago, she took that support to another level by becoming involved with chocolate production on the Caribbean island of Grenada. Prompted in 2002 by Mott Green sending her some bars from the tiny Grenada Chocolate Company to try, Coady struck up a working relationship with Green and the Grenada business which has endured ever since, and through the shock of Green's sudden death two years ago.
The connection has become a formalised partnership, called Grococo. The two companies now own their own cocoa farm, and Rococo is able to use the resulting organic Trinitario cocoa beans from it to make, to quote the words on its website, their own 'fairly traded, ethical chocolate'. It's a testament to Coady's undimmed enthusiasm for the quality of Grococo's chocolate and her belief in the value of Grococo to the local workforce and community.
With this bar, the two come together in a way that seems almost overdue. Coady's inspiration - drawn from the island of which she's become so fond - meets the treasured Trinitario bean of Grococo's farm and the surehanded treatment of Rococo's chocolatiers.
The bar's packaging bears all the hallmarks of Coady's artistic input. Using Grenada's vibrant national colours - red, yellow, and green - the design is eye catching, appealing, and fun.
Tear the inner foil wrapper, and immediately a heady waft of citrus and spice rises up, verging on the intoxicating. The chocolate itself looks smooth, shiny, and well tempered, and breaks to a crisp and telling snap.
The flavours on the palate are every bit as intense as the aroma promises. Alongside a faint hint of tobacco are the promised spices - cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg - in perfect balance, with the citrus notes of the cloves slightly to the fore and lingering longest in the aftertaste. Underlying the aromatics is the earthy, deep and dark cocoa hit (you could be forgiven for thinking that the cocoa solids content is higher than the 65% it actually is) that has so characterised the Grenadian company's own bars.
Texture-wise, it's cleaner and smoother than you might expect as a result of the extra cocoa butter added to the chocolate mix, and the melt is respectably measured. Start chomping, though, and you'll come across a nibbly crunch in the form of tiny nuggets of the ground spices.
All in all, it's a rich and uncompromising (in the best possible way) bar. If you're a fan of dark chocolate and spices then this bar is undoubtedly for you. Even so, you might be surprised at its potency. It's certainly one to savour - with its warm flavours, it would certainly make an appropriate choice for a seasonal gift or winter treat.
I love everything about it, and yet I think more than one piece at a time could prove too much of a very good thing. Still, there's no harm in trying, is there?
Rococo Spice Island Dark Chocolate Artisan Bar, 70g, £4.50