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Sep
24

Doug’s Chocolate Republic Launches

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Chocolate.  One of life’s guilty pleasures — for most. It’s not a guilty pleasure for me. I eat it, love it, then flaunt it. But I make sure, as best I can, to only eat the good stuff.  If I were eating garbage, then I’d feel guilty.  Good and bad chocolate have about the same caloric content.  Why waste the calories eating the horrendous chocolate?


I haven’t always appreciated fine chocolate.  I used to think it absurd that people would pay USD 3 or more for a chocolate bar when Hershey bars were available for 35?.  I grew up, like most kids, eating normal everyday chocolate you grabbed off the shelves:  Snickers, Milky Ways, Kit Kats, M & M’s, Nestle Crunch bars, Mr. Goodbars.  None were manufactured with fine chocolate.  I just didn’t know that yet.


Everything changed in the year 2000.  The world hadn’t fallen apart as many doomsayers predicted from all the outmoded computers still in operation that only processed years by their last two digits.  I remained alive and well, and in October of that year, I went to Chicago to visit my sister and her family.  She took me to to the Field Museum to see a chocolate exhibition.  (I thought it was a temporary exhibition, but I was mistaken.  The exhibit continues as of this writing.   Check here).  I got to observe how chocolate was grown, processed, blended, conched,  tempered, and stored. Until that time, I didn’t realize that cacao beans could only be grown in equatorial climates. About 70% of the world’s crop comes from just three countries: Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Indonesia.   Suddenly, chocolate seemed like a rare gift.


At the end of the exhibit was a gift shop selling various kinds of chocolates, none of which I’d ever seen before.  One item for sale was called “Mexican Hot Chocolate.”  It consisted of blocks of spiced Mexican chocolate.  There were instructions affixed to boil one block in so much milk.  When we got back to my sister’s place, I boiled one block in soy milk for myself and another in real milk for my niece.  My niece said she liked it, but I was in raptures.  It was delicious, incomparable to the supersweet Nestle Quik and Hershey’s Instant Cocoa I supped as a child and would never sup again.


My chocolate habits changed immediately.  I went to the trouble from then on to buy only premium unsweetened cocoa powders — Valhrona, Droste, Green & Black’s, whatever I could get my hands on.  I added cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, and almonds and originally sweetened the drinks with brown rice syrup and, later, non-caloric stevia, always using soy or almond or rice milk.   It became a daily ritual for me.  When I’d visit the natural foods market, I’d pick up a bar of premium chocolate to broaden my taste buds.  Within six months of consistent consumption of the “good stuff,” I could readily tell when I was eating the bad stuff.   The lack of cocoa solids and inferior fillers was obvious.   Hershey and its cheap cousins were permanently dumped from my consumption.


Doug’s Chocolate Republic came about almost by accident.  In January of 2010, I compared Cadbury Dairy Milks and nut bars from more than a half dozen different countries and wrote about it on Doug’s Republic.  This was around the same time as Kraft was bidding to buy the Cadbury company outright.   The article received a lot of hits.   A stand-up Australian guy came across the Republic and sent me a book as a gift, being so gracious as to include a few Australian-made Cadbury bars as well.  Later, he sent me more parcels of chocolate, from New Zealand, Spain, Australian, and the UK.  Naturally, I ate all that was sent and mentally rated each bar.


Doug’s Chocolate Republic was a natural extension of what I’ve been doing for years anyway — comparing one bar of (hopefully) premium chocolate with another.  I’m surprised I never thought of putting this chocolate review section together years ago.


My objective is to rate at least one new chocolate per week.  If I take the consumption to an extreme, I risk blowing my waistline out to Chris Farley or Dom Deluise proportions.  Chocolate is tasty, and scientists do say it has some health benefits, but let’s not forget that it also packs on a lot of calories.  To not join the ranks of the obese, I have to pace myself.   Obesity leads to increased mortality, and I can’t rate any chocolates if I’m dead.


If there’s a non-mass produced chocolate you’d like me to rate, let me know, and  I’ll seek it out.  Keep in mind, however, that I live in a country with a pathetic premium chocolate market.  I may not get around to sampling it immediately after you tell me about it — or ever, if I can’t get my hands on it.   The premium chocolate market appears to be growing by the day, filled with many smaller producers who may only serve local markets.  Were I to be recommended a premium small brand particular to one nation, there’s a bat’s chance in hell I’ll be able to find it in Thailand.


People bitch about the world’s bad economies, but I’m looking on the bright side.  There’s been no better time in history to be a chocoholic.  More companies are producing better chocolate and with trade freer than it’s ever been in the past, it’s easier than ever to taste premium chocolates from all over the world at back-aching, but not back-breaking, prices.


The Aztecs and the Mayans would be proud.


[Click the picture to enter Doug’s Chocolate Republic main site area.  Click here to do a search for chocolate reviews.]

Categories : Chocolate

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