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Home / Doug's Chocolate Republic  /   Review: Scharffen Berger Nibby

     
Scharffen Berger Nibby 
Posted: 13 November 2011    8.5 
Scharffen Berger Nibby The Nibby bar is a 62% semisweet filled with cacao nibs.  It's a brilliant combination. Many bars in the 60% range are bland or too bitter for those not in love with dark chocolate. The nibs in this one provide a flavorful distraction from a chocolate that doesn't even need a distraction.    
Avg price/gram: USD 0.053   Cocoa %: 62  Size: 85g   
       


Take a break for a second and think about all that's changed in the world after September 11, 2001.  Societies have become more tightly controlled.  Security at airports is slow and excruciating.  Financial markets in the U.S. and Europe have tanked.  And Scharffen Berger, a well regarded chocolate manufacturer originating in the San Francisco Bay Area, is now owned by Hershey.  As far as the Chocolate Republic is concerned, the last point is the most important one.  

Hershey bought out Scharffen Berger for US$20m in August 2005.  It, along with a company Hershey snapped up called Joseph Schmidt, was packaged under a banner called Artisan Confections.  Overrated Dagoba got scooped up in 2006 and placed under the Artisan's label, too.   

I tried Scharffen Berger pre-2005.  In fact, it was one of my regular chocolate bar brands.  Back in the depressing days when I still lived in Los Angeles, I'd pass by the Whole Foods' store several times a week.  Scharffen Berger figured prominently in the selections.  I remember the chocolate changing my notions of how good chocolate could be. And back in those days, it was still a local California chocolate.     

It's easy to lose sight of Scharffen Berger's importance in the American chocolate renaissance that took the country by storm in the Noughties.  Scharffen Berger produced its first batch of chocolate in 1997, the first American bean-to-bar manufacturer to appear in fifty years.  They were the first to list the cocoa solid content on the wrapper of all bars, now commonplace among all chocolate manufacturers purporting to make premium stuff. 

My memories of this brand, all pre-2005, are fond ones.  As of 2009, Hershey shut down the Scharffen Berger factory in Berkeley and consolidated all its Artisan Confections manufacturing in Illinois.  This did not quite square with the intentions Hershey had voiced prior to the buyout, that Hershey intended to let the company operate independently in California but the products would be marketed using the powerful nation- and worldwide Hershey machine. 

The California facility used century-old German machinery in a painstaking process.  It seemed hard for me to believe that corporate monolith Hershey would recreate that same rather inefficient process in Illinois. Bring in the bean counters, change the way things are done, and you wind up with a different product. Right?

Fortunately, not this time. The Nibby bar is a 62% semisweet filled with cacao nibs. The nibs are the bits of the cacao bean after it's been roasted and de-shelled. It's a brilliant combination. Many bars in the 60% range are bland or too bitter for those not in love with dark chocolate. The nibs in this one provide a flavorful distraction from a chocolate that doesn't even need a distraction

Is this all an illusion? Has Hershey fooled us with inferior ingredients but with enough flavor enhancers to make us think it's Scharffen Berger unchanged? The simple ingredient list of cacao beans, sugar, cacao nibs, cocoa butter, non-GMO soy lecithin, and whole vanilla beans looks like Hershey left things alone. Hershey is like the drug kingpin Gustavo Fring in the TV show Breaking Bad who recreates the main character's homemade crystal meth recipe in a state-of-the-art megamillion dollar lab.  Fring wants it all done on a bigger scale, in a different facility, but in the same personal 'small-batch' way. 

We're sure Hershey will cut corners wherever it can. It's cut so many corners on its own chocolates that you have to question if there's any cacao left in a Hershey Bar anymore. For now, sleep like a child, my friends. Hershey hasn't sold Scharffen Berger (and you) down the river yet like your elected politicians already have.


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  chocolate made by Scharffen Berger in Berkeley, California sparked an American chocolate renaissance, mates. Scharffen Berger specializes in dark chocolate. Hershey bought the company in 2005 and now it's made in Illinois under the Artisan Confections banner. This bar is called the Nibby and contains cocoa nibs