Michel Cluizel: Chocolate with a missing ingredient

Michel Cluizel single-origin chocolate bar

Purists insist that dark chocolate should only have five ingredients: cocoa mass (aka chocolate liquor or paste), sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla and an emulsifier (usually soy lecithin). Is there butter or vegetable fat in your chocolate, as in Godiva’s? That’s a travesty: substitute fats don’t quite melt in your mouth. Is there vanillin, an artificial flavoring, instead of vanilla? That’s another chocolate no-no.

Chocolat Michel Cluizel of Normandy takes chocolate purity one step further and eliminates soy lecithin. Lecithin makes chocolate smooth, since it evenly disperses the solids and fats. Thanks to Chez Pim’s Menu for Hope II raffle, I won three single-origin bars of Michel Cluizel’s chocolate, sent by Pascale of C’est moi qui l’ai fait (or “It is me who did it” as translated by Google).

Michel Cluizel’s prestige line, 1er Cru de Plantation (translated roughly as “1st Vintage of Plantation”) featured beans from just one plantation to create distinct flavor profiles. Due to variations in climate, soil and harvesting, beans from around the world taste different. Some say that single-origin chocolates allow tasters to appreciate the nuances. Others, like Jacques Torres, say that chocolates with many types of beans have a greater range of flavor. Most chocolatiers blend beans to insure against a bad crop. For more info on single-origin v. blended chocolate, check out Love’s Cool.

Michel Cluizel Tamarina chocolate

The first bar I sampled came from the Tamarina plantation in Sao Tome. At 70% cocoa solids (the upper limit for most people), this chocolate was the strongest of the bunch. It had an earthy flavor like my favorite chocolate, the Valrhona 70% Guanaja. There were notes of orange and raisin. Then it turned acidic, making the flavor unrefined. Since I’m not an expert at describing flavors, I’ll include the package description: “It expresses notes of a fertile, volcanic marine soil, which blend, in a superbly lingering delight, with subtle, grassy and liquorice aromas.” It was apparent that the chocolate didn’t have emulsifiers, as I had to coax it with my tongue to make it melt.

Michel Cluizel Concepcion chocolate

I then switched to the mildest chocolate, with Venezuelan beans from the Concepcion plantation. It had a minty aroma and milky flavor. The product description read, “…discover hints of vanilla, honey spice cake and caramel in a remarkable lingering aroma with hints of mixed dried and black fruits.”

Michel Cluizel Los Ancones chocolate

The 67% Santo Domingo chocolate had just 1% more solids than the previous bar, but it had noticeably more chocolate flavor. It tasted most like what I associate with pure chocolate. This was the smoothest melting bar, but the acidic finish snuck in once again. The product description said, “…aromas of liquourice wood, then red berries and green olives with a lingering flavour of currants and apricots.” This one was my favorite.

Each bar had a unique flavor profile, but the acidity was a distraction. Although the bars were pre-scored, they didn’t break evenly, probably because of the missing soy lecithin. The chocolate also tended to melt in spots. Don’t get me wrong: the texture was better than 80% of the world’s chocolate, but at $6 for a 3.5-ounce bar, it should have been near perfect. My favorite chocolates are still the Valrhona 70% Guanaja and El Rey 70% Gran Saman, both of which are cheaper.

Michel Cluizel chocolate is available online, at fine food stores, a dessert bar in New York, and a flagship Paris store.

Chocolat Michel Cluizel
@ ABC Carpet & Home
888 Broadway (at 19th Street), 1st floor
New York, NY 10003
(212) 477-7335

201, rue Saint-Honorรฉ
75001 PARIS
+33 (0)1 42 44 11 66

http://www.cluizel.com – company info
http://www.chocolatmichelcluizel-na.com – online store

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  1. Tania said,

    The chocolates sound delicious, although I can’t say I ever found notes of specific fruits or herbs in any such chocolates that I’ve eaten. I think I’m usually so absorbed with enjoying the chocolate itself that I don’t pay attention to anything else. Great post!

    I found your blog via Gerald at Foodite, and I’m glad I did; it’s lovely!

    January 22, 2006 at 5:49 pm

  2. Laurent said,

    Nice to talk about Michel Cluizel’s chocolate bar. I discovered his different “cru” during a fair in brussel last year and he is really making great job.

    In fact, it’s not a parisian chocolate maker, it’s more from Normandy. You can also try Pierre Marcolini who is making nice bar of chocolates from different countries.

    Godiva isn’t really a reference. i come form Belgium and you can really find better. In brussel, i really advice Marcolini, Nihoul and Fabrice Collignon.

    Enjoy…and thank you for your nice chocolate article

    January 22, 2006 at 6:08 pm

  3. clare eats said,

    I bought my partner a block of the green box, and I really liked it. Mine hadn’t melted, perhaps that came with postage?
    But it was REALLY EXE $14 AUD

    January 22, 2006 at 6:25 pm

  4. Ivonne said,

    Thank you for the informative post. I’ve read in several places that we should try chocolate without lecithin to obtain the true chocolate flavour … I will have to keep an eye out for this brand of chocolate.

    Great blog!

    January 23, 2006 at 11:14 pm

  5. Jessica said,

    Tania, thanks for stopping by! For the longest time, I’d just enjoy chocolate without thinking about it, but then I realized that there are many types of chocolate flavor. So I started reading about tasting chocolate.

    Laurent, thanks for the correction about Cluizel being from Normandy. In the U.S., Godiva is considered a high-end chocolatier, and most people don’t know the difference. ๐Ÿ™ The only Belgian chocolates I’ve had are Callebaut (in brownies and re-incarnated in Godiva truffles), Neuhaus and Leonida’s. Callebaut and Neuhaus were too mellow for me. I liked Leonida’s flavor, but it had a greasy feel. I think Belgian-style chocolate may not be for me, but I’ll look out for the brands you suggested.

    Clare, I actually thought Michel Cluizel’s chocolate DIDN’T melt evenly, probably from the lack of lecithin. I agree it’s pricey, but it’s good.

    Ivonne, thanks for the compliment! Some chocolatiers leave out vanilla as well, but I’ve never seen someone make chocolate without vanilla and an emulsifier. That might be super-pure chocolate.

    January 25, 2006 at 11:59 pm

  6. carolg said,

    A late comment- You might want to try Michel Cluizel’s 1premiere Crus de Plantation packet of 16 small squares from 5 different regions. It’s expensive but you can taste the differences & make comparisons more easily than with full bars. I think relating chocolate to wine is a bit over-rated. The nose can differentiate at least 200 odors. The mouth just 5, possibly 6. Most chocolate tasting is done in the mouth..thanks for the informative blog ๐Ÿ™‚

    February 6, 2006 at 10:08 pm

  7. Jessica said,

    Hi Carol, thanks for your comment. Actually, 75% of what we taste is due to our nose. That’s why if you have a stuffy nose, you can’t identify flavors as well.

    I was able to taste the difference between the different Cru de Plantation chocolates you mentioned, but perhaps it didn’t seem obvious because I couldn’t think of words to describe them.

    February 6, 2006 at 10:22 pm

  8. carolg said,

    Hi Jessica ๐Ÿ™‚ A really fun way to get to know chocolate better is to go to La Maison Du Chocolat’s Parcours Initiatique sessions. I went last week to the “Tamanaco” & it was excellent. 1 1/2 hrs of info + a “flight” of pallets & ganache and then a demo on making ganache. It was done like a wine tasting BTW.
    Email me if you want more details..I saw yr comments over at D.L.’s

    February 7, 2006 at 7:14 am

  9. Jessica said,

    Hi Carol,
    Wow, I didn’t know La Maison did tasting sessions. I love their chocolate. I did some research, and it seems it’s $50/session. All in all a good value, but I cringe at throwing down that much money for food. Perhaps some day I’ll try it.

    February 7, 2006 at 9:21 pm

  10. carolg said,

    $55 + Tax but it is well worth it! Especially if you follow carefully along with the instuctions. & you do get a free tube of Hot Chocolate beads & some infused ganache to take home. Write it off as a biz expense in the name of research. Their head confisiere will be over from France March 20-24th I think… I have photos if yr interested..

    February 9, 2006 at 8:47 am

  11. gaurav said,

    its a very good site,the chocolates look super delicious,but unfortunately nevergot a chance to taste them!!!

    September 3, 2006 at 1:02 am

  12. Terez said,

    Thank you for the informative blog. Have you tried any of the raw chocolate bars? Two of my faves are Lulu’s (Vanilla) raw chocolate and Organic Nectars’ dark chocolate. Yum! Pure. Let me know what you think of them.

    February 11, 2013 at 2:52 pm

1 Links to this post

  1. Su Good Eats » Save Our Chocolate!

    […] As stated before, dark chocolate is a mixture of cocoa mass (aka chocolate liquor or paste), sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla and an emulsifier (usually soy lecithin). Cocoa butter literally makes chocolate melt in your mouth. Cheap brands substitute a portion of cocoa butter with butter, milk or vegetable fats, and they already taste really bad. Imagine if all the fat came from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Mmm, trans fats. […]

    April 15, 2007 at 12:26 am