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Trader Joe's Chocolate Palette

I ended up making this epic trip to Trader Joe's last weekend.  They sell this one particular snack (sesame seed-coated honey cashews) that my best friend adores, and I wanted to get her a bag.  The nearest Trader Joe's is about 50 miles from here.  And let's just say, Trader Joe's on a pre-holiday Saturday afternoon?  Maybe not my first choice. 

Maybe it was the experience of finding the entire parking lot full, and having to park in a precarious spot on the street.  Maybe it was the flood of Trader Joe's bargain shopping hormones that get sprayed on you at the door.  I'm usually a pretty savvy shopper, I swear!  But I thought this assortment of chocolates was marked $2.99. 

I didn't realize my mistake until I went browsing online for other people's reactions.  Turns out it was actually $10.99.  ("That can't be right," I thought.  But I tracked down my crumpled receipt from where the cats had been using it as a fun toy and there it is, $9.99, plain as day.)

I was all set to tell y'all what an amazing bargain this is, three bucks for a full pound of varietal, single-origin chocolates from around the world!  At ten bucks per pack…. Maybe not such a great bargain.  But if you are really deeply into chocolate (you know who you are), then you definitely want to buy one of these. 

They are positioned as a hostess gift, with the little raffia ties and the informational mini-brochure.  But I can assure you, the delights of the Chocolate Palette are far too arcane for most people.  Unless you're buying a gift for someone who even knows there is such a thing as "single-origin chocolates," just buy them a Toblerone bar.

I mention the price, because it seems to be all people are talking about.  Here's how it works: if you care enough about chocolates to get excited at the opportunity to sample and compare eight different single-origin chocolates, then $10 is a shocking bargain.  If you just like you some chocolate (nothing wrong with that!) then $10 is way more than you want to pay.

I was aware of single-origin chocolates, but had never (to my knowledge) tried any.  After sampling small nibbles from each of the eight bars, my biggest surprise is how different they all are from each other.  The texture, the break, the flavor overtones - each of these bars is distinct from the others.

The informational brochure is surprisingly helpful.  Inside it gives a quick description of each bar's flavor profile.  And I found these to be surprisingly accurate. 

You may think it's ridiculously pompous to describe a chocolate bar as having "slightly nutty notes and a strong finish" (Dominican Republic) or "well-rounded with subtle jasmine notes" (Peru).  And maybe it is.  But it's also surprisingly accurate.  The Dominican Republic bar really does taste nutty.  The Peru bar really does have a slight hint of jasmine.

It's stunning to think that all these flavors can come from one single plant, that they haven't been altered or had flavoring added.  I never fully believed people's claims that chocolate has as much variety as wine, but the Chocolate Palette has opened my eyes.