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Ghirardelli Intense Dark Hazelnut Heaven

A delicious and affordable treat made by a classic American chocolate company

Ghirardelli's "Intense Dark" line seems to be aimed at the market of people who love Ghirardelli's creamy milk chocolate, but feel like they should try branching out into dark chocolate - probably because of the antioxidants. They are bars which are legitimately dark chocolate, but without many of the bitter notes that tend to turn off the uninitiated. They also have a surprisingly high milkfat content, which makes them creamier than most dark chocolates.
 
If you like your dark chocolate to be crisp, to snap when you break it and crumble in your mouth, then this is probably not the bar for you. It is much creamier than many dark chocolates, and it has a lot more hazelnut bits than a purist might look for.
 
As with all Ghirardelli chocolates, the appearance is outstanding. Each bar is formed of tablets that are about 1 inch square, with a brilliant glossy finish. (In fact, the finish on this square was so mirror-like that I had trouble photographing it; it kept wanting to reflect back the view from the window above it.) And stamped with the Ghirardelli seal and eagle.

The cacao flavor is bright and berry-like here. It reminded me of a lot of the Central and South American coffee blends that you can buy at Starbucks. That berry flavor is honestly not my favorite, but a lot of people obviously like it. That's just a personal preference, nothing wrong with it. I avoid any of the coffee blends that use words like "bright" or "refreshing," I prefer my coffee dark and strong like the Italian and French blends.
 
The hazelnut flavor pairs well with the berry flavors in the chocolate, though. Hazelnut is a delicate flavor that sometimes gets lost in the mix. There are a lot of bars where I honestly couldn't tell you if I was eating peanut bits or almond bits or what. In this case, I could definitely taste the hazelnut flavor. And there are, as previously mentioned, an awful lot of hazelnut bits.
 
The packaging on the bar states that it is "All Natural." That's well and good, but you have to realize that in premium chocolate bars, you don't get too much in the way of artificial ingredients to begin with. I felt like they might have been trying to lure in inattentive shoppers who didn't notice (or care about) the difference between claims like "All Natural" versus "Organic" or "Fair Trade."
 
A small quibble, though, for a delicious and affordable treat made by a classic American chocolate company!