Premium Supermarket Brands
These are brands that many upscale or mid-range supermarkets will carry, including Whole Foods, Safeway, Target, etc. Co-ops and upscale local chains usually have at least a few good bars as well. What differentiates these brands from the other bars reviewed here? Premium supermarket brands tend to be significantly less expensive than craft chocolate ($3.50-$5 for a 3.5 oz bar), produced by large companies, occasionally but usually not single-origin, quite consistent from year-to-year and batch-to-batch due to large-scale blending, and better tasting than cheaper supermarket brands but typically signficantly less distinctive and complex than craft chocolate and sometimes over-roasted, over-vanilla-ed, or over sweetened. They range from mediocre to quite good; here are a few suggestions (and cautions) for when you want decent, relatively inexpensive chocolate.
Alter Eco - Salted 70%
Flavor: Peanut butter, earthy, rustic. Very low acid, no discernable astringency, low bitterness. Very faint fruitiness on finish but earthy chocolate flavors dominate. Salt makes it impossible to fully assess the true flavor, but this bar made for a very pleasant tasting experience.
Recommendation: Highly recommended. One of the best supermarket brands – smooth texture and good flavor. They make good coconut oil truffles as well.
Madécasse - Madagascar 80%
Aroma: licorice, leather, hint of smoke
Flavor: A surprising burst of acidity and sweetness. tart, some fruit, some grassiness, earthy. Fruity notes, but lost under dark toast, nearly burnt, bitter notes. Acidity slightly too harsh. Maybe over-roasted and under-conched, or dried too fast. Less of a juicy red berry tang like other Madagascar bars and more of a slightly astringent sour tropical fruit bite, like star fruit. Spices, tangy, dark roast.
Recommendation: Recommended with reservations. The high cocoa percentage makes this bar a bit unpleasantly strong for the beans and roast they used. They do make good chocolate though; I would stick with the 60-70% bars.
Theo - 70% Dark Chocolate
Flavor: Very strong flavors. Wood, especially pine, predominates. Bitter dark toast notes. Some earthy and vegetal flavors: raw peanuts, a little grassiness, flax, some mustiness (mold defect?), dusty, flavors like raw flour, a little bit of a weird astringent undertone. Some cherry/red fruit notes when warmed. Hint of honey. Mild fruity acidity.
Recommendation: Recommended with reservations. Reasonably priced and one of the better options among mid-range supermarket brands, but there is some astringency as well as slightly over-roasted flavors.
TCHO - Ghana 70%
Flavor: Bold, full, and earthy with a warm chocolatey flavor base - hot chocolate, cocoa powder, brownie, and toasted almond. Green flavors of Brazil nut and a hint of raw peanut/green olive astringency, but very mild. The vanilla comes through, making for a mellow finish that conjures up images of hot chocolate with marshmallows. Very little bitterness, acidity, or astringency.
Recommendation: Highly recommended. This is one of the best premium supermarket brands, and it offers uniquely high quality for a reasonable price.
The Dutch chocolate brand Delicata is made for Albert Heijn grocery stores, a large chain based in the Netherlands. I purchased two bars at a Delhaize supermarket (also based in the NL) in Belgrade, Serbia, for the equivalent of $1.75. Serbia is very cheap but even so I was surprised to find a full-size bar or organic origin-labeled chocolate for that price. Original Happiness includes a range of five country origin bars and two blends.
Aroma: lovely aroma. Criollo like with some dried fruit notes, rich chocolate, leather, cedar, spice - indistinct, like an old spice shop
Flavor: nice. Rich chocolate, soft fruity notes, slight woodiness, a little caramel, added vanilla present just slightly. Flavors are good and there is some complexity, but they are not quite as distinct as small batch chocolate typically is. Red fruit, brownie, a little toasted almond, a little spiciness at the end, soil, cherry, slightly waxy from cocoa butter? Warm flavor.
Recommendation: Highly recommended in the supermarket category and still recommended as a very pleasant snacking bar. I was very surprised
Batch info: LF19050 16, February 19, 2021
Aroma: rich chocolate, orange rind, wood, grapes, classic Peru woody cinnamon aroma, cacao powder
Flavor: A woody rough cinnamon stick flavor very typical of Peruvian cacao. Caramel, brown sugar, green flavors with some slight astringency. There is a nice richness. Distinct vegetal notes like under roasted beans. The vanilla comes through but not excessively.
Recommendation: Recommended with reservations. A little rough overall, but I think characteristic of Peru and nicely made. Not far off from some well-made craft Peruvian chocolates I’ve tasted but the astringency does detract somewhat.
Batch info: LF19116 16; April 26, 2021
Jeff de Bruges
Flavor: Dark roasted almond, vanilla apparent, A little bit of woodiness. Texture is a bit waxy, probably from such a high percentage of added cocoa butter
Recommendation: Not recommended. Tastes like an average mass market dark chocolate, lingering bitterness, little complexity or distinctiveness.
Batch info: lot no. 11318192820, best before April 15, 2020