By Benjamin Skipper
When I reviewed Endangered Species' 88% chocolate I promised that I would purchase a bar of Lindt's 90% to do a comparison, but irritatingly enough it seems that it might be the case that the stores in my *whole* area have taken it off their shelves. Given my current project and income I'm not willing to order it online or do any significant traveling, so I purchased a bar of Lindt's 85% and believe it will be similar enough to 90% to make a valid comparison.
My memory did indeed hold out to be true, though not entirely. The vanilla is certainly much stronger than ES -- strong enough that I say Lindt should advertise the vanilla since the bar doesn't taste like pure sweetened chocolate -- but it really doesn't show itself except in the aftertaste period. As for mouthfeel, it's certainly much more creamier and melty, but it takes a few seconds for it to occur.
Between Lindt and ES I still hold the conclusion that they're both worthy of having in your pantry, but, while similar, they offer different attributes that offer different experiences. ES is crunchier and more resistant to melting in your mouth, and the vanilla is so subtle that it serves more to curve the bitterness and give you a pure chocolate experience. Lindt, on the other hand, will snap away easily at your incisors and quickly transform into a chocolately goo, and the vanilla is so strong that you can taste it clearly during the aftertaste. Personally I prefer Lindt's version, but I stocked up on ES since Vitamin Shoppe's outlet on Amazon.com offers a great 99 cents shipping rate.
(If you're into extreme bulk purchasing or need to order over $100 worth of items, check out Lucky Vitamin. They have an enormous amount of the ES chocolate line, and the per-unit cost goes lower and lower the more bars you buy. Purchase more than $100 worth of stuff and shipping is free, which makes it a good place to, say, buy your supplements and use chocolate to push you over the $100 mark.)
Also, I have to say that Lindt offers the most attractive and useful packaging I have come across, which can add a novelty value for those that pay attention. The cardboard cover is practical in that it allows you to easily enclose your chocolate if you don't finish the whole bar, and the foil is so pretty that every bar looks a bit like a luxury present to yourself. Other bars I've seen utilize a clumsy paper material that stubbornly resists being folded, making covering leftover chocolate annoying, and gives a cold, metallic impression. Against Lindt I'll say that the foil may be a tad too fragile, so be careful not to rip too much or in the wrong places, or the fats in the chocolate, left exposed, might absorb the flavors of the smells around it.
To comment on the chocolate brand as a whole, Lindt is definitely one of those top brands that offers a healthy chocolate at an extremely low price, perhaps even the lowest price for a chocolate line that explicitly lists cocao percentages. Upon reading the ingredients list one will be pleased that their dark versions don't include those evasive "flavorings" listings that some companies use to avoid listing ingredients. From a nutritional perspective I don't see one ingredient in my 85% bar that conflicts with the principles of the paleo diet except for sugar, but then again that's fine too since the degree of sugar consumption is what actually matters. If you worry about soy lecithin or are a college student on a budget, Lindt's your brand. However, it disappoints me that most, if not all, of their flavored varieties are listed without cocao percentages, a sure sign that it's below 60%. As such, I still maintain ES as my favorite brand since they offer many flavored versions at 70% cocao and higher, my desired range being between 70% and 100%.
In the future I hope to review Lindt's 99% cocao bar. It'll be intriguing to find out how that 1% alters the experience. It's a bit expensive since it's costs more than the 3.5 ounce bars and is half the size, but I consider myself a bit of lay chocolate gourmet and would be willing to save money for it. Someday.
On a side note, a commenter has brought a good chocolate website to my attention, http://chocosphere.com/. It offers a wide selection of dark chocolates, including Lindt, but isn't exhaustive; New Tree and Green & Black's are absent for instance. I'm especially interested in trying the brands that state they use cocao beans from different geographical areas, thereby offering different flavor profiles, but again that's something to save up for.