By Benjamin Skipper
A long time ago I promised that I would do a review for Lindt's 90% Cocoa dark chocolate, but unfortunately I could only get my hands on a bar of Lindt's 85%. Fortunately, it does turn out that some local Walgreens continues to carry the 90% variety, as I was gifted a bar and can now do a review of it. Even better, I still had some of Lindt's 85% leftover in my fridge, so I was able to sit down and taste them side-by-side. Given how close they are in cacao percentages one may think there's not enough of a difference to consider one over the other, but delicate attention will expose the subtle differences.
The biggest differences I noticed were in flavor and texture. Here I think the 90% has the upper hand, though again it's to be left up to your own personal preference. The higher fat and cacao content makes the 90% a more creamy, meltier bar while the 85% is a little more prone to firmness and breaking up before melting. Oh, they'll both melt in your mouth fairly quickly, but I noticed that the 90% one was quicker to do so. Better yet, the vanilla seems to be more integrated into the 90% version and heightens the chocolate experience while smoothing out the bitterness, whereas in the 85% it tends to be more of a distinct note that plays alongside the chocolate rather than with it. Oddly enough, the 85% comes off as more bitter, and I attribute that to the better vanilla integration in the 90%.
In considering which bar to purchase, the flavor profile is more important than the texture. Both of them are fast-melting, and the difference between them in that area is so subtle as to be insignificant. However, the bitter notes and the vanilla integration are noticeably different between these two. In the 90% bar the vanilla works as a helper to boost the chocolate and integrate itself into the overall experience, resulting in a complete bar that offers an incredibly dark experience with almost no detectable bitterness (that applies, of course, only if your cacao threshold is up to this level), but the vanilla seems to be more distinct in the 85% version, so the result there is a tri-fold experience of vanilla, chocolate, and bitterness all strongly related, but not perfectly combined. I am now of opinion that the 90% bar is my plain dark chocolate bar of choice, but I may continue buying the 85% variety if I can't justify traveling to that particular Walgreens.
And what of nutrition? After a commenter on one of my reviews on Modern Paleo pointed out that the overall carbohydrate count is higher in the 90% version than in the 85% version I investigated and confirmed it was true. The 85% version has a higher sugar total, whereas the 90% has a higher overall carb count. For me, personally, I worry the most about the sugar content in my diet distinct from carbohydrate consumption, so if I had to make a choice on the basis of nutrition I'd still stick with the 90% version. However, if you're trying to utilize a low-carb diet to lose weight, then you might want to choose the 85% bar.
But let us not forget there are competitors. Remember Endangered Species' 88% dark chocolate? (Here's my initial review, and my recent reassessment of it.) In comparing this to both of Lindt's varieties, I still say Lindt comes out on top. The thicker ES bar makes for a crunchier experience that I do not like, and the chocolate is particularly resistant to melting even as you let your body heat try to overwhelm it. The vanilla is also weaker, so weak that I couldn't detect it, so its purpose is either ineffectual or technical and does not contribute to the aesthetics. Oh I do love ES' mint, but when I'm looking for plain chocolate this is the kind of experience I detest! If you like to gobble and crunch your bars then go ahead and choose this brand, but I'm on the lookout for a more delicate experience.
So my take-home conclusion is that Lindt 90% is my plain dark chocolate of choice, as it offers the creamiest mouthfeel I have ever come across, the most integrated experience, the most intense chocolate with the least bitterness, and the best vanilla note. To boot, it's one of the most affordable dark chocolates out there, so that it's such a price makes it great that such a value is so obtainable.
This does not, however, end my hunt for other plain chocolates. There's still the Lindt 99% to save up for, and I'm also eying Green and Black's 85% dark chocolate. The latter brand will result in a strange full-circle, for it was either the 85% or 70% variety of Green and Black's that got me into dark chocolate to begin with.