Friday, December 24, 2010

Chocolate Review: Theo's 70% Orange

By Benjamin Skipper

For those of you who have expressed concern over such a matter, Theo's 70% dark chocolate with orange marks the first of the chocolates I have reviewed that is explicitly free of soy. That ingredient is just entirely omitted with nothing else to take its place, so hopefully this bar is more palatable to my more strictly health-conscious readers.

After interacting with a fruit and chocolate loving friend of mine I have lately been seized by a craving for oranges. It's one of those fruits I could typically live without, but am amazed by its flavor whenever I do choose to partake. Somewhere along my craving I remembered one Christmas where I tried this odd dark chocolate, probably with no cacao percentage listed, that came in the shape of a sphere and broke into orange-shaped wedges when smashed against the table. It was one of the best chocolates I had ever tried, as it had the perfect balance of orange in comparison to chocolate. Unfortunately, I haven't eaten it again since my childhood and don't remember the brand name, so I went out to see what other orange chocolates could be offered. In comes Theo's orange.

Now for a spontaneous change I would like to make my reviews more logical in their transition. I think it violates the natural hierarchy of chocolate eating to comment on the flavor and mouthfeel of a chocolate before its packaging aesthetics since one will obviously encounter them in the reverse order. Also, since the mouthfeel and flavor are the absolutely most important considerations of a chocolate it would make more sense to leave it for slightly later in the article since it can serve as a sort of build-up to a climax, no? Unless persuaded otherwise, I'll start conducting my reviews in accordance to the natural order of a chocolate eating experience.

As far as packaging aesthetics go, I have to say this is the most disappointing bar to date. The wrapping paper itself is nice enough what with the orange halves floating around, but overall it leaves the impression in me of bad wallpaper in an ugly house. It's barely acceptable, but upon unwrapping I saw the bar itself was atrocious. There is no attempt at artistic design whatsoever: It's just plain rectangles. No shapes, no lines, no brand name, no anything! I appreciate it when a company at least tries, but I cannot give Theo any credit, especially when cheaper varieties still manage to make their bars look beautiful, like Lindt. Worse yet, the bar lacks any gloss and seems to be covered in its own chocolaty dust, which almost makes it look old. The very least I can give it is that it doesn't look gross or unappetizing, so it shouldn't be a deterrent to eating, but they could have tried better to go the extra mile.

The eating, however, is a whole other world. This bar is somewhat noticeably pressed thinner, which makes the bar much easier to break off from. From a functional standpoint that makes this bar nearly fragile, warranting caution in handling, but the peril of its fragility is negated by the mouthfeel value. Its brittleness comes as a plus when biting off, as it practically breaks off like a piece of glass and starts to melt amazingly fast, perhaps even competing with the meltiness of Lindt's 90%. The flavor makes me forget all about its terrible aesthetics, for it replicates my childhood memory of that other classic chocolate perfectly. The chocolate is not too sweet and shows no signs of bitterness, and the orange note integrates into the experience rather than being distinct and is of the perfect intensity. The chocolate is certainly the major player, but it doesn't mute or cover the orange at all. I usually only allow myself to eat half of a chocolate bar per day if I choose chocolate as my daily sugar indulgence, even if the chocolate is fantastic, but this bar was so delicious that I was practically compelled to eat the whole thing in one sitting, something unusual to me. This bar is ugly, but it's flavor is at the height of beauty.

The only potential problem I could see would be with one of personal preference. If you're looking for a very intense citrus experience then this isn't your bar, as the orange still plays somewhat of a background singer to the chocolate. It is of perfect intensity to please me however, so for now I'll consider this my orange chocolate of choice. 

I am so pleased with this bar that I'm going to include it on my list of favorite chocolates, period. The next time I go chocolate shopping I'm going to buy several of these bars to ensure a consistent supply on hand, woe to me otherwise. But of course I am not blind to the competition. I have been notified that Endangered Species offers its own orange bar. It will certainly be the subject of a future tasting.

In summary, this bar offers the worst aesthetics I have ever seen and an almost dangerous fragility in its thinness, but it more than makes makes up for it in its ease of eating, fantastic mouthfeel, and perfect ratio of orange-to-chocolate. If you like oranges and if you like chocolate, I greatly recommend trying this bar.

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