O is for Orchid

Until yesterday when I started researching things a little further, I thought orchid was a fairly exotic flavor. I’ve since discovered that vanilla is a type of orchid, so now my “bubble” has been burst a little :'(

Regardless, today I’m featuring this Orchid and Orange Blossom 72% dark chocolate limited edition fusion bar from UK’s Artisan du Chocolat since flowers embody Spring! This flavor combination was especially created for the Chelsea Flower Show Gala in 2010 & has been popular ever since.

Even the bar code has a floral theme!

Unwrapping the 15 rectangle bar from the clear plastic pouch, I could immediately smell the aroma that I associate with orange blossom water. The bar had an overall matte finish that was marred slightly by some chocolate dust and air bubbles.

After taking several close-up photos, I noticed that some of the recessed rectangular panels had a plain, textured finish while others appeared to have a series of ever smaller concentric rectangles, almost like a maze configuration, though the pattern was not consistent from rectangle to rectangle. Hopefully the below photos have captured the phenomenon…

Each time I’ve tried to segment a row of three rectangles into equally sized tasting morsels, the middle rectangle breaks off more easily and not at the dividing “score line” between the rectangles, such that it is impossible to get equally sized pieces (this has happened three times so far, leading me to think that this isn’t an isolated aberration).

From the packaging, the base chocolate (a blend of bitter Venezuelan Criollo and slightly acidic Mexican Trinitario cocoa beans) is flavored with distillates of exotic flowers from the town of Grasse in the Alpine region of France. Artisan du Chocolat is not entirely bean-to-bar since it sounds like they receive ground cacao that is then conched and refined in-house at their atelier in Kent. Though neither the packaging nor the website says so, I’m assuming that steam distillation was used to create the natural orchid and orange blossom extracts. Based on what I’ve read of the process, as plant tissue breaks down in water that is heated to the boiling point, steam pulls out the released essential oils + water vapor, which are then condensed and cooled into an extract.

Melting a piece in my mouth, I tasted bitter, green (unripe) flavors and a peppery, tongue prickling sensation. The mouthfeel was smooth during the slow and even melt, but then I was left with a mouth puckering finish. Surprisingly, these flavors are less intense when the bar is chomped. Since I happened to have orange blossom water in my kitchen pantry from the last time I made baklava, I tasted some on its own for comparison purposes. This liquid was more perfumy and floral, but without any of the other sensations, causing me to wonder if the orchid extract or the chocolate itself contributed to the astringent aftertaste. Sounds like I’ll have to taste orchid on its own sometime for “scientific research” 😉

Visit the Artisan du Chocolat website to discover their extensive product line for yourself: http://www.artisanduchocolat.com/