The shop is small, decorated in purple and it smelled deliciously of warm chocolate. After a quick lesson on how to taste chocolate (minimal chewing, some deep breathing, letting it melt on the tongue), we cracked on with the tasting. We tasted chocolate of different cocoa percentages from three main chocolate producers; Valrhona, Amedei and Michel Cluizel. Interestingly, I learned that cocoa butter is the most epensive ingredient in chocolate making. Also, chocolate from beans grown on the Ivory Coast have a slight hint of coconut about it, whereas Madagascan chocolate is more fruity. The more fermented the cocoa beans are, the more sour tang you get from tasting it.
The first chocolate to kick us off was one of my favourites; 40% Valrhona Jivara milk chocolate. It was wonderfully rich with hints of caramel and had a slight malty flavour to it. On the other end of the spectrum, I physically recoiled and screwed my face up on tasting the 100% manjari pate Madagascan Valrhona; it was over-whelmingly strong (as one might expect from 100%) but also sour to the point of bitter. Other attendees liked it though. Another favourite of mine was the 75% Amedei 9, made from cocoa beans from 9 different plantations. This had a velvet-like mouthfeel, and the smoky yet balanced flavours lingered pleasantly.
By this point, I had realised that Paul is an extremely passionate man, and puts a lot of thought into his chocolates. He refuses to use any machinery, tempering his chocolate on marble instead and all the chocolates he makes are made using high-quality ingredients. There are no hydrogenated fats used (...don't get him started on palm oil...) nor glucose syrups. The truffles he makes, each and every one by hand, will only last 7 days. You've got to really admire someone who goes to all that trouble, when others get away with using machines.
At the end of the evening, Paul gave us some of his truffles to try. We started off with this seasonal truffle, port & Stilton. He had wanted to just use Stilton, but discovered that the mould growing on the cheese tended to make the truffles explode, and had to add port to prevent this from happening. It was no great loss to add the port, as I felt they went very well together. I really enjoyed this, it was startling and made you sit up and pay attention. Next, we had one of Paul's award-winning sea-salted caramels. After my first bite into it, I fell in love. It was stunning. I wanted to be alone with it. Lastly, a Marmite truffle was scoffed up easily too. I had expected it's innards to be thick and viscous, but they were pleasantly light. As a Marmite lover, this went down all too easily.
After a quick tour round the kitchen, we were on our way, armed with a goody bag. I stepped into the night with a glow about me and a bounce in my step; glad to have discovered something that I had previously thought lost to me.
Paul A. Young
33 Camden Passage
Tel/Fax: 020 7424 5750