Last year, Hotel Chocolat discontinued their limited edition speciality dark chocolate range, replacing it with their "Rare & Vintage" selection.
Prior to this, their blue-banded 100% bars, infused with an almost marmitesque quality (and not in any way commensurate with current trends for truly marmite-flavoured chocolate, for which I suspend judgement), had been a favourite of mine alongside the Amma Chocolate dark range - Amma 100%, Nibirus, and the unusually named Qah'Wa coffee/chocolate bar being my top choices.
Dark chocolate is, of course, an excellent option for those looking for a healthy alternative to mainstream chocolate. Very low in (or entirely devoid of) sugar, such bars contain a remarkably high amount of desirable macronutrients: protein, fibre, and a little more controvercially, fat. Fat is very important, particularly to those undergoing intensive weight training (and even moreso for female athletes), but the big caveat here is that not all fats are created equal and the saturated fat found in chocolate is no substitute for an avocado, as you are likely to be well aware.
The new "Rare & Vintage" range is fashioned in Hotel Chocolat's new concertina mould, designed potentially for aesthetics but possibly more likely for economy (the peaks mean that the bar appears thicker inside the packaging than it is in reality). For some reason, this - for me, at least - makes it far less satisfying to either bite into or snap a piece off from. The "limited edition" single origin blends are gone, and now the 100% choices consist of:
100% Ecuador: The most bland option.
100% Ghana: Stronger aftertaste than Ecuador.
100% Saint Lucia: Least offensive and least disappointing.
If these don't seem like glowing reviews, they're not. I lament the abolition of the previous range daily, and don't feel that their replacement justifies their hefty pricetag. I also loved the luxuriousness of the papercard wrapping, now replaced by everyday (and less environmentally friendly) plastic. Without knowing the profile of the majority of their buyers, it's difficult to judge if this move has been a wise one. Presumably, the majority are not like me, eking out a bar a day to satisfy their cocoa cravings whilst not ruining their training plan by either overindulging on sugar or simply ruining their apetite for high quality proteins. Yet, I cannot help but feel that the buyer of the 90-100% bars has to be less on the "impulse buy" and more on the "discerning" end of the chocolate spectrum. There has to be a motive behind buying high percentage chocolate bars. Few people will try a 100% bar for the first time in their life and be an instant convert. For most of us, it's an acquired taste, and certainly one I took almost two years to work up to.