|Lowe (North Carolina, U.S.A)
Founding Member of the Chocolate Reviewers' Guild
In 2007 as I looked at the bars in the chocolate section of our local World Market I asked myself, “I wonder which of these is the best chocolate?” That seemingly benign query was the first step in my chocolate adventures. I tasted all they had and I soon learned that there is a parallel world of fine chocolate that I never even knew existed. So I began exploring and I found the chocolate review website seventypercent.com and the social network “The Chocolate Life” and I began to try more and more bars. I started to learn as much as I could about the multifaceted world of chocolate, cacao, origins, bean-to-bar and so on. After I tasted even more bars I created a database and a rating system to keep track of my discoveries.
I was trained as an engineer, so I apply many of the techniques of science experiments to my reviews. There are many variables that in the review process, so I have sought to standardize as many of those variables as possible. That standardization allows for the most meaningful comparison of each characteristic and then of bars as a whole. Here are some of the elements in the process that I have sought to standardize:
For my ratings I believe that some factors are definitely more important than others. For me, flavor is by far the most important, with aroma a close second, since flavor and aroma are so inextricably connected. Next, mouthfeel is also very important. By contrast, although I note snap, melt, and touch, these factors are very low in importance to me.
I prefer chocolate with only 2 ingredients: cacao and sugar. I think that this is the best way to allow the true flavor of the cacao to be most powerfully experienced. I don’t like any salt with chocolate, and I definitely will not eat a bar with cocoa butter substitutes. I don’t prefer any sweeteners other than cane sugar, not even brown sugar. I also find vanilla distracting since it covers over the cacao flavor, and I’d rather not have any soy lecithin because it dulls the taste.
6. If you could standardize how fine chocolate is labeled, what information do you think should be included on every package?
7. Is there a person in the chocolate world whom you especially admire? Who and why?