At Safeway today, I grabbed two bars of Hershey’s new “Cacao Reserve” chocolate, the line that is their entry in the increasingly competitive varietal chocolate market. The reserve bars are all over the map, using different sources (Santo Domingo, Sao Tome, Java, Ecuador), but also in a wide variety of formulations, ranging from a 37% milk to a single 70% bar. This seems like a confusing marketing strategy, as any kind of varietal character is going to be masked by the radically different formulations.
The labels also yield some head-scratching details. One is that the dark varieties contain milk, the other is that they aren’t manufactured by Hershey’s. The label specifies that the bars are “Mfg in Germany for The Hershey Company.” This seems a little strange, given how much capacity they have. I suppose they may be cutting risk by sourcing the manufacture to another party, and only devoting the marketing dollars themselves.
The milk is more than a little strange. It’s listed after “natural vanilla flavor” (aka vanillin), so there can’t be too much in there. Chocolate identity laws in the US specify that lecithin has to be under a percent, and is usually much less than that. There’s less milk than lecithin in there, so it’s a small amount. One possibility is that the milk here is processed in some way to get the lipolised Hershey’s taste. Certainly at that percentage, it seems hard to believe that it’s altering texture much at all.
Overall, on tasting, the Santo Domingo (67% cacao) is a very smoky bar with a fast, low viscosity melt. There’s definitely a little of that Hershey’s metallic/milk note in the smell, with a strong sugar note. The smoke note is dominant on initial taste, with a medium chocolate taste. The main tastes don’t linger long, as this has a very low viscosity on the tongue. Low acid with a little astringency in the finish. The low (at least subjective, as I don’t have a viscometer handy) viscosity and milk note may be an explicit flavor link back to the old familiar Hershey’s Special Dark.
It’d be interesting to know who is actually making this chocolate.