Monday, October 25, 2010

Chocolate Considerations: Number Rating System and Sweeter Varieties?

I've been doing some thinking about the nature of my chocolate reviews and am considering altering slightly the way I do them, plus perhaps include some different products. As mentioned previously, I'm going to start taking my chocolate tastings more seriously, which means I'll take notes during my tastings and draw out my eatings in order to study the bars more thoroughly. So far I do notice that it has made my reviews more thorough and even makes the tastings more enjoyable, though perhaps things could be taken further.

I was wondering: What would you, if you consistently follow my chocolate reviews, think of me adding in a number rating system? My purpose in including such an addition would be to, on top of my verbal summary, sum up in numbers how I feel about a certain variety. When I used to watch X-Play years ago I have always been fond that they used a five-star rating system instead of four, which is the first review source of any kind that I've seen use this system. I like it precisely for its virtue of allowing for clear whole numbers to be used and for "3" to be the absolute median. If you're using whole numbers, what's the median in the four star rating system? And if you're not using whole numbers, what's the justification for rating something "two and a half stars" or the like? In my personal opinion, a five star rating system is as clear and precise as it can get in summing things up in numbers. If I employ a rating system I would employ this, though I'd like to hear the thoughts of my readers first. Would you like me to sum up my reviews into a rating system like this, or do you find my verbal descriptions clear and compelling enough?

Additionally, I've been thinking about perhaps branching out to other, sweeter chocolates. As of right now I'm dedicated exclusively to dark chocolates with an explicitly listed cacao percentage. For plain chocolate I aim for 80% or higher (up to 100%), but if the bar is either infused with other flavors (like fruit), is single-origin (like Godiva), or has some other special attribute (like Rapunzel) I'm willing to dip down to 70%. So far that has been the consistent standard of my reviews. However, I've been considering perhaps relaxing my standards a little bit to include sweet chocolates, milk varieties and the like. I'd like to have explicitly stated standards so that my readers can know what to expect of me, so my considered change is to dedicate myself to bars with explicitly listed cacao percentages (without exception) and a "clean" array of ingredients. This Dagoba bar with lavender and blueberries intrigues me, for instance. Its only objectionable ingredients I can find are soy and the probably high sugar, which I could perhaps make an exception for on a limited basis. I would not accept, however, bars that include conglomerates of unpronounceable chemicals, no matter how good it may touted to be.

However, on this second point I am experiencing internal resistance to. Aside from the health benefits I've received, the reason why it's so easy for me to be so strict in my paleo diet is because I've really developed a taste for the foods that make up my consistent nutritional regiment. Technically my dark chocolate eating is a paleo cheat, but I love it so much that I eat it virtually everyday, though I do watch my sugar consumption and trade out particular items if I'm to have another. (For instance, if I want some fruit, I'll usually forgo the dark chocolate. It's an either-or thing with me. For my upcoming birthday I anticipate eating a sundae, so I'll probably fast on my sugar consumption a few days before and probably after.) I worry about both the possible facts that chocolate below 70% cacao could be too sweet and sugary for me, and mostly the latter. I have fond memories of my very first taste of mint chocolate, Green & Black's mint, but even as early as it was in my adjustment to the paleo diet I remember it being sickeningly sweet. Despite my interest it may be the case that my taste buds simply won't tolerate that much sweetness. At the very worst I'm considering tasting Equal Exchange dark mint chocolate (you'll have to scroll down to see it), which comes in at 67% cacao and is but three percentage points below my stated standards. You know I love mint.

I'm still thinking about these inclusions but am open to other opinions. Right now my leaning is rather indeterminant on the rating system -- it sounds both cliche' and very helpful at the same time -- and in relaxing my chocolate standards only a little bit to allow for exceptions like that Equal Exchange bar which is only slightly below my standards and has a flavor attribute I love. Most importantly I think it is necessary that I have explicit reviewing standards. I'll let you know what my ultimate conclusion is.   

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