Lovely Lindt Excellence bars: 65% cacao Madagascar followed by the almost black 99% Noirissime, the 70%, the 85%, and on the bottom, more Madagascar and the Ecuador.
PETER ROT is the THE NIBBLE’s chocolate specialist.
Among The Most Excellent Chocolate Bars You Can Buy
CAPSULE REPORT: Lindt is the largest manufacturer of prestige chocolate in the world, accounting for 4% of sales. The line is very diverse, from boxed chocolates to Lindor Truffles to seasonal novelties to infused-flavor bars. The crown of the kingdom, though, is the Excellence line. Not only is it excellent: For the price, it’s one of the best values in Chocolatedom.
Michel Cluizel, Valrhona, Domori, Pralus. These names evoke memories of the most sophisticated chocolate the world has ever known. Scharffen Berger, Amedei, Guittard, Bonnat and several others then follow in succession to quench anyone’s raging appetite for great chocolate.* A chocophile will sprint for his secret stash, hoping to find one last piece of Los Ancones, one final taste of Guanaja, a few bites of an Amedei bar in the cabinet or drawer. But alas, the larder is bare. You’re many miles (or a two-day express delivery) from a great chocolate store.
*Read our article on the world’s greatest chocolate producers.
Desperate, you panic. Eyes widen, heart rate increases, sweat saturates your face. Then you remember the 24-hour supermarket. Well, go! For the love of chocolate, go, go and pick up that bar of Lindt!
Lindt? That’s right, Lindt—it’s a secret treasure that isn’t much of a secret to those who know fine chocolate.
Rodolphe Lindt revolutionized the chocolate industry in 1879 when he invented conching, the process that smoothes chocolate into the velvety, aromatic product we know today. While Lindt was arguably the most famous chocolatier of his day, his business in Berne remained a small, though top-quality one. In 1899 it was acquired by the Sprüngli chocolate company of Zurich, and Lindt & Sprüngli has been a major player in the quality chocolate business ever since.
But as food technology has evolved over the years, the quality of the company’s chocolate has fallen under scrutiny by connoisseurs. For example, vegetable fats are used in some bars instead of cocoa butter, vanillin rather than vanilla. To Lindt’s credit, many companies make these substitutions to cut costs, but Lindt’s products perpetually seem to be of higher quality, both in taste and texture.
Many chocolate connoisseurs believe the Lindt
Excellence 85% cacao bar to be the finest 85% bar made.
Thus, while the Lindt line of chocolate is good, it’s simply not as good as it could be if the real ingredients were used. Then again, when you’re producing at such massive volume, and you’re the world’s largest producer of prestige† chocolate, compromise wins.
†Prestige is defined by the price per pound the product sells for at retail, and is the most expensive category of chocolate, at $40 per pound and higher. The other categories include: Mass Market, less than $15 per pound; Mass Market Premium, from $15 to $25 per pound; and Gourmet, from $25 to $40 per pound.
Lindt Excellence Bars: The Real Winner
But there’s been an interesting development over the last few years. Lindt has returned to the heritage of Rodolphe, creating some mighty fine chocolate made with only the purest ingredients: cocoa mass, cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla and, occasionally, some cocoa powder when needed to intensify the flavors. These bars rival even the best of smaller-scale producers such as Amedei, Cluizel and Pralus—bars that sell for many times the price (about $8 per bar, compared to $16.75 for a 6-pack of Lindt Excellence bars).
Much of the Excellence line is exactly as the name suggests—excellent—although not every bar bearing the label carries the standard. It is the high percentage cacao bars that are not only pleasing to the palate: They amaze me beyond belief. These are the bars packaged in black and white and gilded with the word Excellence. Specifically:
- Excellence 70%. Who’d have thought that such a well balanced, non-bitter, intense and highly flavorful chocolate could be so inexpensive and readily available? Sharp red fruits and an assertive chocolatiness inject vigorous life into your tongue and never relent, even during the long and gratifying finish. This bar can easily satisfy with small amounts but honestly, who can stop with just one piece? Always have a bar or two (or three or four) on hand.
- Excellence 85%. This has got to be one of the best—if not the best—85% chocolates available on the market. The flavor is as pure and close to the definition of “chocolate” as you can get in this class, and still manages to throw in a couple of red fruits for subtle depth. This is a hard percentage range to master; often, chocolates taste flat and sometimes ashy because the higher cacao content reveals the beans’ distasteful characteristics more readily. Not here. A champion.
- Excellence Noirissime 99%. Available in thinner 50g bars, this near-black-colored chocolate may appear formidable from the exterior. But fear not, even though you must read warnings in four languages before you peel back the foil to eat the bar: The flavor within is of utmost deliciousness. Although slightly bitter, Lindt’s characteristic red fruits and strong nutty inflections come through strikingly clear and seem never to go away. The texture is thick, pasty and ultra-smooth—perhaps similar to glue—since it practically seals the mouth! (About that warning: It advises those who aren’t familiar with 99% cacao to start with 70% and work their way up to 85% and then 99%. Otherwise, a normal reaction would be to spit out this magnificent bitter chocolate instead of acclimating one’s palate to appreciate its glories.)
- Excellence Ecuador 75%. Working with Arriba cacao may have proved to be a greater challenge than Lindt anticipated, but the results are still delicious and praiseworthy. Here, vanilla dominates the very chocolaty profile, thus creating a cookie-like experience; but Arriba’s natural berries still shine through brilliantly. This is a very commendable effort at the oft-attempted Ecuador single origin bar: Lindt still finds a proper balance and delivers a very tasty chocolate.
- Excellence Madagascar 65%. Again, Lindt has outdone the competition (and maybe even themselves) with this bar. Definitely one of the archetypal Madagascans on the market, this chocolate displays the island’s flavors prolifically and coherently, with superb balance, control and a velvety texture. Blueberries, cherries and caramel initially prevail, then a breeze of citrus acidity adds a gentle touch, until even more berries resume control with the support of spices. Whew! With this roster of flavors and a balance so exquisite and refined, this is chocolate of a noble caliber that’s almost impossible to beat.
Other Excellence Bars. Lindt makes other bars under the Excellence banner, including Milk Chocolate, Milk Chocolate Toffee Crunch, Excellence Dark Chocolate With Intense Mint, Excellence Dark Chocolate With Intense Pear, Excellence Dark Chocolate With Orange Essence, White Chocolate and White Chocolate With Coconut. While these bars have their fans (and every bar was happily consumed in THE NIBBLE offices), they aren’t in the same, world-class league as the five high-percentage-cacao bars I’ve singled out. Most chocolate connoisseurs wouldn’t select the Lindt White Chocolate, made with vanillin, in a blind test over El Rey’s Icoa, for example, or prefer their Milk Chocolate over Valrhona’s Jivara (or the milks of any of the producers mentioned at the top of the page). Still, not everyone demands connoisseur-quality chocolate to satisfy a craving. For the money, most people will find the entire Excellence line more than munch-worthy.
Just remember, when reaching for the Excellence on the store rack: If you want a brilliant chocolate experience, some Excellence is more excellent than others. But all of it is a good chocolate fix.
Excellence 70% and 80%, Excellence Ecuador 75%, Excellence Madagascar 65%, Excellence Noirissime 99%
- 6 Excellence Chocolate Bars
3.5 Ounces Per Bar
70% or 85% Cacao
- Bag Of Chocolate Squares
4.3 Ounces Total
Purchase online at Lindt.com
A wide selection is available at food retailers and Lindt boutiques nationwide.
Prices and flavor availability are verified at publication but are subject to change.
World class: the high-cacao Lindt Excellence bars.
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