Starting with the 85% choices, one of my Christmas presents was the M&S 85% cocoa 'Intense Dark Chocolate' block. I featured it in my January In My Kitchen post but didn't elaborate on flavours then.
For a long time I avoided 85% cocoa blocks because I don't like the Lindt 85% cocoa option, and it put me off other chocolates of the same cocoa level. Happily, I am now a convert and know that the Lindt flavours don't generalise to other brands. This M&S 85% cocoa block is delicious. The packaging describes the flavours as bringing "aromas of ripe fruit and a flavour of mixed berries, with the slight acidity balanced by overnotes of honey". I wouldn't have come up with this exact description but agree that the tartness of the berry-cocoa tones is offset by a more mellow sweetness.
Another 85% choice, although quite a different one, comes from Cavalier. This is a stevia sweetened block and the first chocolate of that type I have tried.
I think you can detect stevia in the after-taste of the chocolate but as I don't mind stevia flavours it didn't bother me. This was sweeter than the M&S block and than many dark chocolate options and the cocoa was less intense. I also tasted vanilla notes and in an odd way, the block reminded me of Easter egg chocolate.
Unlike most Lindt blocks, this is only 50g (vs. 100g) but costs about the same, so it is an expensive chocolate choice. Given that, I was disappointed to find I didn't like it much at all. The block was dry and eating it felt a bit like eating cocoa powder from a spoon. As might be expected with such a high cocoa content, it was also bitter and in this case the bitterness was too strong for me.
I was amused by the tasting notes provided within the packet, which warn that the block may take some getting used to, and which advise working up to it through the lower cocoa Lindt options.
I can attest, though, that the high cocoa content in Lindt 99% chocolate is not the reason I don't like it. Indeed, I tried an even higher cocoa percentage in the Montezuma 100% cocoa option. This was the first 100% cocoa block I'd seen and it took me a while to figure out how 100% cocoa was even possible (of course, it includes cocoa butter as well as cocoa powder).
Somewhat to my own amazement, I loved this block. Like the 90% cocoa Lindt option, it is surprisingly sweet (especially as there is no sugar in this) and mellow. It is dark, of course, and deep and dense, but I didn't find it bitter. It probably does require a certain level of chocolate enjoyment though as I gave Mr Bite a piece and he was far less impressed and said it tasted like plain cocoa powder.
So there you have it - four dark chocolate blocks. Of these, my favourites would be the 85% cooca M&S block and the 100% cocoa Montezuma block. In contrast, it's fair to say Lindt 99% cocoa won't be a regular purchase for me.
Do you enjoy very dark chocolate? And if so, do you have any favourite brands?