Theo is one of my favorite American chocolate makers -- they're based in Seattle and they have four main brands of chocolate: Classic Collection (to which this bar belongs); Fantasy Flavors (this collection consists of the 3400 Phinney bars you've seen here); Single Origin (here's an example); and something new called the Theo & Jane Goodall collection, which I have not yet tried but which sounds adorable. This attractive bar was purchased at my trusty Village Natural Market in Bronxville.
Theo: Spicy Chile
Cocoa content: 70%
Notable ingredients: chili peppers
I think chili is one of those chocolate companions that strike the seasoned chocolate eater (may I be so bold?) as sort of trite, and which at the same time can really shock people new to the game. Another one of those flavors would be salt -- "like mayonnaise on a bowling ball" a friend once said of the seeming incompatibility. If you pay attention you actually see it all the time, but it's not immediately intuitive like, say, chocolate and raspberry. Anyway, I've eaten a lot of chili chocolate bars in my day and the whole thing has become a little bit routine. And then came Theo.
Reader, believe me when I tell you I am a chili head. I pour Sriracha on my pizza and tinker with habaneros in my spare time. But I was not expecting the hotness that was this chocolate bar. Objectively, I should say, it wasn't so hot. It was less hot, for instance, than a jalapeno pepper. But every other chocolate bar has been only mildly spicy -- I mean: a little playful wave of spice as the taste subsides. This bar made me gag and run for water. It was so much spicier than I had expected.
Granted, the nutrition label lists three distinct kinds of chili: guajillo, cayenne, and pasilla. On the Scoville chili pepper heat scale, those three peppers are in roughly the same range as the jalapeno. Perhaps Theo is just a little more serious about showcasing the ingredients it uses. But, in my mind, Theo is a chocolate maker first and foremost. So, really, the spice shouldn't be so intense that it overwhelms the chocolate, which is exactly what happened here. I can't even tell you how the chocolate tasted or what the interaction of chocolate and spice was like, because all I got was spice and discomfort.
Maybe those uninformed chili naysayers are right -- when chocolate really tastes like chili -- and not just a subtle hint -- it's all wrong. This bar gets a C.