Grab yourself a cuppa, sink yourself into your comfiest chair and let me take you on a journey of how I created Noir Ultra, a unique blend of 80% dark chocolate and when combined with other natural ingredients such as ginger, Brazil nuts, cinnamon and chilli. It has a smooth, rich taste with no bitterness and low sugar content.
It started even before the crack of dawn.. 3am start heading to Gatwick, eyes barely open but brain was buzzing with what today was about.. chocolate! Not just about chocolate but hopping over to a France to create my own signature blend of chocolate with Or Noir. This wasn’t just sampling and choosing a bar of chocolate I liked and claiming it as my own, this was tasting all the varieties of chocolate Or Noir has from around the world. Understanding what flavour profiles I did and didn’t like and building my own unique signature chocolate based on this, There would be no other chocolate like this. This was mine, lovingly thought out and chosen based on the knowledge, passion and experience provided by Amelie and Athol and driven by my desire to find the right chocolate for the perfect hot chocolate and exercise bars. It was quite a tall order and at 3am, when I left home, it felt almost surreal and impossible.
Getting up, making sure I had my passport and relaxing in the taxi en route to airport was done in a fog of slumber and only when I got to the airport did I then realise I could have probably stayed in bed another half hour or maybe an hour! Well at least I was there.... sipping at an over sweetened tea.. you can tell it was early, I hardly ever drink normal tea and never sweeten it but clearly autopilot had its own idea. It did help in making the glare of airport lights tolerable and the process of waking less painful!
When you don’t have luggage and no form of weight to carry, travelling through an airport is a dream.. go through check in - zap zap and you are through to departures..and then onto landing, I waited for my agent to arrive as from here on I was completely out of my depth..
Athol, a man who had a breadth of knowledge about all things foods/chocolate turned up quickly and we proceeded for another wake up drink. If you haven’t been to Charles de Gaulle airport (which I hadn’t) you will realise that no sooner do you set off are, you are then starting your descent. A hippity-hop over and a queue to occupy us before we got out and driving through the countryside, away from Paris. Athol going through today’s timetable and answering my questions with affable humour and knowledge. Here was a man fully invested in this journey as much as me, bearing in mind I was still on the fence as to how the day would pan out.
It’s an odd feeling when you have no concept of what you are doing and you walk blindly into it. I’d put my big girl pants on and trusted my gut that what I was doing was right... and with a 100% success rate, my gut didn’t let me down this time either.
We drove into a driveway where a beautiful house stood before me where chocolate magic is created. For those that don’t know.. today was about creating my signature chocolate, that’s not picking a bar of chocolate and naming it, it’s carefully testing over 20 types of chocolate to determine the background flavours, the mouth feel, the depth of cacao, the percentage of cocoa, the spicy, floral, smoked notes I wanted or didn’t want, the aroma, determining the flavour profile of how I wanted my chocolate to taste. With a few guidelines I refused to renege on:
1) 80% cocoa base
2) Low in sugar
3) Smooth and silky
4) Not bitter and to taste like a milk chocolate
5) Clean and packed full of chocolate flavour that was consistent and didn’t spike when you tasted it
I knew I was making the task a challenge but Amelie and Athol took the challenge and after popping on the chef whites, off we went, tasting, identifying, holding the chocolate in your mouth without chewing to let the flavour hit your taste buds, articulating how each chocolate felt, tasted, settled, collected in your mouth.. it was a mine field of sensory overload! I took away with me a new sense of appreciation of just how intricate chocolate is, all the nuances you take for granted were broken down into separate elements, it really is a beautiful delicious science.
The chocolate is from all over the world, each having their own distinct flavour profile.. in case you didn’t know (I didn’t) when you try chocolate.. the flavour profile should be imagined as a timeline.. each one is uniquely different but when you pop it in your mouth, you could be hit with an intense bitterness that scratches the back of your throat which dwindles to a soft nutty note, equally it could be gentle at first and build to a crescendo of chocolaty depth towards the end, all these characteristics were what I had to differentiate in my chocolate (a heady responsibility) but I was determined. I want a consistent flavour that pops with a depth of cacao without the bitterness that usually accompanies the higher end of 70% plus chocolate...
After tasting what felt like a tub of different chocolate tablets, I had narrowed it down.. the beginning flavour profile of one, the end profile of another and the depth of cacao from no3..
Then it was on to the cacao mass tasting! For those not in the know (myself included) this is the chocolate without any of the sugar added. Cacao at its purist form, liquid and ready. First you smell the cacao, which for me, brought about imagery of motor bikes and cycles for two of them and coconuts for another! Not really what I expected but as with all my chocolates tasting I found it easier to explain how it tasted by what it conjured up as an image rather than adjectives. Slightly concerned by the metal imagery we went on to taste it and was surprisingly shocked at the difference it automatically produced... gone was the coconut, the metal visions and left only a strong and clean chocolate crispness. A pleasant surprise thats for sure... after choosing the one I felt worked best, this is when Amelie did her magic.. with science and years of skill and experience behind her she worked out the correct percentage of each chosen chocolate to make sure it was an 80% rating and with her spider web (which you can see later) produced the first to try out.
Nervous, excited and damn right terrified that I had started something I ultimately might not go through with but I did it anyway... in the wise words I’ve heard on and off for the past 8 months... I need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and that is what it was.
Watching the chef temper the chocolate was a sight for sore eyes, the swish and swoosh of the blade against the marble was art in itself, then pouring it into moulds.. well it put my skills to shame!
In the fridge it goes and 20 mins later after a pot of tea we try, we savour, we don’t like...
Well it’s not that I didn’t like, it had a consistency that just didn't sit right, as you allow the chocolate to stay in your mouth it started to build up to a crescendo of some nut shaped oddness and that’s not what I was looking for. So back to the drawing board we go: using the same ingredients Amelie did her magic and arranged the base chocolate differently and changed the percentages: a tweak and a nod there and batch 2 was ready... repeat temper and wait.
This time, it was so close to being right but something, and I couldn’t put my finger on it wasn’t right.. my gut wasn’t singing. Worried and explaining my concerns, Amelie altered it slightly to my explanation (I tell you she is a miracle worker) and batch 3 was produced... repeat temper and wait.
The potent cacao, the consistent smooth and silky feel and sense of hygge and comfort welcomed my senses.. this was it! I think?! Clearly after trying, so much chocolate and the pressure of it all was getting to me so I was umming and ahhing.. was it the right one?
Athol at this point had a brainwave and suggest we made these into applications to see how they would fare as a drink! Taking batch 2 and 3, we trundled to the kitchen and asked the talented chefs to concoct a hot chocolate application..
So there they were: shots of batch 2 and 3 ready to be tasted.
A funny observation is how different chocolate can change when milk and cream or hot water is added to chocolate. The chemical composition is eye opening.. expecting similar results I was stunned of the difference I encountered.
No 2: Felt greasy, and yes you felt creamy and indulgent, but it left a fatty mouth feel that lingered and made me conjure all sorts of things I don’t want my chocolate to be!
No 3: Wow! This shocked me... clean crisp and smacked with the great chocolate flavour, this drink was pure, silky and smooth and everything I wanted in a hot chocolate shot. There was no greasy or fatty mouth feel. It was consistent and left the palate cleansed and so so happy... my gut was shouting YES YES YES before I’d even looked up to see both Amelie and Athol nodding in agreement.. this was it.. my eureka moment. The perfect chocolate bar to eat, drink and add flavours too.. that not only tastes delicious, is packed with wholesome greatness to not only satisfy your craving but boost mental and physical wellbeing, performance and recovery.. and yes it really does do all that.. this chocolate will be available this winter in individual hot chocolate shot bars and 1kg bags so you can never be without your Noir Ultra chocolate.
I have to say this has been a labour of love, for years I have travelled to various continents tasting each and every available hot chocolate as for me the process of making hot chocolate is meditative and promotes the practice of ‘conscious movement’ - preparing you mentally, physically and spiritually for the day ahead and I can honestly say this is the best.. not because I created it but because it is the truest purest smoothest chocolate out there.. for those not keen on dark chocolate this has none of the bitterness and allows milk lovers a chance to dabble into the dark world with happy oblivion and allows dark chocolate lovers to feel adored and welcomed into a world where chocolate has righted itself and set the bar, combining my passion for chocolate and fitness and created a range of chocolate products that highlights the positive association between chocolate, health and fitness. These are a must for everyone’s household.
Inspired for those who want to perform their best and feel their best, whatever the odds, whatever the circumstances and without the guilt of eating (or drinking hot) chocolate.
Pre order yours now so you don't miss out!