New ruby chocolate isn't special and probably tastes bad, says NZ expert (Video)
The world's biggest cocoa producer claims to have invented the first new chocolate in 80 years, but one Wellington expert says the pink creation is not real chocolate.
NZ chocolate judge Luke Owen Smith, owner of The Chocolate Bar in Wellington, says it's on "the fringe of what I would want to call chocolate".
The innovation, based on a special type of cocoa bean, comes after about a decade of development, said Barry Callebaut AG CEO Antoine de Saint-Affrique. Unveiled in Shanghai earlier this month, the chocolate has a natural berry flavour that's sour yet sweet, according to the company, which works behind the scenes to produce chocolate sold by all the major producers including Hershey and Cadbury.
Smith admits there's still a bit of guesswork because no ingredients list has been revealed, but it's not uncommon for raw cacao to have a red colour. The change to milk, dark and white chocolate comes through the fermentation process.
"I'm reasonably certain that they're not fermenting the cacao, which is definitely a key thing. That makes it dubious about whether you'd really want to call it chocolate because fermentation is where the chocolate flavour starts to begin coming in.
"Cacao before fermentation, it's not really chocolate - it's cacao."
Not only is its status as chocolate questionable, Smith says it's not likely to be particularly palatable either.
"It sounds like they're doing something along the lines of freeze drying [the cacao] and then blending them into a powder... it doesn't sound to me like something that would taste good.
"Unfermented cacao is really not that pleasant, and I would imagine that they are having to add in a lot of sugar and milk and probably other things to make that taste anywhere near palatable.
"I personally wouldn't really want chocolate made with unfermented beans.
"It's just marketing basically, it's a gimmick."
Smith, who co-judged at the first ever New Zealand Chocolate awards this month, says the "ruby chocolate" is probably made from a genetically modified strain of cacao which is poor quality and commonly used in mass-produced, cheap industrial chocolate.
The beans used to make ruby chocolate come from Ivory Coast, Ecuador and Brazil and the unusual colour comes from the powder extracted during processing, De Saint-Affrique said. No berries or colours are added. While other companies including Cargill already produce red cocoa powder, this is the first time natural reddish chocolate is produced.
"It's natural, it's colourful, it's hedonistic, there's an indulgence aspect to it, but it keeps the authenticity of chocolate," the CEO said at the time of release.
"The way they are doing it may be new and very debatable, but making pink chocolate is not new," Smith says.
"There's a million different ways you can make pink chocolate... basically white chocolate with dried strawberries.
"There's a lot of stuff going on in the small-scale artisan scene that is way more interesting and incredible than this."
Distribution details are only being revealed to buyers, but Smith says Barry Callebaut's ruby chocolate is likely to make its way to New Zealand.