What does that have to do with a review of zChocolat.com? Everything. I ordered chocolates from the site as a gift to myself before starting the course, but really because I wanted to try this Forbes recommended, Meilleur Ouvrier de France helmed online-only chocolate. The chocolates are pricey, but the real cost is in the shipping, which was not unreasonable ($20 from France to Canada). That being said, my shipping only 12 chocolates from France, one could argue, is already unreasonable!
I thought I would eat them slowly, one every couple of days until they “expired”. And then my cat got sick. Which stressed me out. And made me need comfort I would normally take in my cats. Thus, there are now only a few left, and I must write this review before I can no longer recall these sublime pieces!
Not every one of the chocolates I ordered were peak chocolate experiences, but I can say that I ate the best chocolate I have ever had in a few from this box. First, let’s start with the ordering experience: I found the website fairly easy to navigate, though I wanted to pick specific chocolates for my ballotin and not others, as I wasn’t interested in eating any white chocolate. Trying to figure out how to be able to pick my own was a little confusing, plus there are several customizable options that may add to your price. Each gift includes a card, and of course there are upgrades for nicer cards, added teddy bears or alternative wrappings, etc. I finally figured it out and decided on three of each of the flavours that interested me the most in order to have multiple tastings. Most of zChocolat‘s products are numbered, from 0-15, plus their signature Z. As I’m not a fan of coffee or pistachios, was not eating white chocolate, my order might seem fairly sedate:
Z – Sweet and salted caramel on top of a layer of crunchy Piedmont hazelnuts w/70% Venezuelan couverture
0 – Gianduja praliné with milk chocolate 40% couverture Ivory Coast (mixed feelings about this couverture)
1 – Raspberry ganache with violet, 70% Venezuelan couverture
3 – Caramel passionfruit mango, 70% Venezuelan couverture
13 – Lemon purée with dark chocolate and cocoa butter ganache, 70% Venezuelan couverture
When I reread all the options after receiving the chocolates, I regretted not choosing more. But, with my budget, it was either have a few and know which were my favourites to save, or try many and have my favourite gone after I eat it. Yet again, I was afraid a moment would pass by and be gone forever. Proust forgive me.
The Lemon was the least impressive, simply because the others were so spectacular. It remained a superlative chocolate experience. The ganache was tangy, but, not yet having learned exactly what all ingredients do, I have to guess the cocoa butter is what made it so creamy-smooth. The extra fat was a welcome addition – the filling melted in my mouth.
Next up was a chocolate I gave my sister when she was feeling sad. She was so in the moment with the chocolate, she did succeed in dropping her troubles for that time. The Gianduja praliné was outstanding again for its play with texture. The couverture has a nice strength to it and the ganache was smooth with tiny little gritty bits of hazelnuts. I can’t tell you how important that grittiness was to the quality of the piece. Somehow, a quality one would associate with mouth annoyance became the feature of the piece. The taste of hazelnut in abundance, with the little gritty pieces, made for my sister’s new favourite chocolate moment, ever.
I love salted caramels. So I knew it was game over when I ordered one here. It did not disappoint, creamy crunchy with a lovely liquidy caramel, it satisfied every tastebud in my mouth. My only complaint? And this goes for all of the most liquid centers especially: the chocolate’s shape. Each chocolate could be placed on display on a rack and lined up with its brothers and sisters and look perfect, but when bitten into, the bottom yields far before the top of the couverture. For the drippier chocolates, I had to bite into them upside down so as not to lose any of the filling. This seems rather important in the overall experience of the chocolate, and was my only disappointment.
The pinnacles for me were the caramel passionfruit mango and the raspberry violet. The exotic fruit caramel was so packed with flavour it put any other citrus fruit caramel I have had to shame. I have not had a Patrick Roger exotic fruit caramel, so I can’t speak to that. Otherwise, bar none, the best. SO POTENT! My mouth sang the calypso of the caramel and danced the mamba of the mango. Good God was it good.
And yet, the raspberry, with its hint of violet, was better. I’ve had other flowery chocolates, often paired with tea flavours (earl grey or bergamot with lavender or violet or rose) and each time I felt like I was eating the equivalent of Sunday tea at grandma’s. Including the flower centerpiece of the table. This chocolate was all raspberry with a hint of violet. It was like eating raspberries you picked yourself while sitting on a picnic blanket in a fragrant park. All your senses are alive, and you are quite sure they are the best raspberries on the earth. The trick to this chocolate is that somehow, the violet seems to enhance the raspberry-ness. At no time did I feel like I was eating a flower or licking someone’s perfumed neck. I figured the salted caramel would be my highlight but I was wrong – new pinnacle chocolate experience: zChocolat’s number 1.
Unsurprisingly, their customer service is impeccable. They make it very clear on the site and in their emails that they aspire to the highest of customer service standards. I was informed of every movement my chocolates made from Marseille to My Door. I was even informed when they were delivered as well as who signed for them. There are so many bells and whistles you can add, it’s almost overwhelming. Concierge service if you are sending a gift and are late and worried it won’t arrive for a special date: they’ll call and tell the person receiving the gift that a special gift is arriving from France. Laser engraving on mahogany boxes. Anonymous giving. The list goes on.
Frankly, I’m unlikely to get any of the biggest bells and whistles, but I did appreciate being able to pick my chocolates and knowing exactly where they were and when they would arrive. I set an arrival date, and they arrived on the date specified. Not only am I impressed by their service, but they are DAMN good chocolates.