Published January 30, 2007. Web Exclusive.
If you pay a premium price, you should expect a premium product.
Chocolate truffles are defined as a candy with a chocolate or cream center surrounded by a chocolate coating. The traditional European truffle is a bite-sized chocolate ball rolled in cocoa powder or chopped nuts to create the resemblance to actual truffles that gives the candy its name. Just like their namesakes, chocolate truffles have come to connote luxury and indulgence. To find a Valentine's gift of truffles that lived up to this promise, we conducted two rounds of testing. In the first round, we asked Cook’s staff members to judge the appearance of both the chocolates and their packaging. In the second, we asked a select group of chocolate lovers to blind-taste samples.
We ordered truffles from six specialty chocolate boutiques and two larger distributors. When possible, we chose the gifts each supplier's website suggested for Valentine's Day.
After tallying the results from our two tests, we found that if you pay premium prices, you'll get premium chocolate. Only one brand didn't earn at least an unqualified recommended rating, as tasters considered the chocolate “mainstream” and “not special.” But high prices did not guarantee a beautifully packaged gift or chocolates with universal appeal. A single chocolatier offered a flawless package: an elegantly ribboned box, candies that arrived in perfect condition, and chocolate that looked and tasted both homemade and sophisticated. And one lower-priced brand earned higher ratings in both taste and presentation than several of its more expensive competitors.