Callebaut is a Belgian chocolate maker. They produce at least two types of bulk coverture chocolate, and do not, to the best of my knowledge, make eating-sized chocolate bars. My local candy store carries their bittersweet chocolate and their semisweet chocolate. I've only tried the bittersweet. Apparently, Callebaut doesn't name their chocolates, they just give them numbers. This one might be their #850, but I'm not positive of that. Also, since it comes in bulk and I have to buy it in big, irregular chunks, there's no label for me to scan in, and no ingredient lists for me to present. [Addendum: I got email recently from a guy at a company in new york that claims to be the first U.S. importer of Callebaut chocolate. He further claims that callebaut does make regularly sized chocolate bars, but that they are not sold in the states. I'll post more details when I know them.]

Callebaut Bittersweet

Being a bulk chocolate, this stuff is clearly intended to be used in cooking. In fact, the chunks you get are so big (about 3 centimeters thick) that you can't just eat them directly. I'm afraid I'd break a tooth if I tried to take a bite of one of these chunks directly. What I do is this: I get out my cutting board, a chunk of the chocolate, and my big butcher knife. Use a big knife for this; you just can't get enough leverage with a small knife. You know the knife from that famous shower scene in the movie Psycho? Use a knife like that. You have to show this chocolate who's boss. I use the knife to shave flakes and small pieces off the side of the slab. When I have a half-cup or so of them, I scoop them into a bowl and eat them with a spoon in very small spoonfuls (maybe half a gram at a time, at most).

The other ramification of the fact that this is a cooking chocolate is that its texture isn't as good as typical eating chocolates (the good ones, anyway). When I look at the fresh cut facets on the slab of chocolate after I've cut some off, I can see tiny light-brown dots (cocoa butter) amid the very dark body of the chocolate itself [note: this may be partly due to the fact that the supply of Callebaut in my pantry is over a year old. I bought a couple of pounds when I bought it and haven't used it up yet]. However, I don't find this to be much of a drawback for two reasons. One, the chocolate itself is so damned good. Two, it's a very crisp, brittle chocolate (when served at the proper temperature, anyway), so when you chew it, it breaks up nicely and quickly delivers the flavor. Besides, if you're going to the trouble of flaking it off of a larger piece of chocolate and eating it with a spoon, you've pretty much abandoned any concerns over texture in pursuit of taste.

You've probably noticed that I don't give many chocolates ratings over 4. Well, this is one of them. If you like dark chocolates, you'll probably think that this is really really good stuff. I certainly do. I'll warn you, it's way out there on the bitter end of bittersweet. There's enough sugar in this chocolate to keep eating it from being an unpleasant experience, but that's about it. If you let a spoonful of this melt in your mouth, what happens is this: first, the chocolate melts and you get a wonderful rush of chocolate flavor. At this point, the sugar is covering for the natural bitterness. Then, as the chocolate melts away, your tongue gets accustomed to the bitterness so it isn't unpleasant. Afterwards, you're left with a wonderful chocolate aftertaste that lasts quite a while. A suggestion, though, if you're going to sit and eat a lot of this chocolate at once, have a glass of water handy; this chocolate does make you thirsty.

Comparing this chocolate to the other 5 ranked chocolate, Valrhona's Noir Amer, I find this one to be a little bit better. The Valrhona definitely wins in terms of convenience and percent cocoa, but the Callebaut wins in terms of flavor and texture (oddly enough). This is a richer tasting chocolate, which I think is due to it having more cocoa butter than the Valrhona. I picture the enjoyment v.s. percent cocoa curve as looking something like this:

There's an ideal, Olympian chocolate out there somewhere that just hits the top of the curve. Maybe someday I'll find it. Both the Callebaut and the Valrhona chocolates approach the peak of the curve, but from different sides; Callebaut from the less cocoa, richer flavor side, and Valrhona from the macho, "how strong can you take it?" side. In my opinion, the Callebaut comes closer to the top.