Being based in a small arts town, BookPeople of Moscow has a strong connection with that which is artisan, and boutique. We carry all sorts of interesting products, such as candles, pins, calendars, and specialty mugs. But for me, the most important non-book product carried at BookPeople is the chocolate. During the pandemic, I was doing my coursework online and as such, I returned to Moscow and resumed working at BookPeople. During this time, I realized my fascination with their chocolate. I found that I absolutely loved boutique chocolate. The experimental flavors, the exciting packaging, the depth and complexity of flavor. It became my mission to try all of the bars being sold. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet, there’s just too many!
Since starting my journey of chocolate tasting, BookPeople of Moscow has not only rotated, and tweaked its stock, but expanded it as well! Meaning that I will likely never complete my mission. However, this is a small price to pay for all the new smells, flavors, and textures I’ll get to experience. In this article, I’ll walk you through some of the latest stock that has been sold at the bookstore. I’ll tell you how each taste, how each feel, and I’ll even give you some pictures to give you an idea of the whole experience.
Every bar mentioned in this article is absolutely amazing. They are all extremely high quality, and delicious. As this is the case, I will not be ranking them. I will tell you my favorite, but that is all it is: MY favorite. Mine will very likely not be everyone else’s favorite.
Raaka’s Vanilla Violet offering has a very pleasant flavor level. There is more than enough flavor to be enjoyable, and to know full well that there is more than just dark chocolate, but it is not so strong as to serve as punch in the face. Throughout, there is a warm, spiced flavor that pairs very well with the vanilla overtones, and the violet comes in at the very end, rounding out the sharpness of the chocolate. Although the chocolate is quite dark at 68% cacao, the violet and especially the vanilla give is a smooth flavor, and the darkness contributes primarily in mitigating the sweetness levels. The chocolate itself has a good texture, that melts easily in the mouth, and a middling level of snappiness (think that of a Hershey’s bar). The season that this bar reminded me of was early spring, as the warmth from the vanilla gave off holiday vibes, but the floral undertones brought me to the moment at the end of winter where plants are starting to revive.
Everything about this bar screams winter festivities, warmth, and comfort. It is soft, and smooth, and just the right amount of sweet. The 75% cacao prevents the hot coco-esque flavor profile from being too cloying, and the sweetness rounds out the darkness so that the whole experience is comforting with no hints of bitterness. The bar itself is soft, and smooth, and it melts quickly in the mouth. There is not very much snap, but that is my personal preference for chocolate, this softness is most likely due to the inclusion of olive oil in the ingredients, but that also makes the over all mouth feel very smooth, and the flavor very rich. The season that this bar brings me to is middle of December, winter holidays and hot chocolate; my favorite time of year.
The flavors in Madhu’s Vanilla Fennel are very bright. The fennel and dark chocolate are the dominant flavors, and they mix exceptionally well, with the vanilla providing a smooth undertone to cut the bitterness. Despite the mellowing effect of vanilla, this bar is still extremely dark, maintaining the characteristic high cacao content sharpness (this bar in particular is 76% cacao). The chocolate itself is snappy, and melts smoothly in the mouth. The season this reminded me of was late spring, early summer. The vanilla drives a spring feel, whereas the fennel mixed with the dark chocolate gives distinctly early summer vibes.
Madhu Lemon Coriander
Another smooth, snappy bar from Madhu. The Coriander in this bar is by far the dominant flavor, it adds an earthy harvesttime vibe to the experience, but it almost completely overwhelms the lemon, leaving it as a subtle aftertaste. This bar is also extremely dark, with 78% cacao, and no flavors to mellow it out (the coriander adds earthy flavor, and the lemon is a bit tart) it is very sharp, and very bitter. This is not my favorite form of chocolate, but the mouth feel is impeccable, and the flavors are balanced well if what you are looking for is a very strong, dark chocolate. The season this bar reminds me of is late summer, early fall during harvest time due to the earthy-ness of the coriander.
Markham & Fitz’s Harvest Party is very sweet, the chocolate itself is smooth, and soft, there is a noticeable snap, but the bar gives readily, and melts smoothly and easily in the mouth. My personal preference is towards textures like this, but for some, the hard snap of the Madhu offerings may be preferable. The flavor of Harvest Party is exactly what one would expect, it’s a portal to the fall season, with the pumpkin seeds adding variation in texture, and the dried cherries cutting the sweetness with bursts of tartness. The overwhelming flavor is that of a pumpkin spice latte mixed with a very high quality milk chocolate. It is creamy, and sweet, and soft, and has just the right amount of snap, and it feels like I’m falling into the very beginning of sweater weather and Halloween season. Although this was not my absolute favorite bar, I feel like it was the one that I ended up craving the most throughout this review. Though it may not be for everybody, it was definitely one of my favorites.
This offering from Markham & Fitz took a little bit to grow on me. The texture (much like all the other bars in this list) is excellent. However, the lavender flavor is very strong, and—aside from the chocolate—the only flavor present in this bar, entirely drowning out the honey. This strong floral flavor means that the bar feels right out of some cartoon episode about spring, but if that is not what you are looking for, there is not very much else to fall back on with this bar. It is high quality, the texture, and mouthfeel is excellent, and if you really like lavender, it could very well be your new favorite chocolate.
Much like their Lavender bar, Markham & Fitz’s Mocha has one, strong, non-chocolate flavor, but unlike the Lavender bar, the strong espresso flavor is much less polarizing than an overwhelming floral overtone. Additionally, the sweeter 52% dark milk chocolate used as the base pairs very well with the sharpness of the espresso, effectively balancing the bitterness associated with a strong coffee. Of course, coffee being the only flavor in addition to chocolate means that if you happen to not be in the mood for coffee, this may no be the bar for you. Fortunately, coffee is a flavor that can be enjoyed at the strangest times, so not only does this bar remind me of just about every season I care to have it remind me of, but it also provides a nice pick me up almost any day of the week.
Of all of these bars, my favorite was the Thomas Keller Peppermint one. It was rich, and soft, and brought me right to my favorite time of year. It was also the one I ended up craving the most after the taste testing, and I have since purchased a bar as a gift. It is exceptionally good, and will most likely be my go-to chocolate for the foreseeable months. Finally, I feel that it is worth mentioning that, aside from the Markham & Fitz Mocha, all of these bars are vegan, so they can conform to almost any dietary restrictions.
These are not the only bars offered by BookPeople of Moscow, there are many more available in store (and soon on our website!) that could not be placed in this article due to space and time restrictions. Additionally, we are always open to suggestions of new and different artisanal brands to carry, so contact us if you have ideas!