Dark, Milk, White and — Ruby? Naturally Pink Chocolate is Here to Tingle Your Tastebuds
For years, there have been three basic types of chocolate: dark, milk and white. For dark and milk, the origin determines particular flavors, such as fruity notes, which sugar content can either negate or showcase bitterness. There’s a longstanding argument about whether white chocolate is really even chocolate at all due to its lack of cacao and a content that usually only features the byproduct of cocoa butter. Now, there’s a new chocolate to debate about: ruby.
Belgian chocolate company Barry Callebaut, one of the most prevalent suppliers of chocolate to pastry shops, chocolatiers and bakers, had to work through U.S. government procedures for about two years to get its new “ruby” chocolate approved for sale in the United States, but it’s now finally available. At least one Houston chocolatier, Annie Rupani of Cacao & Cardamom, a Houston-based chocolatier who just won nine different awards at the 2019 Americas Bean-to-Bar & Chocolatier Competition, has already embraced the product, which is an elegant, deep pink. In fact, she’s been waiting to work with ruby chocolate since it first became available in Europe.
“I’d been asking about it for at least a year because it gives us more options,” said Rupani. “That’s what our customers want, to be able to try a full variety. It doesn’t have to be a staple chocolate but it adds intrigue to the rest of the product line. Aesthetically, it’s fun to play with. It’s 33-percent cacao and we have customers who like whites more than milks. It has tangy notes that play well with berries and other fruit.”
Intriguingly, ruby chocolate carries berry-like flavors with nothing else added and the texture is creamy and soft — much like white chocolate. The tangy notes stimulate the taste buds, especially on the sides of the tongue. Cacao & Cardamom sent us a sample Ruby Raspberry bar to try. To showcase the flavor notes, Rupani crafted it with dehydrated raspberries and strawberries, as well as white chocolate “pearls” for texture and crunch. Another bar is filled with raspberry-pistachio ganache and nougatine while in another, the ruby chocolate is simply left to be experienced on its own.
While the production method is being kept as a trade secret, Thomas Mulvihill, the vice president of marketing for Barry Callebaut Americas, has some assurances about the product. “What I can share is that the color and flavor properties that deliver that great, multi-sensory experience with the ruby chocolate is from the ruby cocoa bean,” he said. “The pinkish hue does not come from any added color. There’s no berry flavor added. It comes naturally from the bean and the process we use to unlock those properties. The taste experience is entirely new and we’ve gotten a lot of great feedback on the balance between creaminess and fruitiness.”
It’s worth noting that it’s not the first time a red tone has been coaxed out of chocolate. Take, for example, the red-brown hue of Dutch-process cocoa.
Does ruby chocolate really constitute a new category? While some have dismissed it as a marketing gimmick, as a chocolatier Rupani appreciates that it’s a different medium for her craft. “Regardless of whether it’s in its own category or not, it gives us another flavor profile to play with. At Cacao & Cardamom, we’re always blurring that line between sweet and savory and pushing the boundaries of flavor. This gives us another jumping point to create new flavor combinations within chocolate.”
Visit either of Cacao & Cardamom’s locations at 5000 Westheimer across from The Galleria or the River Oaks location at 2013 West Gray to try the ruby chocolate for yourself — and perhaps share with a friend or two.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.