The Emperor’s New Chocolates

Fancy chocolate doesn’t come cheap, as anyone who’s swooned from sticker shock inside La Maison du Chocolat or Teuscher Chocolates knows. But at least the flown-over stuff comes with built-in import chic—and longtime chocolate-making know-how from some of the best truffle makers in the business.

But those dainty French and Swiss nibbles are priced like a Whitman’s Sampler compared to those sold by Noka Chocolates of Plano, Texas. Packed in one of their signature stainless steel boxes, 12 of Noka’s quarter-sized, bittersweet squares will set you back a stunning $99 ($39 if you skip the metal and opt for black cardboard instead). Oh, you wanted truffles? You can get eight truffles for $139 (in steel) or $70 (in cardboard). It’s hardly a surprise that Noka was founded by two accountants.

But is their chocolate really worth the price? And what’s so special about it, anyway? That’s what Texas blogger Dallas Food set out to discover, in an exhaustive nine-part expose. What starts with mild amazement at Noka’s pricing turns into an obsession with the source of chocolate for Noka’s simple confections, since (contrary to what’s implied in much of their press) the company doesn’t do their own bean-to-bar processing, but buys finished European couverture ready for molding. He narrows it down to one unconfirmed (but named) French company—a company whose own chocolate bars are readily available in many specialty shops at a comfortably reasonable price.

Interestingly enough, the Chowhound reaction focuses less on the audacity of Noka’s pricing (after all, anyone can try to kick their product into the stupid-luxury niche by charging ridiculous amounts of money; just ask the smart marketers at Grey Goose) and more on the journalistic ethics of telling only one side of the story. Not his fault, counters Dallas Food blogger Scott; when he tried to get info from the company, they “blew him off,” while his interactions with the French folks on the other end may become part of another piece.

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