Once in a while you smoke a blend that surprises you, that tastes so different in a pleasant way than you expected. Such a mixture is ChocoLat (notice the capital “L”) by HU Tobacco. You would expect that master-blender Hans Wiedemann is behind the tobacco but no, it is a friend of him (and myself): Rainer. It all began when he read the excellent book by Fred Hanna: The Perfect Smoke. In there is a paragraph where Mr. Hanna describes a tobacco blending experiment with an aromatic mixture called McClelland Tastemaster (a (Black) Cavendish – Burley blend) and 50% latakia: Smoky Chocolate Surprise. The first candidate for an excellent crossover is a McClelland aromatic called Tastemaster. It appears to be the typical McClelland high-quality tobacco that is cased and suffused with chocolate. Yes, I said it was chocolate, and, unbelievably, it even tastes like chocolate. It is a nice aromatic all on its own if smoked after allowing it to dry for a few days. It smells nice and burns rather cool as long as, like I said, it has time to dry out. However, when mixed with 50% McClelland Cyprian Latakia, you have the dessert equivalent of Smoky Chocolate Surprise. It smells great, has depth of flavor, and burns cool with a nice chocolate taste. It is actually rather amazing stuff. I highly recommend it to the Latakia lover who has a sweet tooth. And, of course, the room note is pleasant indeed.
So Rainer started experimenting, got some Tastemaster from the States, mixed it with pure Latakia and indeed with a good result. But now the arduous task lay before him of re-creating the blend with European tobaccos. First he approached the master-blender of Kohlhase & Kopp, Norbert Hedtke. The blend that came out of that was ok, but it was not quite what Rainer had in mind. Something was off.. Of course! American (unflavoured) Black Cavendish is mostly made from Burley and European Black Cavendish is based on Virginia. Too much of the latter and the blend becomes a bit dry, woodsy. But with some tweaking this was solved. Then the mixture lacked a bit of body. This time the solution came from Hans Wiedemann. He added some special Burley and high quality Virginia which was precisely what the blend needed. The mixture then was rounded off with, not an overly sweet milk chocolate, but a dark chocolate topping.
Description from the producer:
The common passion for good tobacco has Rainer aka Raiko and me let become good friends. There was of course close to the Rainer finally created his own tobacco. The result is really fun – Chapeau Rainer!!! Luxurious, opulent and at the same time with a hint of decadence – ChocoLat has it all! Nearly half a measure of Latakia is sustained by high-grade Virginias, Burley and unflavoured Black Cavendish. A discreet cocoa flavour delivers a satisfying, indulging taste without ever becoming overly sweet. Deep and dark, pleasant and snugger alike a good Stout… ChocoLat – can also serve as an ideal companion to a dark beer.
A typical round European style 50 gr. tin is used. On the tin sadly no image but just plain text. Hans really makes wonderful tobaccos and some of his tins have really nice artwork. But also many tins lack that.. The eye also wants something and with a name like ChocoLat I am sure a good looking tin label could have been made.
Upon opening the tin you see a simple white paper. When you remove that a blend greets you which varies in colour from light to dark. Bright Virginias, slightly darker Burley and black Latakia and Black Cavendish. Which also sums up the ingredients. The cut is a regular ribbon cut.
Smell from the tin:
The smell from the tin is a bit strange, but in a good way. I smell the earthly, leathery camp-fire odour of the latakia but it is subdued by the other tobacco components and the topping. It reminds me of Sillem’s Black, marshmallows roasting above a camp-fire. But then less aromatic, more natural. A real chocolate smell I do not detect.
Upon lighting the pipe you get the dark earthy taste of the smoky latakia but without the bitterness you sometimes experience. After a few puffs the bright and sweet Virginias, together with some citrus, come through. They, in combination with the creamy Black Cavendish also provide a slight grassy taste. The Burley provides the nutty backbone of the blend. I don’t really detect a clear chocolate taste, it is just a bit of marshmallows roasting above a camp-fire. Smoking a pipe with this mixture is not a roller-coaster ride flavour-wise, all the ingredients are in perfect harmony and stay that way. Like with the smell I am taste-wise also reminded of Sillem’s Black; it is more natural than aromatic. Sometimes aromatic blends loose their taste halfway the bowl, but because ChocoLat leans on the natural tobaccos the flavour is consistently maintained throughout the bowl.
German made blends sometimes have the tendency to bite but like most HU Tobacco blends ChocoLat is a good boy. Nicotine-wise it is a mild blend, I can smoke it without any troubles. Burn-wise this is an excellent mixture. I rarely required so few relights and it burns right down to the bottom of the bowl.
For Ellen it contains latakia so no… However, even when she says she does not really like it, she made no remarks while I smoked it, no leaving the room, no coughing noises.. And when I entered the living-room the next morning all I could smell was a faint roasted marshmallow odour. So for me the room-note goes into the “pretty decent” department.
On the website of HU Tobacco this blend will cost you €11,30 (± $12.50).
This blend will appeal to pipe-smokers on different levels. If you are a lover of Latakia-blends this mixture will be a nice and perhaps refreshing change of pace. Don’t let the “chocolat” label put you off, this is not an aromatic, there are loads of high quality natural tobaccos to be enjoyed. And if your wife loathes the smell of your favourite Latakia-blends, try ChocoLat, perhaps she will like it. Because every woman loves chocolate, right? Also when you want to try out a mixture with latakia I believe this is a good blend to start with. You get the characteristics of the dark leaf but in a smoothed, tasty way that won’t put you off.
German made blends sometimes have the tendency to bite
Arno, could you expand on that (or link me to the relevant article if you have already explained) please? Is the Germanic ‘bite’ simply due to use of German tobacco (geudertheimer etc)? Or is it something in the curing/ blending process ?
Hello Adi! (I forgot to mail you I just think…-_-), I don’t know precisely where the German bite comes from. Not all blends have it. You see, most of the German pipe smokers smoke with a filter. So that the smoke is not harsh when it hit their mouths/tongues. I suspect that sometimes German pipe-tobacco manufacturers tailor their blends so that filter-smokers can smoke them without problems. However, non-filter smokers… You see, it costs time and money to treat and age a tobacco properly so it won’t bite. So why not try to save some money? Once again I can’t prove this, perhaps this is all bullsh*t what I am talking about but I would not be surprised if there is some truth to it.
Stg. de Kralingse Snuif en Specerijen Compagnie in Rotterdam carries a Choco -L- snuif; Chococreme-L- snuif and Chocomint-L- snuif already for several years. This brand is also available in Germany under the name of Zwei Mühlen by Günter Hartmann Tabakvertrieb GmbH 7 Co. KG
Hello Jaap! Yes I know, I had it and it’s excellent snuff! But not pipe-tobacco 😉 Besides, you don’t use actual Latakia, you use dark-fired Kentucky. Which also gives a smoky aroma.
By the way, I heard some disturbing news about the mills.. I cross my fingers that production of snuff can be continued one way or another in the coming years.. It would be an utter waste of Dutch heritage if the mills would stop making snuff.
what a brilliant review ! I couldn’t have it done any better !
Let me just add a few more comments, finalizing with the true secret why I’m so glad having once started to further follow that inspiration to “marry” chocolate with latakia, which right at the beginning never appeared to me as peculiar.
Regarding the “tin art”, this is far off what I had in mind for this tobacco, however it had to comply with Hans’ “Friends Blends corporate identity”, say incl. the ones for Hadde, Kelvin, Olaf, etc..
This however will anyway become subject to change as of the latest EU efforts for TPD, and it can only be even less attractive. Likewise the name ChocoLat has to vanish as it suggests “taste”.
No problem with that, as there is already an alternative idea for a new name, which will have the same number of letters as ChocoLat, and lend to a metaphor alike “wanderer between two worlds”, since I think that describes the blend at its best.
ChocoLat can be indeed somewhat misleading, if it is associated with highly sweet stuff which you’d better eat rather than smoke.
Since its launch I came across several “species of wanderers”. For some of them it was kind of a door-opener to discover the world of latakia blends at all, for some others it was like a pleasant invitation to revisit latakia blends. This is possibly supported by the fact that ChocoLat is far from being “harsh”, nor would its nearly 50% Latakia constituent “make lonely” as other blends in that league could potentially do.
This all together fits in a kind of “overall harmony” I was looking for.
Last not least, that whole thing was triggered by the taste of good dark beers which I like so much (not talking about the ones having chocolate aroma infusions), such often presenting both “smoky” but also chocolate alike taste components, I’d better say cocoa taste notes, hence being more “dry” rather than “sweet”. ChocoLat follows that path, and part of the leaf chosen for this blend delivers already some of this cocoa taste which one might find in some other latakia blends too, often pushed quite into the “background”. So here the discreet cocoa flavour topping is more to support something which is already “in it”, rather than adding an extra taste dimension which is not inherent to what the tobacco leaf itself delivers.
Happy puffing in “overall harmony”,
Hello Rainer! Thanks for the extra explanation 🙂
O/T I know it is cool to be a pipe smoker and doubly cool to be a Dutchman smoking a pipe but beware, the Health Nazis of Europe will soon have you in their sights, mark my words! Think how many thousands of little Dutch Boys and Girls are led astray, are suckered into becoming addicted to pipe smoking each year because it is just sooo COOL. My youngest son is off to Amsterdam next week and I shall be expecting him to report back about the Kraachten being full of Teenies looking cool with their Meerschaums and Steckpfeifen. Where once the aroma of hash or tulips or Gouda filled the air, now I’m sure whole streets reek of Borkum Riff or Opa’s oudesokken mix….
Well, pipe smoking cool… I doubt that. Of course I myself am cool 😉 In a strange way I would be honoured if the anti-smoke Nazis came after me. That would mean my blog actually means something 😀
That would mean my blog actually means something
Uhm you only have to scroll up the page to see that you have people of Rainer’s calibre and ‘qualifications’ commenting to know that your blog does indeed mean something.
And as you know, I’m neither Dutch nor a pipe smoker and i think your blog is one of the best ‘tobacco’ blogs going….and I’ve read pretty much all of them that are in English or German.
Again a wonderful review that makes a reader curious about the item! Well done!
Hi Arno, I’m going to ask this in public instead of an email as I think, I hope, your answer might aid any other pipe-smoking ‘N00bs’ out there in the wonderful world of google searches.
As you know I am new to pipe smoking and as such I appear to be the last of an almost extinct species round these parts (deepest, wettest, darkest Norfolk, UK…the sort of place where babies are really born with 6 digits and webbing between their toes).
I smoke outside the flat and get a fair few comments from passersby, not all of them nice. One of the most frequent is ‘my old dad used to smoke a pipe, he was always relighting the thing’.
Several former pipe smokers have also mentioned they got sick of their pipe constantly going out.
But, newbie that I am, I never seem to have to relight my pipe. As you, Arno, know too I only smoke Semois shags or other natural shag tobaccos without any preservatives, chemicals etc. These are by nature smoked much drier than other sorts of pipe tobaccos (cake, twist etc) and also much drier than shags that come out of a tin. Is this why I never have to relight? Dry tobacco burns better (and quicker) than moist tobacco- as I know as chain smoker of roll ups and tubes.
Hello Adi, several reasons why you, while smoking Semois, have to relight so little. First of all you smoke outside. There is more wind so the burning tobacco gets more oxygen therefore you get a better combustibility. Further Semois is dryer than most tobaccos and indeed, dry tobacco burns better. Also the springy cut of Semois helps, it is very loose as opposed to a dense flake, cake, twist etc.). Last but not least, your pipe is straight without a bent. Straight pipes tend to smoke better. But please remember, relighting your pipe is absolutely not a shame, it is normal.
I hear you about the ‘wind’! Not that I have tell a Dutch Man anything about the wind that comes off the North Sea. Infact I have sworn that my next pipe will be alpine style with a wind cap. NOW I know why all the old boys in Bavaria had pipes with wind caps (I assume the loooong pipe stems were originally to cope with the ‘Bauern Tabak’ or Nico.Rustica ).
However I do wonder why those pipe smokers on the North Sea coast- Norfolk, Holland, Friesa, Lower Saxony etc don’t also seem to have traditionally used pipes with windcaps? I don’t ever recall seeing pictures of Heinje Goedewind with a capped briar in his wizened mouth, nor the North Sea fishermen here.Is it a cultural thing?
Don’t buy a Bavarian pipe, they smoke horrible 😉 What you need is is a wind cap: http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Free-Shipping-Tobacco-Smoking-Pipe-Wind-Cap/32586015703.html
I don’t know why those people did not use wind caps. I know my grandfather did. My first pipe (I got it when I was only 5 or 6) I got from him had a wind cap on it. Sadly the pipe broke when I once dropped it accidentally on a stone floor..