Book reviews


Chloe Doutre-Roussel: Chocolate Connoisseur (and liar)

Is it acceptable for chocolate lovers to be "educated" on lies and misinformation?

Chloe Doutre-Roussel refers to herself as "an international chocolate expert" [7]. But in her book, "The Chocolate Connoisseur", Doutre-Roussel proves herself to be both dishonest, and startlingly ignorant about cocoa and chocolate. (These allegations are explained in detail below).

Chloe Doutre-Roussel is undeniably charismatic, with many admirers describing her as an angel [3], a goddess [4], or a saint [2].

For the most part, though, Chloe Doutre-Roussel is acclaimed by two kinds of people, specifically:
1. people who know even less about cocoa and chocolate than she does, and who are therefore not qualified to judge her expertise, and
2. people who benefit from the lies, myths, and propaganda that she spreads. The people who benefit from the misinformation in "The Chocolate Connoisseur" include premium chocolate sellers, such as Doutre-Roussel's erstwhile employer (Fortnum & Mason), as well as chocolate manufacturers who process, or claim to process, Criollo cocoa beans.

Although some segments of the chocolate industry have undoubtedly benefited from the misinformation in "The Chocolate Connoisseur", I vehemently reject the notion that it is acceptable for chocolate lovers and consumers to be "educated" on such lies and misinformation.

"The Chocolate Connoisseur" is sold by its publisher, Piatkus, as non-fiction. The back cover of the book declares that "few people know as much about chocolate as Chloé Doutre-Roussel". In my opinion, the staff at Piatkus (now owned by Little, Brown) should be ashamed to take money from readers who have been deceived into believing that "The Chocolate Connoisseur" is an authoritative work of non-fiction, written by an "expert".

In my opinion, "The Chocolate Connoisseur" should be withdrawn from sale, and both the author (Chloé Doutre-Roussel) and the publisher (Piatkus / Little, Brown) should apologise to every person who has been deceived, or defamed, by the misinformation in that book.

Below, I explain that "The Chocolate Connoisseur" is the worst book I have ever read because:

  1. "The Chocolate Connoisseur" is deceitful. It contains many erroneous claims about:

  2. "The Chocolate Connoisseur" threatens the health and survival of the cocoa industry by:

  3. "The Chocolate Connoisseur" threatens the incomes of the world's cocoa growers by:

  4. "The Chocolate Connoisseur" is poorly edited and poorly produced. The book contains:




"The Chocolate Connoisseur" is deceitful in its claims about the author's qualifications. Contrary to her claims, Chloe Doutre-Roussel has never worked as a professional agronomist.

Chloe Doutre-Roussel clearly recognises the social value of honesty and integrity. For example, in an interview with Jon Miller she stated:

"I have a deep desire for justice, and I have easily detected the impostors and the unjust situations in the chocolate world.
So I try to create awareness about what is wrong and what could be done to make it choco-better." [1]

But, ironically, Doutre-Roussel herself is an impostor of sorts:

impostor n. a person who deceives others, especially by assuming a false identity.

Throughout "The Chocolate Connoisseur", Doutre-Roussel portrays herself as a highly experienced and "well paid" agronomist (see pages 35, 46, 70, 175 x 2, and inside back cover). This portrayal is dishonest. Contrary to the information in her book and on her official website, Chloe Doutre-Roussel has never worked as a professional agronomist, and certainly not for the UN. (See Appendix 1 for details).

Doutre-Roussel's false claims about being an experienced agronomist are especially signifcant, because they have provided Doutre-Roussel with a platform of deceit from which she has launched a career as a freelance chocolate and cocoa consultant. Having left her job as Fortnum & Mason's Chocolate Buyer (a job which she says she applied for "as a joke"), Chloe Doutre-Roussel now reportedly charges more than $2000 per day to provide advice about "the cultivation of cacao" [1].

In the words of Martin Christy: "we care about honesty and truth in the chocolate world" [2]

Martin Christy calls Doutre-Roussel chocolate's Joan of Arc

Deceived
Martin Christy has stated that Chloe Doutre-Roussel
is chocolate's Joan of Arc, and that she wields a
"flaming sword of truth". In fact, she is a liar.
Image from Marketplace report by John Miller [2]

Martin Christy is the founder and editor of seventypercent.com, a chocolate information website, shop, and online forum.

Like most people, Martin Christy values the truth.

In an article that he wrote for seventypercent.com about ethical chocolate, Christy wrote the following:


"Truth, lies and cacao beans"

"So let's [...] uncover some home truths. If this seems a little harsh on companies who may appear to be 'doing the right thing', this is because we care about honesty and truth in the chocolate world." [2]


But sadly, like so many people, Martin Christy appears to have been deceived by Chloe Doutre-Roussel.

Apparently unaware of her lies, Martin Christy has stated that he sees Doutre-Roussel as a saint - and not just any old saint, but actually "chocolate's Joan of Arc", complete with a "flaming sword of truth". [1]



"The Chocolate Connoisseur": nonfiction or nonsense?

Throughout "The Chocolate Connoisseur", Chloe Doutre-Roussel portrays herself as a highly experienced and "well paid" agronomist (pp. 35, 46, 70, 175 x 2, and inside back cover).

(Agronomy is the science of soil management and crop production. A crop is any plant that is grown in significant quantities and harvested as food, or for any other economic purpose. Cocoa is a crop.)

I have a degree in agricultural science, so I know a lot more about agronomy than most people. On reading "The Chocolate Connoisseur", I was shocked by the number of mistakes in the book, including mistakes about cocoa botany that no experienced agronomist should make. Hence, I was convinced that Chloe Doutre-Roussel couldn't be an experienced agronomist - despite her numerous claims to the contrary. As it turned out, my suspicions were well-founded: Chloe Doutre-Roussel has never worked as a professional agronomist. (See Appendix 1 for details).

Why it matters that Chloe Doutre-Roussel lies about being an agronomist:

Some people have trouble understanding why it matters that Chloe Doutre-Roussel has never worked as a professional agronomist. It matters for two main reasons:

1. Doutre-Roussel lies about her experience (on pages 35 and 70), and, as Martin Christy says: "we care about honesty and truth in the chocolate world" [2], and
2. Chloe Doutre-Roussel now reportedly charges more than $2000 per day to provide advice regarding "the cultivation of cacao" [1]. Chloe Doutre-Roussel has no experience in this field; but more importantly, the multitude of errors in "The Chocolate Connoisseur" indicate that she is simply not qualified to provide such advice. Even Doutre-Roussel herself acknowledges that she is "far from being a bean expert" (p.189).

Below I provide a few examples of Doutre-Roussel's astounding ignorance regarding some of the simplest aspects of cocoa cultivation:

Question: How many species of cacao are there? Correct answer: One

No experienced agronomist would confuse the terms species and variety, but Chloe Doutre-Roussel confuses these terms repeatedly. On multiple occasions, she states that Criollo cocoa and Forastero cocoa are different species of tree (pp. 74, 207 x 2). In fact, all cocoa trees belong to the same species: Theobroma cacao.

genus n. category containing one or more species.

The cacao species belongs to the genus Theobroma. The Theobroma genus contains twenty-two different species (see Appendix 2 for a full list). Only one of those species -- Theobroma cacao -- produces cacao beans.

species n. a category consisting of genetically similar organisms with common characteristics. Members of a species are capable of breeding with one another and producing fertile offspring.

Criollo and Forastero cocoa trees can readily interbreed, and produce fertile offspring. This is because all cocoa trees belong to just one species: Theobroma cacao.

variety n. a category consisting of members of a species that differ from others of the same species in minor characteristics.

Criollo and Forastero cocoa trees are varieties within one species: Theobroma cacao.

Where does cacao grow?

Doutre-Roussel writes that cocoa "grows better between 400m and 1250m above sea level" (p.49).

This is an absurd claim, given that the cocoa tree requires warm temperatures, and is native to the Upper Amazon basin. The Amazon basin rises to an altitude of just 106 metres above sea level at Iquitos. (Iquitos is an Upper Amazon city, which is located more than 2,500km inland from the Amazon delta).

In addition to the fact that cocoa evolved at low altitudes, many existing cocoa plantations thrive at just a few metres above sea level, including several that I've visited in the South Pacific. Even the famous Chuao cocoa plantation in Venezuela (which Doutre-Roussel writes about) is a coastal plantation, located on the floor of the Chuao valley, at altitudes ranging from approximately 1 to 100m above sea level [9].

Furthermore, Wood and Lass [8] note that most cocoa is grown below an altitude of 300m (p.54), and Minifie [10] notes that it is "exceptional" for cocoa trees to flourish above 3,000 feet (or 914m).

As is typical for her, Doutre-Roussel provides no evidence or references to support her claim. However, the same incorrect information, in exactly the same wording, appears on the website of the London chocolate shop, Prestat. Did Chloe Doutre-Roussel copy this incorrect information from Prestat? Or did Prestat copy this information from "The Chocolate Connoisseur", believing it to be authoritative? Either way, incorrect information about cocoa is being spread around the chocolate world, with Chloe Doutre-Roussel acting as the vector.

What is Witches' Broom? (And the importance of disease resistance).

Doutre-Roussel writes that "Witch Broom" disease is a "tree cancer" (p.54).

In fact, witches' broom disease is a very significant fungal disease of cocoa, caused by the fungus Crinipellis perniciosa. Witches' broom disease is so-named because it causes distorted, broom-like shoots to grow from infected areas of the tree. The fungus can also infect pods, causing a very high percentage of pod loss. Witches' broom disease has been absolutely devastating to the South American cocoa industry: in Bahia (in Brazil) witches' broom disease reduced the annual cocoa harvest by 75%, from 400,000 tonnes to just 100,000 tonnes.

Wood and Lass [8] have noted that "the ultimate answer to control of witches' broom can only lie in the universal planting of material resistant to the disease" (p.290). This sentiment is shared by many (if not all) cocoa agronomists [11]. But, incredibly, Chloe Doutre-Roussel promotes an opposite course of action: she writes that she is on a "mission" to bring chocolate made with cocoa beans grown on "fragile" cocoa trees to "the whole world". Doutre Roussel's "mission" is breathtakingly ignorant, and dangerous. (I address the dangers of promoting Criollo cocoa at the expense of Forastero cocoa in more detail later).

Should "Scavina-6" be resisted ... or embraced?

Sca-6: friend or foe?

Sca-6: Friend of Foe?
This robust Forastero variety helps to
protect the cocoa industry from ruin.
But Chloe Doutre-Roussel says that
people should instead be growing
"more fragile" cocoa trees (p.74).
Image from: The New Taste of Chocolate [12]

Immediately after she mentions witches' broom disease, Chloe Doutre-Roussel encourages her readers to resist the rise of Forastero (p.54). This advice is crazy.

Currently, the main source of genetic resistance to witches' broom disease in cocoa is a Forastero variety called Scavina-6, or Sca-6.

Witches' broom disease (or more accurately, the fungus Crinipellis perniciosa), and Scavina-6 cacao trees evolved side by side, in the Upper Amazon rainforest. Over the course of a very long shared history, Sca-6 evolved to be resistant to witches' broom.

On the other hand, pure Criollo was selectively bred (and then inbred) by humans in Central America, and, like all cultivated food crops, pure Criollo has led a very pampered existence compared to that endured by its wild relatives.

It is inevitable that there are more disease-resistant cocoa varieties still awaiting discovery in the Upper Amazon rainforest. But sadly, the current craze for Criollo cocoa is diverting attention - and funding - away from the search for as-yet-unknown, wild Forastero genotypes.

(For much more information about these issues, I strongly recommend reading "Genetic Improvement of Cacao", edited by L.A.S. Dias. This book is freely available online in PDF format).

Doutre-Roussel readily acknowledges that Forastero cocoa varities are "more robust" than Criollo cocoa, but this robustness is outweighed in Doutre-Roussel's mind by her (mistaken) belief that Forastero varieties are "the least aromatic" cocoa varieties.

I address the question of aroma in more detail later, but in the meantime, here's what Maricel Presilla, author of "The New Taste of Chocolate", says about the flavour and aroma of Sca-6:

"The pulp of the Scavina 6 is sweet, fruity, complex, and floral* - as perfumed as passion fruit juice. [...] Scavina 6 adds a floral quality and pleasant fruitiness to chocolate. Its robust purple beans also contribute a note of bitterness. Of all Upper Amazon forasteros, this is the closest in aroma to the coveted Ecuadorian Arriba." (p.110)

* Note: it has never been established that floral aromas in cocoa relate solely to the plant's genetics. There is some evidence that environmental factors may play an important role in the synthesis of floral aromas in cocoa.



"The Chocolate Connoisseur" contains many mistakes and erroneous claims about the processing of cocoa and chocolate

"The Chocolate Connoisseur" contains an extraordinary amount of erroneous information about cocoa and chocolate processing. Below are ten examples:

  1. On page 8, Doutre-Roussel writes that "About 600,000 cocoa beans are eaten in a year. Only fiver per cent are used in quality bars."
    This number is ridiculously incorrect. On average, each fermented and dried cocoa bean weighs about 1 gram. Therefore, 600,000 beans would weigh a total of about 600,000 grams, or 0.6 tonnes. Five per cent of this amount is 30kg. Hence, Doutre-Roussel is claiming that only 30kg of "quality" chocolate bars are manufactured in the world each year. (In reality, the total annual cocoa harvest is actually about 3 million tonnes. Chuao alone produces 25 tonnes).

  2. On page 60, Doutre-Roussel writes that freshly-harvested cocoa beans are "covered with banana tree leaves which contain bacteria that enhance the fermentation process"
    This is incorrect in two respects. Firstly, banana leaves do not "contain" bacteria, nor are banana leaves essential to the cocoa fermentation process. In fact, scientists have identified the external surfaces of the cocoa pods themselves as the main source of microorganisms (yeasts and bacteria) responsible for spontaneous cocoa bean heap fermentation [14].
    Secondly, bacteria do not "enhance" the fermentation process - they are actually entirely responsible for carrying out the second (aerobic) phase of the fermentation process. Bacteria convert the alcohol produced during the first (anaerobic) phase of fermentation into acetic acid. [15] This acetic acid plays an important role in cocoa fermentation.

  3. On page 61, Doutre-Roussel writes that after fermentation, "farmers take their baskets of mucilage to their nearest co-operative".
    This sentence is nonsensical, given that the mucilage around the beans liquefies and drains away during fermentation.
    I can guess that Doutre-Roussel meant to write "beans" instead of "mucilage" ... but why should I have to second-guess the information published in a book of non-fiction by a so-called "expert"?
    (While I'm playing guessing games, I could also guess how confusing the absurd idea of "baskets of mucilage" must be to readers who are totally unfamiliar with cocoa growing and processing).

  4. On page 68, Doutre-Roussel writes: "What makes good chocolate? Long conching. Conching should take at least two to three days [...] What makes bad chocolate? Inadequate conching, which is done to cut costs."
    Doutre-Roussel then goes on to praise the Italian chocolate maker, Domori, for their long ("two to three days") conching. But, according to Domori's own website, "Domori conch for less than 12 hours" [16]. This is an amount of time that should produce "bad chocolate", according to Doutre-Roussel's beliefs, although elsewhere in the book she recommends Domori as an "amazing" chocolate. (pp.32, 33)

  5. On page 70, Doutre-Roussel writes that you should "never" freeze chocolate bars because freezing will "kill their texture". But on the very next page she contradicts herself, saying that "chocolates can be stored in a freezer for up to six months".
    In fact, freezing is an acceptable method of chocolate storage, as acknowledged by many people, including Clay Gordon in his book "Discover Chocolate" (p.110) [13]. Contrary to Doutre-Roussel's claim, freezing will not "kill" a chocolate bar's texture, although care must be taken when returning the chocolate to room temperature to avoid problems caused by condensation.

  6. On page 119, Doutre-Roussel writes that "couverture can be bought as liquid chocolate, which has been pre-melted and tempered. The liquid form is even easier for chocolatiers to work with as it is ready to be moulded. It is kept at 45 degrees C and distributed in tank trucks."
    This is incorrect. In fact, chocolate stored at 45 degrees C is untempered. At temperatures higher than 36 degrees C, all cocoa butter crystals are destroyed (i.e. melted). Therefore, it is impossible for chocolate stored at 45 degrees C to be tempered and "ready to be molded". According to Minifie [10] (p.190) chocolate may be held in storage tanks at 45 degrees C, but it must be cooled before starting the tempering procedure.
    (Doutre-Roussel's attempts to explain tempering on pages 68 and 69 provide further evidence that she has a poor grasp of the concepts of cocoa butter crystallisation and tempering).

  7. On page 121, Doutre-Roussel writes that cocoa beans and sugar "were the ingredients used in the very first bar created by Fry's in 1847. Cocoa butter began to be added later that century".
    But on pages 15 and 131, Doutre-Roussel contradicts herself by writing:
    "in 1847, Fry's in the UK found a way to mix a blend of cocoa beans and sugar with melted cocoa butter [...] Voilà - the world's first chocolate bars!", and
    "1847: Fry invents the first solid chocolate bar: beans, sugar and cocoa butter".
    Was cocoa butter added to Fry's first chocolate (as per pages 15 and 131), or was it not (as per page 121)? Where did Doutre-Roussel get her information from? As per usual, she provides no reference.

  8. On page 144, Doutre-Roussel writes that "Cocoa butter [...] is unstable at best"
    In fact, well-tempered cocoa butter is, by definition, structurally stable (below its melting point), while cocoa butter is also very stable against oxidation [17].

  9. On page 206, in the glossary entry for Cocoa butter, Doutre-Roussel writes that chocolatiers add cocoa butter to "increase viscosity".
    In fact, the opposite is true: cocoa butter is added to chocolate to decrease its viscosity.

  10. On page 207, in the glossary entry for Drying, Doutre-Roussel writes that post-fermentation drying "[prevents] germination"
    In fact, cocoa beans are killed (and therefore prevented from germinating) by exposure to acetic acid during fermentation. Fermentation happens prior to drying. [18]

  11. On page 207, in the glossary entry for Fermentation, Doutre-Roussel writes that the cocoa beans are "mixed every 5-7 days"
    This is incorrect. The entire fermentation process takes 5-7 days. In fact, Criollo beans are often fermented for just 2-3 days.


Does chocolate really contain "psychoactive molecules" that "contribute to making you feel better"?

Doutre-Roussel writes that chocolate contains "many psychoactive molecules" that "contribute to making you feel better". She specifically mentions phenylethylamine (PEA), a chemical which she says "floods your brain during orgasm!". Doutre-Roussel's claims on this subject are controversial, but, as usual, she provides no references to support her claims.

In contradiction of Doutre-Roussel's claims, one overview of the scientific literature on this subject concluded that the concentration of PEA in chocolate is "too low to have a significant psychoactive effect", and that PEA is "present in higher concentrations in non-craved foods" [19].

Chloe Doutre-Roussel claims that chocolate is "probably the world's most pleasant antidepressant!".

On the other hand, the scientific study mentioned above [19] concluded that chocolate "is not, as some would claim, an antidepressant."


Doutre-Roussel flounders in fat.

Judging by what she writes in "The Chocolate Connoisseur", Chloe Doutre-Roussel's notions about fat in chocolate are ignorant to the point of being bizarre. For starters, she writes that cocoa butter "contains a lot of fat" (p.162). In fact, cocoa butter is 100% fat.

On pages 43 and 44, Doutre-Roussel includes a befuddled extended quote, taken from a 1991 Chocolate Society leaflet. (Doutre-Roussel notes that this leaflet "couldn't have described my own beliefs more accurately"). The leaflet is quoted as stating that "commercial" chocolate bars contain "saturated vegetable fat" which is a "dietary villain responsible for chocolate's undeserved reputation as a fattening indulgence." According to The Chocolate Society (and Doutre-Roussel) "true chocolate is a far purer, healthier product" (p.44).

But, in fact, pure cocoa butter is ... a saturated vegetable fat! Being saturated is what makes cocoa butter solid at room temperature. Cocoa butter contains about 34% stearic acid, and 26% palmitic acid - both of which are saturated fatty acids [48].

Later on, Doutre-Roussel writes that chocolate "is scientifically proven to contain the ideal combination of fat and sugar" (p.170). This is a ludicrous claim, given that some chocolates contain no sugar whatsoever, while others contain more than 50% sugar. Not surprisingly, Doutre-Roussel doesn't identify the "scientific proof" she alludes to on this point.

Chloe Doutre-Roussel seems to have absolutely no understanding of the relationship between fat, cocoa solids, and milk solids in chocolate.

Here are some relevant facts: full cream milk powder contains about 27% fat. Cocoa liquor contains more than 50% fat. Hence, cocoa liquor is roughly twice as fatty as milk solids.

However, on page 93, Doutre-Roussel writes that chocolate with "low cocoa content [is] fatty". On page 174 she makes a similar claim, writing that "the less milk powder a bar contains, the less fatty that bar will be". In fact, in both instances, the exact opposite is true: the fattiest chocolate of all is an unsweetened, 100% cocoa-solids chocolate, which should contain more than 50% fat.

Here are a couple of specific examples to illustrate my point:
More milk powder = less cocoa = less fat: Cadbury Dairy Milk (Australian version) contains 27% milk solids, 26% cocoa solids, and 30% fat.
Less milk powder = more cocoa = more fat: Lindt Excellence 85% (Australian version) contains 0% milk solids, 85% cocoa solids, and 46% fat.

Furthermore, on page 179, Doutre-Roussel confidently declares that "of course, ganaches are far more fattening than bars". But, in fact, the opposite may be true. Ganache is a mixture of chocolate and cream. Cream (depending on the type you use) may contain as little as 20% fat, while chocolate can easily contain more than 40% fat.

To give a specific example, the cream that I normally use to make ganache contains 35% fat. Lindt Excellence 70% chocolate (Australian recipe) contains 41% fat. Obviously, any combination of these two ingredients will be less fatty, and will therefore contain fewer calories per gram, than the chocolate bar alone!


Does chocolate really only make you fat if "you want it to"?

Perhaps the most preposterous claim in the entire book is that chocolate doesn't make you fat "unless you want it to" (p.164).

Throughout "The Chocolate Connoisseur", Chloe Doutre-Roussel shares all kinds of personal trivia with her readers, including her weight (46kg), her height (160cm), and her unbelievable chocolate-eating habits ("more than a pound a day for the last 15 years", p.164).

Maybe Chloe Doutre-Roussel really does consume her own body-weight in chocolate every 100 days, but, in a 2006 interview with The New York Times, she reportedly admitted to spitting [4], and in "The Chocolate Connoisseur" she clearly states: "I spit out everything I taste" (p.179).

Does Chloe Doutre-Roussel spit or swallow?

On page 164 of "The Chocolate Connoisseur" there is a heading which declares that "chocolate doesn't make you fat (unless you want it to)".

Perhaps that heading should read: "Chocolate doesn't make you fat (unless you swallow it)".

In light of the fact that a so-called "epidemic of obesity" is currently afflicting many of the world's chocolate-eating nations, the question of whether Doutre-Roussel spits or swallows her chocolate is not as laughable as it may seem.

Think of it this way:

Nutritionists and scientists generally agree that eating up to 40g of dark chocolate per day is a healthy amount (although some nutritionists recommend eating much less than this [32]). Chloe Doutre-Roussel claims to eat more than eleven times this amount of chocolate (450g) every day.

How would people respond to a wine critic who boasted about consuming 11 times the healthy amount of wine every day? (As a matter of interest, in the UK this would amount to drinking 33 glasses, or 6½ bottles, of wine every day).

Obesity is now such a serious problem in the UK that the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has reported that obesity could eventually send the UK health system bankrupt. Consequently, the BMJ has recommended that "the advertising of energy dense foods needs to be substantially curtailed". (A food is generally considered to be "energy dense" if it contains more than 5KJ/g. Dark chocolate has an exceptionally high energy density of about 20KJ/g).

It is a simple fact that if you eat enough chocolate, it will make you fat - whether you want it to or not.

Doutre-Roussel's numbers don't add up.

Doutre-Roussel writes that she has "eaten more than a pound of chocolate a day for the last 15 years" (p.164). (And, according to my dictionary, you haven't actually "eaten" something unless you've swallowed it).

She also writes that 100g of chocolate contains 450 calories (p.173). Therefore, a pound (or 454g) of chocolate would contain 2,043 calories (or 8580KJ). It's worth noting, too, that some chocolates contain more calories than others. For example, according to the information on its package, Lindt Excellence 70% contains 2,380 calories per pound.

The UK Department of Health has estimated that the number of calories required by the average woman is 1,940 calories per day. Chloe Doutre-Roussel is 2cm shorter than the average British woman, yet she claims to eat 5% more than the recommended number of calories every day ... in chocolate alone.

In her book, Doutre-Roussel presents herself as "living proof" that eating more than 450g of chocolate every day for 15 years "doesn't make you fat" (p.164). On the next page, she claims to "get away with eating so much chocolate" by sleeping for fewer than six hours a night, and swimming for an hour each day. Nowhere in her "rules" for staying slim does she mention restricting calories from other foods in order to compensate for her phenomenally high intake of chocolate calories.

But the numbers simply don't add up: Doutre-Roussel claims to eat more than 2,043 calories worth of chocolate every day. But an hour of vigorous lap swimming burns only about 500 calories.

Hence, if a chocolate-loving reader followed Doutre-Roussel's stated "rules" for maintaining her weight, and added 2,043 calories worth of chocolate to an otherwise healthy and balanced diet, plus an hour of swimming to their daily routine, they would end up consuming a daily energy surplus of about 1,543 calories. At 9 calories per gram of fat, that equates to a potential weight gain of 171g per day, or a whopping 62kg (or 137 pounds) over the course of one year.

At a time when so many people are really struggling with obesity, it is outrageously irresponsible for a self-proclaimed "expert" to imply that an hour of swimming is enough to offset the daily consumption of half a kilogram of chocolate. In fact, spitting most of the chocolate out would seem to be a necessary condition for Doutre-Roussel's peculiar diet and exercise regime to work.


What makes good chocolate? What makes bad chocolate?

Throughout "The Chocolate Connoisseur", Chloe Doutre-Roussel provides lists of what, in her opinion, makes good and bad chocolate. From reading the book, the overwhelming impression I got from Doutre-Roussel is that Forastero cocoa beans make bad chocolate.

Doutre-Roussel seems determined to give Forastero cocoa a bad reputation. For instance, she says that Forastero cocoa is "uninteresting", "poor-quality", "depressing" ... and, of course, that it makes "bad chocolate" (pp.55, 56). She even goes so far as to imply that chocolate made with Forastero beans isn't "real" chocolate. On page 25 she states that "real" chocolate must be made with "high-quality beans" - and she is very clearly of the opinion that no Forastero beans are high quality.

Indeed, Doutre-Roussel is absolutely adamant that Forastero cocoa beans make "bad chocolate", regardless of other factors such as how well the beans have been fermented. For example, she writes:

However, the only evidence she provides that all Forastero cocoa beans are "poor" is the baseless opinion that Forastero is the "least aromatic species of cocoa tree" (p.207). As mentioned above, her use of the word species in this context is incorrect: there is only one species of cocoa, and both Criollo and Forastero belong to that one species, Theobroma cacao.

But Doutre-Roussel is also incorrect when she states, over and over again, that Criollo beans are more aromatic than Forastero beans (pp.54, 56, 74, 116, 203, 207).

Forastero cocoa: 400+ flavour compounds, but "not very tasty", according to Chloe Doutre-Roussel (p.16).

An aroma is caused by volatile chemicals that can be measured very accurately, using techniques such as gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. A food's aroma accounts for a very significant portion of its flavour (which is why food can seem flavourless when you have a blocked nose).

You may have heard the often-quoted fact that "cocoa contains over 400 flavour compounds". It's true: the flavour (and the aroma) of cocoa is extremely complex. In fact, scientific studies have identified more than 600 volatile compounds in cocoa and chocolate products [47]. But that amazing complexity is by no means unique to Criollo cocoa beans. On the contrary, the scientists who research the aroma of cocoa typically study ordinary (i.e. Forastero) cocoa and chocolate samples, which they obtain from large chocolate manufacturers, such as Belcolade.

However, one group of scientists who measured the aromas of cocoa liquors from different origins discovered that Criollo cocoa liquors were, on average, "much less rich" in aroma compounds than Forastero liquors [20]. The same scientists concluded that the fermentation time of cocoa beans seems to be the key factor controlling the synthesis of aromas in cocoa. (Criollo cocoa beans are typically fermented for a shorter time than Forastero beans).

Chloe Doutre-Roussel's insistent belief that Criollo cocoa beans are "the most aromatic" is contradicted, not only by the scientists mentioned above, but also by numerous industry experts, including Wood and Lass [8], who, in their highly-regarded book, "Cocoa", wrote that Criollo beans give a "weak" chocolate flavour (p.7).

Furthermore, in his book "The International Cocoa Trade", Robin Dand wrote that:

"One expert taster working for a large chocolate manufacturer admitted privately that very good dark chocolate, equal to the flavour of that made with fine and flavour cocoa, could be made from selected Forastero beans" (p.223)

Is Theo Chocolate "bad chocolate"?

The ultimate proof that Chloe Doutre-Roussel is wrong about Forastero cocoa can be summed up in two words: Theo Chocolate.

Theo Chocolate, based in Seattle, produces fine chocolate made with organically-grown, Forastero beans. Theo Chocolate's single-origin bars made with West African Forastero beans (from Ghana and the Ivory Coast) are not "bad chocolate" by any objective standards.

But, of course, "The Chocolate Connoisseur" was published in 2005 - the year before Theo Chocolate appeared on the scene.

No doubt Doutre-Roussel's supporters will cry that she couldn't possibly have known that Theo Chocolate was about to disprove the basic premise of her book. But this is precisely my point: if Doutre-Roussel had never even tasted a well-made, artisanal, organic, Forastero chocolate, then on what grounds did she feel justified in dismissing all chocolates made from Forastero beans as "bad"?

Doutre-Roussel presents herself as a scientist, but her behaviour is anything but scientific. In arriving at the conclusion that all Forastero cocoa beans make "bad" chocolate, her profoundly flawed reasoning seems to have gone something like this:

1. Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate is "bad chocolate".
2. Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate is made with Forastero cocoa beans.
3. Therefore, all chocolate made with Forastero beans must be "bad chocolate".

Doutre-Roussel has clearly failed to understand that correlation does not imply causation. She has failed to acknowledge that every aspect of Cadbury's production is totally different to, say, Amedei's production, including the recipes, the machinery, the scale of production, the price point, and the target market. Instead, she has lazily (or ignorantly) heaped all of the blame for "bad chocolate" onto one convenient scapegoat: Forastero cocoa beans.


Are Chloe Doutre-Roussel's tasting skills as remarkable as they're renowned to be?

Amazingly, Chloe Doutre-Roussel seems to be as ignorant about the human body's tasting and smelling mechanisms as she is about cocoa and chocolate in general.

According to experts, the tongue map is an enduring scientific myth

Chloe Doutre-Roussel
helps to perpetuate
the "enduring myth" of
the tongue map (p.84)

Taste

Doutre-Roussel claims to "dispel a few popular myths" in her book (p.6), but in reality, she invents and perpetuates many more myths than she dispels.

For example, pages 84 and 85 of "The Chocolate Connoisseur" contain four illustrations of the classic tongue map, showing sweetness at the tip of the tongue, bitterness at the sides, etc, with accompanying text: "Sweetness is tasted at the tip of the tongue" ... "bitterness is felt in the middle at the back of the tongue" etc.

But the whole premise of the tongue map is incorrect. As explained by the taste expert, Dr Linda Bartoshuk, "the idea of a tongue map (the ability to perceive certain taste qualities on specialized areas of the tongue) is an enduring scientific myth that continues to show up in children's books and even some professional references" [25].

Smell

On page 76 of "The Chocolate Connoisseur" Doutre-Roussel writes that "the taste (aromas, not sweetness) can linger for many minutes if the chocolate is of exceptional quality". She reiterates this idea on page 84, where she states that "When you start tasting truly good chocolate, you will find that its flavour can linger for many minutes".

But Doutre-Roussel's idea that the persistence of a chocolate's aroma is directly linked to the quality of the chocolate is incorrect.

A chocolate's aroma, and the amount of time for which it persists, is determined by three main factors:

Hence, different tasters can have quite different experiences of the same product. For example, professional tasters typically develop breathing, chewing, and swallowing techniques that help them to maximise their exposure to the aroma, taste, and mouthfeel of a food or drink.

Also, defective aromas (such as smokiness and mouldiness) are quite capable of lingering for as long as desirable aromas. Hence, the persistence of an aroma is not a reliable indicator of the aroma's quality.

Still on the subject of smell: under the heading "The Odour of Quality", Doutre-Roussel writes that she can "easily identify" a cheap chocolate by its "overpowering" smell of sugar (p.82). But, in fact, Doutre-Roussel couldn't possibly smell the sugar in a chocolate, because sugar (also known as sucrose) is odourless.

Anyone with a normal sense of smell can learn to identify the aroma of things like too much vanilla, or too little cocoa - both of which are hallmarks of cheap chocolate. But Doutre-Roussel's belief that she can smell sugar is ridiculous. Interestingly, Doutre-Roussel's bibliography includes two books by the wine critic, Jancis Robinson. Robinson herself has pointed out that "you can't smell sugar" [24].

Psychological influences

The psychology of tasting has been extensively researched, and scientists have repeatedly found that pre-conceived ideas can impact enormously on a taster's experience of a product. For instance, scientists monitoring the brains of wine drinkers found that people who were given two identical red wines got more pleasure from tasting the one they were told cost more [26].

In "The Chocolate Connoisseur", Chloe Doutre-Roussel acknowledges the power of thought. She writes that "it is impossible to taste chocolate properly when negative thoughts about it are lurking in your mind" (p.161).

But Doutre-Roussel clearly has very negative thoughts about chocolates made with Forastero beans, which she says are "cheap", "poor-quality", "not very tasty", "depressing", and "bad" (pp. 16, 55, 56, 117).

She also has very negative thoughts about organic chocolate. She writes: "every time I eat organic chocolate a little voice in my head says: 'Just let me give a cheque to the co-operative, but please don't make me eat this!" (p.126)

Given that Doutre-Roussel has such strong negative thoughts about Forastero and organic chocolates, then, by her own standards, it is surely impossible for her to taste such chocolates "properly".


Chloe Doutre-Roussel: hiding behind metaphors?

In the opinions of some people, Chloe Doutre-Roussel is "an effective, appealing advocate for fine chocolate" [27]. To others, she is an egotistical snob [28] [29]. Obviously, her communication style attracts some people, and repels others. But what exactly is her communication style?

Doutre-Roussel's chocolate-tasting vocabulary consists largely of some simple, food-related terms (her favourites include "fruit", "acidity", and "mushroom"), mixed with lots of poetic metaphors. Some people clearly enjoy metaphors [31], while others, like the late wine expert Emile Peynaud, feel that metaphors provide a convenient refuge for amateurs. On this subject, Peynaud wrote:

"What makes a taster's reputation, for the most part, is the clarity, accuracy and subtlety of his comments. Beware of the eloquent taster, he may hold forth better than he tastes! [...] The expert seeks clarity and precision above all in his expression. His style is strict and economical but his comments are reasoned; his conciseness is not due to a lack of imagination but to a choice of the most precise words, and in his reports he only uses terms with an accepted and agreed meaning. In spite of his skill his language should be simple and intelligible to all. [...] The amateur speaks in metaphors and allusions. The inventiveness of their vocabulary conceals its vagueness." [30]
Valrhona Guanaja: tastes like a man in a Cerruti suit?
A handsome man in a black
Cerruti suit. Is this really what
Valrhona Guanaja tastes like?

Chloe Doutre-Roussel thrives on metaphor. For example, according to her, Valrhona Manjari tastes like a "handsome man, with the purple suit from Kenzo, and the pink tie", while Valrhona Guanaja tastes like "a handsome man dressed up with a Cerruti suit; black with the white lines" [7].

Other chocolates taste to Doutre-Roussel like "a white cloud with angels dancing on it" (p.63); "a beautiful orchid lost in the middle of a dirty, noisy city" (p.63); or "a walk in a wet forest" (p.78).

Doutre-Roussel's "walk in the wet forest" metaphor is one that she uses quite often, and I find this particular metaphor especially perplexing, because, where I live, a walk in the wet forest is accompanied mainly by aromas of eucalyptus oil and horse manure! Presumably, my experience of "a walk in the wet forest" is very different to Doutre-Roussel's. And that is the whole problem with applying metaphors to food items: when Doutre-Roussel describes a chocolate as tasting like a "walk in the wet forest", I have no way of knowing what she really means. On this subject, I agree whole-heartedly with Emile Peynaud: the inventiveness of Chloe Doutre-Roussel's vocabulary conceals its vagueness.

But many people are happy to play along with Doutre-Roussel, and guess what she means when she talks in metaphors. This is very convenient for her, because different people can interpret "a white cloud with angels dancing on it", or "a walk in a wet forest" to smell or taste like almost anything. For example, a wet forest could smell woody, earthy, fruity, green, pungent, herbal, burnt, floral, mushroomy, moldy, unpleasant, delightful, and so on. (I'm not even going to guess what a white cloud with angels dancing on it might taste like).

It is not surprising that Chloe Doutre-Roussel polarises her readers: those who have no patience for guessing games find that her words convey mostly fluff and nonsense; while those who are attracted to her, and who are happy to guess what she means, hear what they want to hear. If Chloe Doutre-Roussel ever leaves the chocolate industry, I think she could have a successful career as the leader of a religious cult - although she might have difficulty choosing between being worshipped as a saint, an angel, or a goddess [1] [4] [3].


Encouraging the replacement of productive, genetically diverse Forastero varieties with fragile, inbred "pure Criollo" varieties.

In "The Chocolate Connoisseur", Chloe Doutre-Roussel manufactures excitement about "pure Criollo" cocoa trees by implying that these trees have been brought back from extinction, using DNA stored in "gene banks" (p.56, 138, 191). For example, she writes:

disappear vb. 1. to vanish. 2. to cease to exist; become extinct.

revive vb. to bring back to life.

In fact, Criollo trees were never extinct. They did not "disappear", and they have not been "revived".

One other important fact that Doutre-Roussel fails to mention in her book is that cocoa "gene banks" (such as The International Cocoa Genebank in Trinidad) don't store their cocoa DNA in test tubes or laboratories. Rather, they store their genetic material out in fields, in the form of living, growing cocoa trees. But Doutre-Roussel's careless (or perhaps ignorant) words have led to this kind of excited misunderstanding on the part of chocolate lovers:

"Domori Puertomar [is] grown on cacao plants cloned Jurassic Park-style from a dried sample of an extinct criollo variety". [33]

This idea is totally incorrect. Just to be perfectly clear on this subject: Jurassic Park-style cloning is still science fiction.

Pure Criollo cocoa trees were never extinct - but they are rare. They are rare because they are fragile, low yielding, and highly susceptible to pests and diseases. But, despite repeatedly acknowledging Criollo's fragility, and Forastero's robustness (pp. 21, 50, 54, 56, 74, 207), Doutre-Roussel talks about being on a "mission" to "resist" Forastero cocoa, and to bring chocolate made from pure Criollo cocoa to "the whole world" (pp.54, 56, 74). Doutre-Roussel describes her mission as being "the new revolution" (p.205). I would describe it as being dangerous, and misguided in the extreme.

Chloe Doutre-Roussel's misguided mission to bring pure Criollo cocoa to "the whole world"

If Chloe Doutre-Roussel happened to be successful in her "mission" to bring pure Criollo cocoa to the whole world, then, in due course, she would almost certainly become responsible for the total destruction of the cocoa and chocolate industries. The reason why her mission could be utterly disastrous for the cocoa industry can be summed up in one word: inbreeding.

Pure Criollo cocoa has "significantly low genetic diversity". So what?

The genetic health and diversity of agricultural plants is a subject dear to my heart - so much so that I wrote my master's thesis on this subject back in 2000 [34].

It is impossible to overstate the importance of genetic diversity. To quote Fowler and Mooney [35] on this subject:

"Loss of genetic diversity in agriculture is leading us to a rendezvous with extinction--to the doorstep of hunger on a scale we refuse to imagine. To simplify the environment as we have done with agriculture is to destroy the complex interrelationships that hold the natural world together. Reducing the diversity of life, we narrow our options for the future and render our own survival more precarious."
Kenny the tiger and pure Criollo cocoa beans have quite a lot in common.
What do Kenny the tiger, and pure Criollo cocoa
beans, have in common?
They're both rare, they're both white, and they both
suffer from inbreeding depression.

No reputable scientist in the world would recommend
replacing normal tigers with highly inbred tigers. The
same reasoning applies to cocoa beans.

Pure Criollo cocoa (alternatively called "true" or "ancient" Criollo) is a highly inbred cocoa variety which contains "significantly low genetic diversity" and "a high level of homozygosity" [36].

A high level of homozygosity is a primary indicator of "inbreeding depression". Inbreeding depression causes a reduction in fitness and vigor of individuals, as a result of breeding between close relatives over multiple generations.

Inbreeding depression in Criollo trees is believed to be a significant cause of their short lifespans, low yields, and extreme susceptibility to pests and diseases [37].

Chloe Doutre-Roussel writes that she would like to bring "true, pure chocolate" made with cocoa beans grown on "fragile" cocoa trees to "the whole world" (p.74). If Doutre-Roussel's wish came true, and "fragile" Criollo trees were used to replace the much more robust and genetically diverse Forasteros, then the extinction of the entire cacao species would probably follow, sooner or later.

Inbreeding depression: No laughing matter.

Anyone who doesn't understand the importance of genetic diversity should read about the plight of white tigers [38], which share a lot in common with Criollo cocoa beans.

Kenny the white tiger (pictured right), exhibits some obvious characteristics of inbreeding depression. So do all pure Criollo cocoa trees. This is why Criollo cocoa trees are so fragile.

White tigers - like Criollo cocoa beans - are highly prized because of their rarity. But most people never stop to wonder why white tigers (or Criollo cocoa beans) are so rare. The truth is that white tigers, like "pure Criollo" cocoa beans, don't tend to last long in the wild.

Although she doesn't seem to realise it, by crusading against Forastero cocoa, Chloe Doutre-Roussel is also crusading against genetic diversity in cocoa. Hence, for Doutre-Roussel to accuse people who plant Forastero cocoa of committing "genocide" (p.55) is a highly ironic indicator of her staggering ignorance.


"The Chocolate Connoisseur" threatens the incomes of the world's cocoa growers by creating demand from consumers for cocoa grown on fragile, inbred, "pure Criollo" cocoa trees.

Criollo trees typically return less income to their growers per hectare of land.

Doutre-Roussel is so blinkered by her infatuation with "true Criollo" cocoa that, despite supposedly having a master's degree in agricultural economics, she blithely dismisses the low yields, short lifespans, and genetic poverty of Criollo trees.

In support of her advice to grow more Criollo, she uses the famous Chuao plantation in Venezuela as an example of the supposed benefits of growing such "wonderful" cocoa varieties. She assures her readers that "Amedei pay above the odds for Chuao beans" (p.135). But some quick calculations illustrate that, despite the premium price they receive per kilogram, the cocoa growers of Chuao are actually much worse off financially than they would be if they received no premium for their cocoa, but instead grew Forastero cocoa trees that produced higher yields. In the box below, I provide a detailed explanation of what I mean by this.

Which cocoa variety would you grow?

Chloe Doutre-Roussel acknowledges that the Criollo variety of cocoa tree is "a fragile tree, with a very small yield" (p.54). But just how small is the yield, and what financial impact do such small yields have on cocoa growers?

YIELD:

In industrialised cocoa growing regions (such as in Australia and parts of Asia), yields of 3,000kg of dried cocoa beans per hectare are obtained. These high yields are typically obtained as a result of professional maintenance of high-yielding cocoa varieties, in addition to the precise application of modern chemical fertilisers and pesticides . As such, yields of 3,000kg/ha remain unachievable for most small-scale Third World cocoa growers.

However, in West Africa (where moderate-yielding Forastero trees known as West African Amelonado are grown), the average cocoa plantation can produce approximately 1,500kg of dried cocoa beans per hectare, as long as the plantation is managed sustainably (for example, adequate soil fertiliser must be applied, in order to replace the nutrients exported from the plantation in the form of cocoa beans). [39]

By contrast, in 2001, the Chuao cocoa plantation was reported to be producing a miniscule average yield of just 125kg/ha. That is one-twelfth of the yield obtained by cocoa growers in Ghana.

In 2001, Alessio Tessieri (one of Amedei's co-founders), stated in an interview that one of his agronomists would "supervise the [Chuao] plantation and bring its production back up to acceptable levels: from the current level of 120/130 kilos per hectare to a projected 250/300 kilos" [40]. (Interestingly, the same article points out that "only the upper part of the Chuao plantation is planted with one hundred percent Criollo; the rest is a hybrid of Criollo blanco and Amelonado from Bahia").

In 2007, journalist Paul Lewis reported that Chuao's most recent annual harvest had been 25 tonnes [41]. This equates to a yield of just under 180kg of dry cocoa beans per hectare. (The cocoa plantation at Chuao is variously reported as being either 140 or 200 hectares in size. I have based my calculations on the assumption that it is only 140ha ).

Hence, the yields from Chuao remain extremely low (less than 1/16th of the yields achieved by the most productive cocoa growers), despite the long-term and ongoing professional assistance that the Chuao growers receive from Amedei's agronomists.

PRICE:

In April 2007, Paul Lewis reported that Chuao's most recent harvest had been sold to Amedei for US$9/kg [41].

By contrast, the average world commodity price for cocoa at that time was just US$1.98/kg [42]. This means that, in 2007, Amedei paid the growers of Chuao 4.5 times the world price for cocoa.

As Chloe Doutre-Roussel says, the price paid by Amedei (per kilogram) is "above the odds". But what Doutre-Roussel fails to mention is that the "wonderful" cocoa trees of Chuao produce a yield which is less than one-eighth of the yield produced by sustainably-managed cocoa plantations in Ghana.

THE NUMBERS:

Chuao's cocoa trees produce 180kg/ha, multiplied by 140ha, giving 25,000kg of cocoa. This 25,000kg of cocoa, purchased by Amedei at US$9/kg, would have provided a total income of US$225,000 for the forty growers of Chuao.

On the other hand, Ghana's Forastero trees produce a yield of 1,500kg/ha, multiplied by 140ha, giving 210,000kg of cocoa. This 210,000kg of cocoa, purchased at the April 2007 world commodity price of US$2/kg, would have provided a total income of US$420,000.

The most extreme comparison is with Asia's cocoa plantations which yield 3,000kg/ha, multiplied by 140ha, giving 420,000kg of cocoa. If purchased at the commodity price of US$2/kg, this amount of cocoa would provide a total income of US$840,000.

SUMMARY:

  • Chuao: 140ha of very low-yield cocoa sold at $9/kg = $225,000
  • Ghana: 140ha of moderate-yield cocoa sold at $2/kg = $420,000
  • Asia: 140ha of very high-yield cocoa sold at $2/kg = $840,000

In other words, if the growers of Chuao had produced even moderate Forastero yields in 2007, and had received the world price with absolutely no premium, they would have earned an extra $195,000. Or, to put it yet another way, with ordinary Ghanaian yields and without Amedei's "generosity", the growers of Chuao could earn 85% more than they currently do!

In real terms, it seems that Amedei may not be paying "above the odds" after all. Indeed, to fairly reward the growers of Chuao for the superb quality of their world-famous beans, to fairly compensate them for their tiny yields, and to allow for the relatively short lifespans of their trees, Amedei should realistically be paying at least ten times the world price per kilogram, not 4.5 times the world price.

Given these numbers, it is incredible that Chloe Doutre-Roussel - who claims to hold a master's degree in agricultural economics - is still advising cocoa growers to plant more "pure Criollo" trees.

But perhaps the biggest irony of all is that Doutre-Roussel promotes "pure Criollo" as being superior to other varieties because - according to her - it is "the most aromatic" cocoa variety. However, according to modern science, as well as assorted industry experts, she's wrong about this, too.

Which cocoa variety would you grow?


Editorial problems with "The Chocolate Connoisseur": no fact-cheking, no-spell-checking, no reference checking ...

How did "The Chocolate Connoisseur" ever make it into print?

Piatkus's editorial contribution to "The Chocolate Connoisseur" is deplorable. I am an avid reader, but the very fact that "The Chocolate Connoisseur" was considered worthy of publication makes me extremely reluctant to read any non-fiction in the future. If I was reading a non-fiction book about a subject that I was unfamiliar with, and I discovered that the book contained as many mistakes (and outright lies) as "The Chocolate Connoisseur", I would feel betrayed, ripped-off, and very angry. In fact, I feel that way about "The Chocolate Connoisseur", too.

When I made a formal complaint about "The Chocolate Connoisseur" to its publisher in April 2008, I found the staff at Piatkus (which is now owned by Little Brown) to be surprisingly comfortable with publishing, and profiting from, lies and misinformation.

The staff at Piatkus / Little Brown indicated that they would not take any remedial action in relation to "The Chocolate Connoisseur" for two main reasons:

1. Because my complaint was (according to editorial director, Gill Bailey) the only one that Piatkus had ever received, and
2. Because I am a chocolate industry professional (and therefore not part of the book's target audience), my knowledge and opinions about "The Chocolate Connoisseur" were considered to be irrelevant. (Oh, the irony! I feel exactly like the reviewer on Amazon who wrote that reading "The Chocolate Connoisseur" "left me wanting to pull my hair out strand by strand").


Complain to Piatkus and get a free book as compensation (assuming Piatkus treats all of their readers equally).

As compensation for my anger regarding "The Chocolate Connoisseur", Gill Bailey (Piatkus's editorial director) invited me to select a free book from Piatkus's catalogue (you can read Bailey's full email in Appendix 3). However, because the misinformation in "The Chocolate Connoisseur" has done considerable harm to my business, I found Bailey's little bribe insulting, and I declined her offer. But other readers might find a free book to be adequate compensation for having been sold "The Chocolate Connoisseur" under false pretences.

Hence, I would strongly encourage any readers who are unhappy with the book (or its publisher) to make a formal complaint. If enough people complain, then appropriate action will be taken.

But be warned that making a complaint to Piatkus isn't easy, if you attempt to make contact via the websites of either Piatkus, or Little Brown.

The only reason that I received any response at all to my complaint was because I was extremely persistent. My first two emails, which I sent to info@piatkus.co.uk (an address which is now apparently defunct), and info@littlebrown.co.uk, went unanswered. According to Diane Spivey (Piatkus's contracts director), there was "no trace of the emails having been received".

Maybe the fact that their emails regularly go missing explains why Piatkus has never received any complaints. To avoid this problem, readers who want to make a formal complaint should contact the relevant staff at Piatkus / Little Brown directly. You can address your concerns to:

Rebecca Woods (assistant editor) - Rebecca.Woods@littlebrown.co.uk and/or

Gill Bailey (editorial director) - Gill.Bailey@littlebrown.co.uk and/or

Ursula Mackenzie (CEO) - Ursula.Mackenzie@littlebrown.co.uk

All of these staff members are well aware of the inaccuracies in "The Chocolate Connoisseur".


Lack of fact-checking

I may be the only person to have made a formal complaint to Piatkus, but I'm certainly not the only person who has noticed the misinformation that pervades "The Chocolate Connoisseur". For example, Clay Gordon, the author of "Discover Chocolate", made the following observation in his online forum:

"The fact that [a false rumour about Domori] even made it into Chloe's book is a case of bad editing and fact checking, a criticism I have with the entire book as it is littered with simple mistakes and misunderstandings that should have been caught." [43]

If any kind of fact-checking was actually done on "The Chocolate Connoisseur", it certainly wasn't done by an adequately qualified individual.

Most readers probably assume that only verified facts get published as "non-fiction", but unfortunately, fact-checking in the modern publishing industry seems to be practically non-existent. For example, according to Sue Hines of Allen & Unwin: "We don't fact-check. No publisher does" [44]. Instead, publishers rely on authors of non-fiction to tell the truth. To encourage such truth-telling, publishers typically require their authors to sign a warranty, essentially promising that what they have written is true and accurate.

In April 2008, when I sought a response from Piatkus about the inaccuracies and untruths in "The Chocolate Connoisseur", Piatkus's editorial director, Gill Bailey, told me that "The Chocolate Connoisseur" is a "very personal" book, which was published as a Christmas giftbook and was "not intended for the professional market" (read Gill Bailey's full email in Appendix 3).

The problem is that "The Chocolate Connoisseur" is no longer just a "very personal" book, read by amateurs at Christmas time. For example, "The Chocolate Connoisseur" is currently (in 2008) on the prescribed reading list [45] for students undertaking Hotel Chocolat's Diploma in Chocolate. This diploma course is specifically intended to establish Hotel Chocolat's staff "as acknowledged experts in all aspects of chocolate".


Lack of spell-checking

I'll give Chloe Doutre-Roussel this much: throughout "The Chocolate Connoisseur", she relentlessly and unfairly criticises Forastero cocoa - but at least she manages to spell Forastero correctly (which is more than David Lebovitz managed to do in his book, "The Great Book of Chocolate"). But then again, at least Lebovitz has the excuse that English spell-check doesn't recognise the word Forastero.

What excuses do Doutre-Roussel and her editor have for not picking up these misspellings:

To me, it indicates real contempt for the readers of "The Chocolate Connoisseur" that neither its author nor its editor bothered to run a spell-check on the text.

And there's an even higher level of disrespect shown towards Girolamo Benzoni, and Maricel Presilla, whose names are spelled incorrectly in the book, on pages 12 and 209, respectively.


Referencing and citations: where did Doutre-Roussel get her information from, and why aren't her sources properly referenced?

Judging by the references listed in her bibliography, Doutre-Roussel gets much of her information from books that have little or nothing to do with cocoa or chocolate. In her book, Doutre-Roussel credits only seven sources of information. They include:

"The Chocolate Connoisseur"'s bibliography is yet another piece of evidence that Chloe Doutre-Roussel is very poorly-informed about the subjects she writes about, including the botany, genetics, chemistry, and nutrition of cocoa. (I own copies of the remaining three books in Doutre-Roussel's bibliography: all of them are about chocolate, but none of them explain the scientific aspects of cocoa or chocolate in any detail. And, as a final insult, Doutre-Roussel spells Maricel Presilla's surname incorrectly in her bibliography).


Chloe Doutre-Roussel: scientist, or charlatan?

Throughout "The Chocolate Connoisseur", Chloe Doutre-Roussel is at pains to portray herself as a scientist, and her book as scientific. For instance, she writes things like:

The problem with this supposed scientific "evidence" is that not one of the studies Doutre-Roussel alludes to is cited in her bibliography. Doutre-Roussel's failure to provide citations is not just lazy, unprofessional, and discourteous - it also means that interested readers (like myself) have no way of checking the veracity of the information she presents, much of which is highly controversial. Given that so much of the information presented elsewhere in "The Chocolate Connoisseur" is demonstrably wrong, readers are entitled to wonder: do the scientific studies alluded to by the author even exist?

The fact that Doutre-Roussel's publisher, Piatkus, allowed her to get away with such sloppy (or rather, non-existent) referencing of scientific studies is yet another indication of Piatkus's contempt for their "non-professional" readers.


Is copying someone else's mistake plagiarism, or just extreme carelessness?

On page 12 of "The Chocolate Connoisseur" there is a quote, dated "1575", and attributed to "Giralomo Benzoni", about chocolate being "a bitter drink for pigs". This quote is interesting for three reasons:

1. Doutre-Roussel gets the date wrong. Benzoni's book, "La Historia del Mondo Nuovo" (translated as "History of the New World"), was published in 1565, not 1575. (The book was reprinted in 1572. It was translated into French in 1579, and into English in 1857).
2. Doutre-Roussel spells Benzoni's first name incorrectly. It should be spelled Girolamo. And,
3. Doutre-Roussel misquotes Benzoni. He actually wrote that chocolate, though seeming more suited for pigs than for men [..] is somewhat bitter, but it satisfies and refreshes the body without intoxicating: the Indians esteem it above everything, wherever they are accustomed to it [46].

But, Chloe Doutre-Roussel doesn't credit Benzoni in her bibliography. So where did she get her quote (or rather, misquote) from?

The incorrect date - 1575 - gives Doutre-Roussel away. As it happens, Sophie and Michael Coe published the very same mistake back in 1996, on page 108 of their book, "The True History of Chocolate". And sure enough, Coe and Coe's book is one of the eight references that Doutre-Roussel lists in her bibliography. (It should be noted that Coe and Coe do not misquote Benzoni in their book).

Interestingly, Doutre-Roussel is not the only person to have republished Coe and Coe's mistake. A quick Google search shows that the quote by Benzoni, with the incorrect date, has been published on at least six unrelated websites, including those of the International Cocoa Organization, and the UK Guardian. This is why misinformation is so insidious: once published, it takes on a life of its own.


We care about honesty and truth in the chocolate world.

In the last piece of correspondence I received from Piatkus, on 13 May 2008, Rebecca Wood (an assistant editor) wrote:

"It has been decided that we will continue to sell the copies we currently have in stock. However, should we ever wish to reprint "The Chocolate Connoisseur", we will certainly discuss the issues you have raised with the author and make amendments as necessary."

Clearly, the staff at Piatkus couldn't care less that the rubbish masquerading as "non-fiction" in "The Chocolate Connoisseur" continues to take on a life of its own. They apparently regard their own short-term profit as being more important than any considerations of honesty or integrity.

Chloe Doutre-Roussel, and the editorial staff at Piatkus, have given me every indication that they are uncaring, arrogant, and irresponsible.

In due course, this article will reach high ranking on Google, enabling chocolate lovers around the world to discover the truth about Chloe Doutre-Roussel and "The Chocolate Connoisseur". The truth will out, eventually.

But right now, the power is in your hands. If you would like Piatkus to do something about the misinformation in "The Chocolate Connoisseur", then make a formal complaint to:

Rebecca Woods (assistant editor) - Rebecca.Woods@littlebrown.co.uk and/or

Gill Bailey (editorial director) - Gill.Bailey@littlebrown.co.uk and/or

Ursula Mackenzie (CEO) - Ursula.Mackenzie@littlebrown.co.uk






APPENDIX 1: Proof that Chloe Doutre-Roussel is a liar, and that she has never worked as an agronomist.

I have accused Chloe Doutre-Roussel of being a liar. Calling somebody a liar is a very serious allegation, and I would never make such an allegation without proof. Below, I present my proof that Chloe Doutre-Roussel is a liar.

liar n. a person who tells lies.

lie n. a statement that the speaker knows to be untrue.

tell vt. let know; make known.

Chloe Doutre-Roussel has published (i.e. made known) multiple statements about her career that are untrue, and that she knows to be untrue. For example:

  1. On her official website, at www.chloechocolat.com/pdf/amex08.pdf, Chloé Doutre-Roussel is described as "a former UN agronomist".
  2. The inside back-cover of "The Chocolate Connoisseur" describes Chloe Doutre-Roussel as "an agronomist by trade".
  3. On page 35 of "The Chocolate Connoisseur" Chloe Doutre-Roussel states: "my passion led me to give up my well paid job as an agronomist and work unpaid for Pierre Hermé [at Ladurée]"
  4. On page 70 of "The Chocolate Connoisseur" Chloe Doutre-Roussel states: "I lived and worked in Jamaica as an agronomist".

The statments above are untrue, because:

For evidence that Chloe Doutre-Roussel knows full well that her statements about working as a qualified and well paid agronomist are untrue, please refer to her own words on this subject below.


Chloe Doutre-Roussel's career, in her own words.

Below is a synopsis of Chloe Doutre-Roussel's career, as published by Chloe Doutre-Roussel on 17 March 2008, at: www.seventypercent.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=1394 (A full screenshot of the linked page is available on request, in the event that the page in question is removed or substantially altered):

"Graduated the school CNEARC (Centre National d'Etudes des Regions Chaudes) in Montpellier (degree of engineer in Agronomy , specialised in tropical agronomy)- (6 months in Egypt as intern agronomist)

Then one year in Reading University for a Master in Agricultural Economics

I then realised i did not want to be an agronomist and explored "my creativity" : video, photo, cinema, television; I studied for one year (London) then worked in the film , documentary and advertising industry for 2 years, in France and in the UK, travelling all over the world for my job.

I then decided to go back to agronomy and applied for a job at the UN, and got it, a 2 year contract in Jamaica, from 94 to 96 but unfortunatly not in agronomy, it was development projects management.

I then came back to France and worked as manager of the chocolate departement at Ladurée for 3 years, then 3 years at L 'Oreal , then as a joke with friends, i applied for the position at Fornum & Mason and was surprised to get it."


APPENDIX 2: List of all known species within the Theobroma genus.

The Theobroma genus contains twenty-two different species, which are listed below (as per convention, Theobroma is abbreviated to T.).

Only one of these species -- Theobroma cacao -- produces cacao beans.

All cocoa trees (Forastero, Criollo, Trinitario, etc) belong to the same species -- Theobroma cacao.


T. cacao
T. bicolor
T. mammosum
T. grandiflorum
T. angustifolium
T. canumanense
T. chocoense
T. cirmolinae
T. hylaeum
T. nemorale
T. obovatum
T. simiarum
T. sinuosum
T. stipulatum
T. subincanum
T. speciosum
T. bernouillii
T. glaucum
T. sylvestre
T. velutinum
T. gileri
T. microcarpum



APPENDIX 3: Email from Gill.Bailey@littlebrown.co.uk, dated April 3, 2008.


Dear Samantha Madell

Diane Spivey has forwarded to me your email, as I am the Editorial Director of the Piatkus imprint within Little, Brown. THE CHOCOLATE CONNOISSEUR was published by Piatkus in 2005, and Piatkus became a part of Little,Brown Book Group Ltd in 2007.

As a cocoa trader and chocolate manufacturer you must have considerable, detailed knowledge about chocolate and I am very sorry that you have reason to complain about the book. This is the first time we have received any such complaint. The book was edited professionally but, as you acknowledge, publishers normally rely on the author to provide correct information.

However I should point out that THE CHOCOLATE CONNOISSEUR was not intended to be a book for the professional market. We published it as a giftbook, intended as a Christmas purchase for chocolate lovers. At the time the book was commissioned, Chloe was the chocolate buyer at Fortnum and Mason, a very exclusive shop in London. It reflected her passion for her subject, and took a very personal approach.

We always do our best to produce the best books possible for their target markets and are disappointed to receive negative feedback. I am sorry you felt that this book did not meet the required standards. If there is another book on the Piatkus or Little, Brown list that we could send you free of charge, then we would be very happy to do so.

Yours sincerely

Gill Bailey
Editorial Director, Piatkus
Little,Brown Book Group Ltd
020 7911 8000
100 Victoria Embankment
London EC4y 0DY
www.littlebrown.co.uk



References:

1 As quoted by Jon Miller (undated) in: "Working - Chloe Doutre-Roussel"
Accessed online September 2008 at: http://marketplace.publicradio.org/segments/working/chloe.html
This article is also accessible via the Press section of Doutre-Roussel's official website at: http://www.chloechocolat.com/index2.php
2 Martin Christy (September 28, 2007) in: "Ethical chocolate?"
Accessed online September 2008 at: http://www.seventypercent.com/pod/?p=117
3 Google search results for: doutre-roussel + angel
Accessed online September 2008 at: http://www.google.com.au/search?q=doutre-roussel+%22chocolate+angel%22
4 Christine Muhlke (February 12, 2006) "The Way We Eat: The Sweet-Tooth Fairy"
The New York Times. Accessed online April 2008 at: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/12/magazine/12food.html
5 Clay Gordon (May 9, 2008) in online forum thread "Domori- are they bean to bar?"
Accessed online September 2008 at: http://www.thechocolatelife.com/forum/topic/show?id=1978963%3ATopic%3A8752
6 Google search results for: doutre-roussel + expert
Accessed online September 2008 at: http://www.google.com.au/search?q=doutre-roussel+expert
7 Audio interview with Jon Miller (undated) in: "Working - Chloe Doutre-Roussel"
Accessed online April 2008 at: http://marketplace.publicradio.org/segments/working/chloe.html
8 Wood and Lass (1985) "Cocoa", 4th ed.
Longman, London.
9 Google Maps - terrain map of Chuao, Venezuela.
Accessed online September 2008 via: http://maps.google.com
10 Minifie (1989) "Chocolate, cocoa, and confectionery: sceince and technology" 3rd ed.
Aspen, USA.
11 Google Scholar search results for: witches broom resistance
Accessed online September 2008 at: http://scholar.google.com.au/scholar?q=witches%20broom%20resistance
12 Maricel E. Presilla (2001) "The New Taste of Chocolate"
Ten Speed Press, California.
13 Clay Gordon (2007) "Discover Chocolate" Gotham Books, New York
14 Camu, N.; Gonzalez, A.; De Winter, T.; Van Schoor, A.; De Bruyne, K.; Vandamme, P.; Takrama, J.S.; Addo, S.K.; De Vuyst, L. (2008)
"Influence of Turning and Environmental Contamination on the Dynamics of Populations of Lactic Acid and Acetic Acid Bacteria Involved in Spontaneous Cocoa Bean Heap Fermentation in Ghana"
Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Vol. 74, No. 1, pp. 86-98
15 Schwan, R.F.; (1998) "Cocoa Fermentations Conducted with a Defined Microbial Cocktail Inoculum"
Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Vol.64 Issue 4, pp.1477-1483
16 Domori's online FAQ page
Accessed online April 2008 via: http://www.domori.com
"Why does Domori conch for less than 12 hours? Beans conching is defined by the doctrine as a process that we've already stated in the pages related to production. Over the past twenty years technological innovation has allowed to dramatically reduce the beans conching cycle duration. Therefore time is related to the means."
17 Andrew J. Rosenthal (1999) "Food Texture: Measurement and Perception"
Aspen, USA, p.193
18 Biehl, B.; Passern, D.; Sagemann, W. (1981) "Effect of acetic acid on subcellular structures of cocoa bean cotyledons"
Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, Vol. 33 Issue 11, pp.1101-1109
19 G. Parker, I. Parker, H. Brotchie (2006) "Mood state effects of chocolate"
Journal of Affective Disorders, Volume 92, Issue 2-3, pp.149-159
20 Counet C.; Ouwerx C.; Rosoux D.; Collin S. (2004)
Relationship between procyanidin and flavor contents of cocoa liquors from different origins
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Vol. 52, Issue 20, pp.6243-9
21 Keyhani et al (1997) "A Numerical Model of Nasal Odorant Transport for the Analysis of Human Olfaction"
22 Lee & Lawless (1991) "Time-course of astringent sensations"
23 Normand et al (2004) "Modeling the Kinetics of Flavour Release during Drinking"
24 Robinson, Jancis (2006) "How to become a wine taster"
Accessed online April 2008 at: http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/20060920_3
25 Linda Bartoshuk, as quoted by Ronni Chernoff (2003) "Geriatric nutrition: The Health Professional's Handbook", p.174
Jones & Bartlett Publishers
26 Plassmann, et al (2007) "Marketing actions can modulate neural representations of experienced pleasantness"
Accessed online September 2008 at: http://www.pnas.org/content/105/3/1050.full.pdf+html
27 Online forum thread (started March, 2008) titled "What are Chloe Doutre-Roussel's qualifications?"
Accessed online April 2008 at: http://www.seventypercent.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=1394
28 Publishers Weekly, Nonfiction Reviews (1/2/2006)
Accessed online April 2008 at: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA628884.html
Doutre-Roussel's "approach is that of an unabashed and evangelical snob"
29 Amazon Customer Reviews of "The Chocolate Connoisseur"
Accessed online April 2008 at: http://www.amazon.com/review/product/0749928344
"this book is an ego trip and very little else"
"doutre-roussel's writing style is painful at best. [it] left me wanting to pull my hair out strand by strand."
"I believe the author is probably a high functioning autistic. [...] it makes for dull reading"
30 Peynaud, E. (1987) "The Taste of Wine: The Art and Science of Wine Appreciation"
Macdonald & Co (Publishers) Ltd, London
31 Online forum thread (started June, 2008) titled: "Vivid metaphors"
Accessed online September 2008 at: http://www.thechocolatelife.com/forum/topic/show?id=1978963%3ATopic%3A9818
32 Susie Burrell (June 2008), as quoted in "Healthy chocolate habits"
Accessed online September 2008 at: http://today.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=574961
33 Vortex of Chaos blog post (November 22, 2007) "Snobbing it with Chocolate" re: Utah Chocolate Show.
Accessed online September 2008 at: http://chaosvortex.blogspot.com/2007/11/snobbing-it-with-chocolate.html
34 Madell, S. (2000) "The Social Implications of Genetically Modified Food"
Macquarie University, Sydney
35 Fowler and Mooney (1991) "Shattering: Food, Politics, and the Loss of Genetic Diversity"
University of Arizona Press
36 Motamayor, J.C.; Risterucci, A.M.; Lopez, P.A.; Ortiz, C.F.; Moreno, A.; Lanaud, C. (2002)
Cacao domestication I: the origin of the cacao cultivated by the Mayas
Heredity Vol. 89, Number 5, pp. 380-386
37 Motamayor, J.C.; Risterucci, A.M.; Laurent,V.; Moreno,A.; Lanaud, C. (2000)
The genetic diversity of Criollo cacao and its consequence in quality breeding
Conferencistas, Primer Congreso Venezolano del Cacao y su Industria (First Venezuelan Congress of the Cocoa Industry) AGETROP/CIRAD, France.
38 Google search results for: kenny+white+tiger+inbreeding
http://www.google.com.au/search?&q=kenny+white+tiger+inbreeding
39 FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS (2005)
"Fertilizer use by crop in Ghana"
Accessed online April 2008 at: ftp://ftp.fao.org/agl/agll/docs/fertuseghana.pdf
40 "Chuao - the Mystic place"
Accessed online April 2008 at: http://www.amedei.se/nestor.lasso?mcf=cms/web/view&id=n5_StoryofChuao
41 Paul Lewis (April 7, 2007) "In search of the beans of Chuao"
Guardian.co.uk. Accessed online April 2008 at: http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/food/story/0,,2051816,00.html
42 ICCO Monthly Averages of Daily Prices
Accessed online April 2008 at: http://www.icco.org/statistics/monthly.aspx
43 Clay Gordon (May 9, 2008) in online forum thread "Domori- are they bean to bar?"
Accessed online September 2008 at: http://www.thechocolatelife.com/forum/topic/show?id=1978963%3ATopic%3A8752
44 Sue Hines, as quoted by Deborah Hope (January 25, 2008) in "Loose with the truth"
The Australian. Accessed online April 2008 at: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,23103214-28737,00.html
45 Dan Wighton (23 January 2008) in "Chocolate Tasting - Chloe Doutre-Roussel Experience"
Accessed online September 2008 at: http://grudsey.com/blog/?tag=chloe-doutre-roussel
46 Girolamo Benzoni "History of the new world" (originally printed in 1565; English translation reprinted in 1970)
Accessed online September 2008, via Google Books
47 Counet, C.; Callemien, D.; Ouwerx, C.; Collin, S. (2002) "Use of Gas Chromatography-Olfactometry To Identify Key Odorant Compounds in Dark Chocolate. Comparison of Samples before and after Conching"
J. Agric. Food Chem., vol. 50, pp.2385-2391
48 Stephen T. Beckett (2000) "The Science of Chocolate"
RSC Paperbacks, Cambridge UK