You’re not alone.
The reason behind the puzzlement is simple:
It’s a virtual certainty the chocolate you purchased is not the chocolate that was judged and was given the award.
Most craft chocolate makers make chocolate in batches of 35kg or less. As a general rule they don’t do any blending, not even the bags of cocoa beans. Variability between bags is common, especially when the cocoa comes from a cooperative of many farmers.
That means every batch of chocolate can be (and often is) different from every other batch. If each bar weighs 100gr, then no more than 350 bars from each 35kg batch can be made. As you might imagine, it does not take very long to sell and ship a couple of hundred chocolate bars.
By the very nature of the process, the sticker cannot be applied to the box until after the chocolate is given the award. Even if the sticker is applied the day after the award is given, that sticker is, in most cases, applied to packages that do not contain the same chocolate that was judged.
Complicating this process is the fact that the taste of a chocolate can change significantly as it ages. A one-week-old bar can taste very different from a one-month-old or three-month-old bar.
This disconnect is just one of many challenges that face consumers of craft chocolate who are becoming increasingly accustomed to - and reliant on - awards seals. And it not just an issue for consumers, it is an issue for the organizers of awards programs if they want to maintain credibility and utility for the awards in the long run, and as the number of awards programs grows.
What are your thoughts on what chocolate makers and awards programs can do to address this disconnect? Do you think it's an issue at all?