I acquired two bars of the new and famous camel milk chocolate that is still not officially sold anywhere outside of Dubai. Read on to find out what is so special about camel milk, camel milk chocolate, and how it tasted.
It all started with Chocolate Covered in San Francisco (no website – Yelp page – 4069 24th St – between Castro St & Noe St) – a stop I recommend for any chocolate lover. You’ll probably find your new favorite chocolate just waiting for you in the shop. My new favorite is a dark chocolate New Mexico red chile and pistachio bark that will have to wait for another post.
The owner of Chocolate Covered must have recognized that familiar glint in my eye – someone who likes to experiment and is interested in the new. My mother might say that I’m interested in a gimmick but that’s just one take.
“Have you heard of camel milk chocolate?” He pulled a box out from the back of the store and set it on his lap, rifling through the contents until he found what he was looking for: a gold foil bar that had already been opened. He generously offered us a piece.
I thought it tasted really interesting, and I quickly negotiated adding two bars of the chocolate to my growing chocolate pile.
Why is camel milk chocolate news?
It’s news because Al nassma is using camel milk in chocolate for the first time. Though Al nassma started selling the chocolate in Dubai in late 2008, and in July 2009 the company expressed it had intentions to expand operations into foreign markets and this was immediately picked up by a lot of news outlets.
What’s so special about camel milk?
I’ve seen many, many conflicting reports: that camel’s milk is lower in fat and also higher in fat than cow’s milk (the wikipedia page about camels says both), but most agree that camel’s milk is very rich in Vitamin C (from 3-5 times more than cow’s milk in the reports I saw) and rich in iron, unsaturated fatty acids and B vitamins.
A 1982 report about camels and camel milk from FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations) says the milk can have a “sweet and sharp taste, but sometimes it is salty” or “at times the milk tastes watery.” The study also helps solve the low-fat, high-fat mystery: “the hydration status of the animals would determine the fat content of the milk” but that “camel milk fat contains less short-chained fatty acids” than cow, buffalo and ewe milk fat, and that protein in camel milk is the same as cow milk.
The fat composition of camel milk makes it difficult to create butter from it but many do, though the fresh butter must be consumed quickly as it can spoil. Also camel milk is resistant to UHT treatments which means it’s hard to keep long-term on the shelf. Fermentation of the milk is used to keep for longer periods. In the 1990s the FAO helped develop the world’s first camel cheese “Camelbert” using special enzyme to help harden the camel milk.
Perhaps the most surprising note in the FAO report is “Some camel herders living an [sic] camel milk only show a change in the colour of their hair to red” – milk that changes your hair color!
Camel milk has a bit of a alternative medicine following as well. There are groups that tout it as good for diabetics and patients with heart problems, and others that say it has healing properties, but very little scientific evidence is widespread at the moment. Kenya Medical Research Institute in Kenya is working on proving the diabetic and coronary disease benefits. I’m assuming as camel milk grows in popularity, we’ll know more about it. There’s even an Camel USA dairy!
The FDA has also recently included reindeer, llamas, moose and donkeys under the definition of “milk” and therefore it may not be long until you’re eating moose milk chocolate!
How does camel milk chocolate taste?
I was a bit underwhelmed by the “Dates” – date and camel milk chocolate bar. I was expecting the flavors to contrast and fight among my taste buds, but the date pieces were very small and overall the taste was muted and I felt the bar was a bit chalky/crumbly. It had a little feel of a “Flake” Cadbury bar in that there was no snap and upon biting the bar would crumble slightly. Warming it up in my mouth did not intensify the flavor much, but it became smoother as it melted. In the bar, whole camel milk was 18% of the ingredients. I would have preferred the date pieces not be so small and throughout the entire bar, so I could focus on one taste or the other as I ate it.
I’d like to taste their pralines and perhaps the macadamia nut or “Arabia spices” milk chocolate bars.
I also have a bar of the 70% camel milk dark chocolate, and it was quite good. The amount of camel milk in the ingredients (3%) made me wonder if it was worth calling it milk chocolate. I thought that the quality of the dark chocolate that is used is quite good, though, and I would eat more of the dark chocolate again.
I compared a Swiss milk chocolate bar I had on hand to the Dates bar – it had the same amount of cacao minimum (31%) and the camel milk chocolate had 28,1 g of fat per 100g bar, and the Swiss milk chocolate was 30g Fat per 100g bar, so there wasn’t much difference there. Both had 5g of protein.
Where can I get the Al nassma camel milk chocolate?
If you’re in Dubai, you can buy it from the source. In late July (2009), Martin Van Almsick from Al nassma announced its intentions to go global but I assume partnerships are being worked out still and nothing is official. Harrod’s was named by the Al nassma for a potential outlet in the UK, and Chocolate Covered in San Francisco for the US (thus why I was able to get my hands on some bars).
For now, I suggest you contact Al nassma directly (you can call and order), and hopefully you’ll find the camel milk chocolate in your local chocolate shop soon!
Would you try camel milk chocolate? Where would you draw the line at animal milk being used in chocolate: Goat’s milk? Sheep? Llama?
Al nassma Chocolate, Dubai: www.al-nassma.com
Disclosure: Nothing to disclose, actually. If you read the post closely, you saw that I paid for these bars myself and I’m not being compensated for this article. I am trying to include a disclosure on all posts when I talk about products or companies.