Your Chocolate Priestess has seen Theo Chocolate in our local co-op and natural foods stores for years, so I was very surprised and pleased when they sent me some offerings to reveal to all of you, Sisters and Brothers. The first Sacrament with Theo products was back on April 11, 2009, so if you want to see that product, go and look through our archives. Theo Chocolate makes products that are certified both organic by USDA standards and for fair trade practices. Both of these issues may be of concern for many of you; as you know, I think both are valuable tools in promoting spiritual and economic health in the world.
Today I'm going to look at four of the 2 oz bars Theo sent to The Chocolate Cult, called "3400 Phinney Bars" after the factory where they are created. Our newly elected Chocolate Coconut Acolyte will send me her revelation about a coconut version that I will add to this review later, so be sure to check back in a few weeks. One of the immediate things I notice about Theo's 2 oz bars is the very cute labels with cartoonish figures on them. This makes them stand out on the shelves in the stores, which now, I'm pleased to say, also include mass distributors such as my local Target. Please note that the store locator does not have every place you can buy these, since I can walk to three different stores within half a mile to buy them, but they are not listed on Theo's website.
Of the eight varieties listed on the website, they sent me five. I'll go in order of cocoa content and added ingredients to reveal their full sensory nature to you all. That means our first two offerings will be the "Vanilla Milk Chocolate" and "Hazelnut Crunch Milk Chocolate," followed by "Nib Brittle Dark Chocolate" and "Bread and Chocolate Dark Chocolate." Opening these required using my letter opener, since there is a "use by" sticker holding the two sections together for each wrapper, which would have ruined the nutritional information had I tried opening them the normal way. Under each adorable paper wrapper are matching silver foil and paper wrappers that release the fragrance of each bar when it is unwrapped. You should also note that according to the website, the dark chocolate is at least 65% cocoa and the milk 40% cocoa, so even the milk chocolate product may taste more intense to some of you, Sisters and Brothers, if you are used to lower cocoa products, but the buzz potential from each should be good. Each bar equals one serving for the nutritional information, making it very easy to calculate what you may or may not want to eat. Each bar measures 5 7/8 by 2 1/4 by 3/8 inches and is etched into four identical rectangles if you want to break off pieces.
I'll start with the "Vanilla Milk Chocolate" bar, shown in the photo along with the hazelnut variety that I'll get to soon. I'm showing you the back of the bars because the front sides of the milk chocolate bars look very similar, and the only way to tell them apart is by the traces of nuts on the back.
This bar has five ingredients: sugar, milk powder, cocoa beans, cocoa butter, and vanilla. It contains 13 grams of saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 40 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 25 g sugar, 4 g protein, and 2% of your daily vitamin A and iron as well as 10% of your daily recommended calcium. There is a strong hint of the vanilla when I bring the bar to my nose and breathe in deeply, but primarily it is the cocoa I smell. One of the four sections breaks off easily and with a solid snap as I apply four fingers to the task. The chocolate feels smooth to my skin, and the scent is urging me to take a bite, so I do so. This has a very creamy texture and a taste that reminds me of the wonderful Easter bunnies I used to get as a child, though without the waxiness. Letting the second bite melt intensifies the vanilla of the bar while also slowly releasing the cocoa and helping create a slow burning sensation from my mouth through my head to settle behind my eyes with a gentle rush. The lingering taste of vanilla and cocoa lasts for a few minutes in my mouth.
The "Hazelnut Crunch Milk Chocolate" bar has these cute little hazelnut-headed or -hatted people on it, which makes me chuckle for the sheer silliness of them. They look more sly than romantic as the vanilla couple did on the previous bar. The snap this bar makes when I break off a rectangle is louder, probably because of the nuts, which are one of eight ingredients used in this bar. I can see the tiny nut pieces on the back and in the bar itself, and they have a definite scent when I take a whiff of the piece I broke off. There are enough hazelnut bits that each chew of the first bite makes a crisp crunch. The nut flavor is the primary one in this bar, but the cocoa is also there, with a strong sweet essence as well; all of them blend together. Letting it melt in my mouth is a shock, because the sweetness turns a bit sour, overwelming the nut and cocoa flavors. The nuts are rough on my tongue as the coating over them melts until I'm left with their saltiness, which is also overwhelming. Chew this; don't let it melt in your mouth if you decide to go with the hazelnut type. Each "Hazelnut Crunch" bar contains 14 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 140 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 19 g sugars, 5 g protein, 2% vitamins A and C, 4% iron, and 10% calcium.
The two dark chocolate bars are next, and as I wanted to show in their picture, they are identical in appearance, even though they contain a few different ingredients. Both have 70% cocoa in them, so once more eat these for flavor and meditation and not for health benefits, which seem to began at 80% cocoa.
I hope that the "Nib Brittle" bar is a lot like Theo's nib brittle I had back in April, because it was amazing. The bar has an intense cocoa odor when I lift it to to my nose, strong enough to make me sigh. One rectangle snaps off loudly in my fingers, releasing even more fragrance. It feels very smooth to my fingertips, with no oiliness at all. I can barely see the nibs, but they crunch as I chew the first bite, which immediately sends a rush of cocoa into my consciousness, fulfilling the promises the scent made. The second bite melts slowly in my mouth, but does not provide the buzz that chewing helped free until it is almost completely melted, which takes several minutes. I prefer chewing this bar so I can get a more intense rush as well as the crunch of the nibs. Each of these bars has 13 g saturated fat, 10 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 21 g sugars, 3 g protein, and 6% iron; it has no cholesterol.
The "Bread & Chocolate" bar has French bread added to five other simple ingredients. These result in a nutritional value for the bar of 12 g saturated fat, 250 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 16 g sugars, 3 g protein, and 4% iron; it has no cholesterol. One of this bar's rectangles also snaps when I break it off, but I only see a hint of any "bread" in it, though it does have a nice cocoa scent. Oh, yes, there is bread here, and it makes a crispy sound as I chew it, exactly as I'd expect French bread to make. Other than the sound, though, the flavor is really dark chocolate, saltiness and flour, which is interesting, but I don't like it as much as the nib brittle bar of the same cocoa quality. I've never had this type of candy before, and the website does not say, but I wonder if the idea came from spreading chocolate onto a slice of French bread in the past. I've done that myself, spreading chocolate on various things just to see what it is like, and it does taste good depending on the bread and chocolate type.
Our Chocolate Coconut has this to report on her bar. "Greetings Brothers and Sisters. Today I spent time with Theo's Coconut Curry Milk Chocolate bar from their 3400 Phinney line of chocolates. This 2 oz bar has the same dimensions at the others and contains 40% cacao. It contains 14 g of saturated fat, 10 mg of cholesterol, 40 mg of sodium, 2 g of dietary fiber, 22 g of sugar and 4 g of protein. It also supplies 2% of your daily recommended value of Vitamin A, 10% of calcium and 8% of iron. The artwork on the wrapper is whimsical, evoking images of India where curry is very popular. The paper wrapper is glued well and tears slightly as I open it. Seconds later my nostrils are assaulted by the scent of curry powder (which is a blend of several spices, all of them in the moderate to hot range) and as I bring the bar closer to my nose, I feel my sinuses clearing. Like the Hazelnut Crunch bar there is a slight texture on the back indicating the coconut. The chocolate is soft and there is no snap when I break off a piece. Curry is the first thing I taste as I take the first bite and the flavor intensifies the more I chew it. There is no coconut flavor and the mild chocolate flavor doesn't quite keep the curry from being overpowering. The chocolate melts on my fingers while I'm chewing the first bite. I lick my fingers before taking the second bite which I let melt on my tongue. The curry, while still prevalent isn't quite as intense this way and once the chocolate is gone, and the coconut is finally noticeable. However, it's been toasted and ground so finely that there is no flavor and the texture is rather like straw. It's interesting to note that after I finished sampling the bar, I left the remainder on the plate and walked away for about 10 minutes and when I returned to the room, it smelled like and Indian restaurant that I used to patronize. And now, 40 minutes later, the curry scent sticks to my fingers but there's not even a hint of chocolate. Bottom line--if you really like curry, then you might find this bar appealing. I, however, prefer a better balance of flavors."
Sisters and Brothers, I have to say that I am impressed by the "3400 Phinney Bars" that I was sent from Theo Chocolate. Considering these are also organic and bought under fair trade conditions, these are a very worthy Sacrament for The Chocolate Cult. Just be aware of the nutritional value of each bar and your own preferences and choose to use these wisely.
Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.