Saturday, May 7, 2016

Equal Exchange Gets Even Darker

If you've been reading The Chocolate Cult for years, you will know Equal Exchange. We are lucky that when they have a new product out, they entrust us to test it and reveal it to you all. Prior to 2016, the darkest 2.8oz bar you could get from Equal Exchange was 71% but now you can get their Extreme Dark which clocks in at 88%! I know, that's getting too dark for many of you but it is on the edge of what I love depending on the intensity of the sugar that is added to it. Before we get to that I want to state clearly that in the photos you will see a very broken up bar. This is neither the fault of the company nor myself. Someone in transit the cardboard cylinder you see in this photo came loose and when I started to open it, one end suddenly popped off and the bars fell out. Equal Exchange sent me these bars to test out and write an honest review about; no other form of compensation was received.

One of the really cool things about Equal Exchange is their wrappers. Not only are the varieties color coded to help you remember which ones you liked best, but inside there is more information about Equal Exchange and the co-ops that they work with. In this case there is a photo of Cruz Alvarado and information about the Fortaleza del Valle co-op in the Manabi Province of Ecuador. Ecuador is one of four countries that Equal Exchange gets their cacao beans from. I didn't want to take a closer photo of this information for this post because I didn't have specific permission to do so, but you can find a lot of this information on their website or better still, inside your own bar's wrapper! You might find Equal Exchange in food co-ops in your area or some natural food stores but it can be a challenge to find so I've linked to the specific product a few times in this post.

There is an internal white plastic wrapper underneath this paper wrapper. As soon as I open that a dark cocoa fragrance hit my nose. Just cocoa, not a hint of vanilla or sugar here. Remember this is 88%! It has a dark brown color and there are 24 sections etched into it that are fairly easy to break apart. 12 of these sections is one serving. Now, remember that chocolate is not low-calorie food but it can be healthy for you especially at these higher cacao percentage levels. There isn't much added sugar here; only 4g per serving. Each serving also has 5g dietary fiber and 13g saturated fat (not the same as you get from meat really; I wish they'd differ between plant and animal saturated fat but I digress). The flavor that immediately hits my tongue after I take a bite is intense chocolate that quickly turns to the more bitter side of things. The bite and the first couple of chews makes loud sounds but the chocolate quickly starts to melt in my mouth. I'm one of the lucky folks who can get what I call a cocoa rush -- my blood vessels expand, headaches and muscle tension lessens, and even my pupils dilate and let in more light. I get those reactions with the first section. The result is that I only want a half serving of this before I'm totally chocolate sated.

Extreme Dark is only for the dark chocolate lover who can handle the intense bitterness that is about as close to just eating cocoa bean as you can get unless you love to eat cocoa nibs (I do, by the way). Given Equal Exchange's ethics and the quality of this bar, this certainly earns Sacrament Status. Now I'm off this weekend to a convention where I'll be sharing the rest of these bars with a group of folks. I hope they agree with my assessment.

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