Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saturday Sacrament, July 25, 2009

While your Chocolate Priestess focuses on the five senses in these weekly Sacraments, she never forgets The Chocolate Cult's goal of using chocolate purposefully and in moderation. Thus I always highlight issues of fair trade, environmental awareness, and labor rights as well when the company that makes an offering has something either positive or particularly negative in those areas. Taraluna is a retailer that offered us several products to review, and today I will reveal one of these to you — the one on the upper right hand side.

The numerous products came with a minimum of packaging, even in the warm months, and as you can see, Sisters and Brothers, while they were wrapped as gifts as several offerings have been, they were wrapped with recycled and simple paper. This is part of the company's overall policy of supporting what are often called progressive attitudes toward workers and the planet. I spoke with them several times, and I can say that they are consistent in their message. Because of this the chocolate they sell is created by Sjaak's, which is also devoted to fair trade and sustainable practices, but since the chocolatier didn't send me these offerings, I'm going to focus on what Taraluna offers.

While Taraluna offers a wide range of products, we are interested in their organic chocolates. Today I'm going to examine their 9-count organic vegan truffle collection, which you can find here on their website. Something qualifies as vegan when it contains no animal products, which this package's list of ingredients confirms. It also has no wheat or grain products, which may be important for those of you who have allergies of that nature.

To this point, the only vegan offerings The Chocolate Cult has had the opportunity to reveal have been cookies, and they have been hit-or-miss in terms of taste and potential cocoa buzz. This might surprise some of you, Sisters and Brothers, but just because a product is vegan does not mean it is saturated fat free; indeed, three pieces of these truffles give you 16 grams of this, which is 80% of your daily allowance according to US national health recommendations. So be informed and read your nutritional labels instead of simply assuming you are eating healthy when you eat vegan products in abundance.

The box I received had only three distinct flavors instead of the variety listed on the website, so call or email ahead and ask which flavors you are going to get; I'm sure they would be happy to talk with you before you purchase. This box contains extra dark chocolate, raspberry, and mocha flavors — the back of the box lists them with photos, so they are easily identified, which I greatly appreciate. Let's explore what these taste like and how they can affect our body, mind and soul together, Sisters and Brothers.

I begin with a fresh mouth, a focused mind and a clean cool glass of water near me to help me cleanse between samples. The gold box has a simple stretchy ribbon on it that slips off and two taped sides that I cut with scissors. When I open the box I smell dark cocoa and raspberry primarily, but leaning down I can also smell the coffee. Each truffle is 1.25 inches in diameter and about 0.9 inches tall. They are dark in color because they are all dark chocolate, though I do not know the percentage of cocoa in each. There is a bit of packaging wastefulness in the box with the inner plastic tray, but compared to all those overpackaged products out there this seems minor.

I'll start with the mocha flavor first, which is capped with a cocoa-dusted coffee bean. I breathe in the scent deeply and can only just smell the coffee within. The ganache, which is smooth to my fingertips, breaks with a snap as I bite off a corner to reveal a fairly firm center. At first chocolate is all I can taste, but with each bite more and more bitter coffee flavor is revealed to my tongue. There is an immediate wave from my mouth through my head, and this is only 1/6th of the truffle I've tried so far. Now that it is bitten into, the coffee scent is stronger as well. I take another corner and let it melt in my mouth, which downplays the coffee flavor by an enormous amount until I can't tell it is anything other than dark chocolate. So if you love coffee, chew this truffle to release each layer of flavor, and make sure you savor the bite with the bean for an extra kick. Each subsequent bite will build up the coffee flavor as well as increase the buzz. Whether this reaction is mostly cocoa or coffee may be revealed in the following two flavors. The aftertaste of the coffee and chocolate is very powerful, lasting many minutes and requiring a thorough cleansing of my mouth and throat before I can move to another piece or risk crossing the flavors.

The raspberry piece has red dusting on top and a very strong fruit scent that hits me before I even bring it close to my nose. Licking the dusting is not a pleasant experience; it is very sour in taste, so don't do that, Sisters and Brothers. Unfortunately the dusting continues to taste sour when I bite through the thick ganache with a gentle snapping sound. Inside is a lighter toned semi-solid chocolate center. Oddly the raspberry flavor isn't very strong as I chew 1/6th of the truffle, and this sour dusting really interferes with any chocolate or raspberry flavor the candy may have. So I bite the bottom, taking as little of the red decoration as possible, which improves the fruit and cocoa flavors a good deal. To be honest the dusting's intense and unexpected flavor ruins this piece for me, but luckily it only lasts in my mouth a short time. If you like sourness, I think you will adore this particular type of truffle far more than I do. The truffle without the dusting is great and provides a nice buzz.

I tackle the extra dark truffle next, which has a dusting of moderately sized flakes of cocoa, confirmed by licking what I guess is milk chocolate on top. There is a strong dark cocoa scent when I bring the candy to my nose and breathe in. Again there is a soft snap when I bite through the ganache to reveal an almost equally dark softer center. With each bite the bitterness of the chocolate increases, but it has a creamy texture to it that sort of eases the intensity. Once more it only takes one bite for a rushing sensation through my head to happen. Letting it melt in my mouth increases the cocoa sensation and rush, so I recommend you let it melt, which takes about a minute to achieve. This is my favorite of these three flavors.

Flavors are tricky. Each of us, Sisters and Brothers, has our preferences and dislikes, even aversions. All three had nice texture and buzz potential as well as a good cocoa flavor. Only you can determine which flavors you like, and since I'm sure Sjaak's changes flavors, what you can get from Taraluna will probably change over the course of the year, so contact them before you buy and make the best choice for your taste buds.

Considering the quality of the truffles and their social/economic policies, I have to say that these vegan truffles from Taraluna are a worthy choice as a Saturday Sacrament. Just try out different flavors and see what works for you best, and use them in moderation to assist you on your Path toward the Divine or as a wonderful socially-conscious reward.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

If you are reading in the eastern half of the Midwest, don't forget The Chocolate Cult's first CONTEST. In nine days I will choose the finalists for this contest and move on to stage two for acolyte position.

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