Saturday, September 3, 2011

Askinosie Bars Help People

Usually I don't do our featured reviews so close together when they are from the same company or chocolatier but as I look over my stack of pre-written reviews, I just grabbed one.  Let me tell you, Sisters and Brothers, working on this trilogy has been some task for your Chocolate Priestess coupled with a busy convention year, and now a two-month period of intense family events.  So as I finally type out this review I have to smile because trying and sharing these two bars was not only a blessing to me but they are a blessing to the farmers who grow the cacao.

Askinosie really gets behind the idea of empowering the people who live in the areas where their cocoa is grown.  Their programs give living wages to the farmers but they also put money into the community through education and other programs. Each bar's wrapper shows the face of one of the people from the community that grows the cocoa beans used to make it.  Each bar tells you how the company is working to strengthen the people and their community as well as what is in each bar nutritionally and in terms of ingredients.  This empowers you to read and make a decision with far more information than any candy I've ever seen before and we've seen some very nice fair trade and eco-friendly chocolate.

The first bar I want to reveal to you is the 72% Tanzania Dark Chocolate Bar.  While this bar may have been featured in high profile magazines and on TV shows, we'll treat it exactly as we would any other bar or spread or ice cream we are sent to reveal to you.  The bar is two servings but let's be honest, how many of you will not eat the entire thing?  So in the entire bar you'll get 494 calories made of 18g saturated fat, 8mg sodium, 24g sugars, and 8g protein.  I'm very surprised that this does not have any fiber at all because I expect from high cocoa content chocolates.  Oddly it also has only 2% of the daily iron an adult needs again very low.  It has only three ingredients: cocoa beans, cane juice, and cocoa butter and that is it!  You don't get much more simple than that.

Inside the darker oily paper wrapper the bar was very closely sealed in a plastic wrap.   You can see that the name of the company is spelled out on the sections, 18 sections in all, in raised letters.  It was great fun to break these apart and have people take one, asking them, "What letter did you get?" then telling them what the bar was at the convention I shared this at.  When I managed to get the plastic wrap off, that was a bit of a struggle, I was shocked by how little cocoa scent there was.  What would this dark bar taste like if it lacked scent?  It had a surprising smooth flavor and texture at first that turned sharply bitter as I chewed it.  Each bite, each chew made a nice sharp snap and over the coarse of two squares, I was a bit of a pig I admit, there was also a definite sugar cane essence but the bitterness also intensified.  Everyone who tried it agreed it was quite different from the easily found candy bars in your check-out aisles.  If they liked darker chocolate, they liked this.  I did as well and often I'm not a sugar cane juice fan.

The second bar is the Davao White Chocolate Nibble Bar grown and formed in the Philippines.  Sadly the nutritional values are a bit more extreme in one bar.  The 500 calories contains 22g saturated fat, 8mg cholesterol, 40mg sodium, 4g fiber, 40g sugars, 6g protein, with 12% of the daily calcium and iron an adult needs.

Obviously white chocolate generally has more added ingredients and this has cane  juice, cocoa butter, goat's milk powder, and roasted cocoa nibs -- that's where the fiber is coming from.  Look, you can see those nibs right on the back but they are also inside the bar itself though unevenly spread throughout it. 

This bar also had the letters on the squares and again I had fun asking people which letter they took as I shared it.  It has a very sweet and creamy scent to it and this was the inverse of the first bar in many ways. Here the flavor was not as intense as the fragrance suggested and the chocolate itself was pretty silent though the nibs were crunchy and had a bitter kick that really surprised some folks.  This is probably best for the chocolate fan who like a much wider range of cacao content than the average person.  While I'm not a bit white chocolate fan, as you know, Sisters and Brothers, the nibs really made this a treat for me but one I also really needed to share widely to counter the nutritional content.

Beyond the flavor and the communities getting back from Askinosie, everything about the bar's wrapping and packaging was biodegradable or recycled or recyclable.  When a company goes to these lengths to take care of it's workers and it's planet, they are also taking care of us, the consumer so they deserve credit for that from us here on The Chocolate Cult.

So if you want great chocolate that is unique and which does more than line the pockets of a few Europeans or Americans, you need to check out Askinosie.  Once more, in terms of taste and business, we are honored to declare them a worth Sacrament for The Chocolate Cult.  Be wary of the nutritional values and eat in extreme moderation, perhaps sharing with several people like I did.

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