Wednesday, October 31, 2012

2012 Halloween Treat Challenge WInner

This year we had seven challengers in our Annual Halloween Treat Challenge:

TCHO's Halloween themed boxes with their single origin dark chocolates;

Xocai's individual peanut butter cups;

LINDT's felt witch hats and pumpkin's with truffles inside;

Oliver Kita's chocolate covered sea-salt caramels;

Sweet Poppins chocolate covered popcorn;

Captivating Confections fall flavored toffees and truffles;

and Grek's hot chocolate mix.

Of these only three challengers were specifically Halloween themed and only one of these was a product that was made especially for the holiday.

Therefore our Best Halloween Treat Winner this year was easy to determine (unlike last year): the Scare-a-mels from Oliver Kita Chocolates.

They will be informed of their victory and offered a chance for 30 days free advertising on this blog so be on the look out for their ad in the future.

A big thank to all seven of our challengers.

Other winners in the individual categories were:

Best Mass Produced Halloween Treat: LINDT Chocolate R.S.V.P.
Best Gourmet Halloween Treat: Captivating Confections
Best Baked Halloween Treat: NONE
Best Independent Halloween Novelty: Sweet Poppins
Best Halloween Treat Source: NONE

Sisters and Brothers, tell me which treat would you have picked out of this seven and why in a comment below.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

TCHO for Halloween

We've reviewed and feature TCHO Chocolate here a few times, first with their dark chocolate and then when they introduced their milk chocolate.  For the season they have boxed and packed their individual pieces of four of their single origin chocolates. Check out the devil eating chocolate and the ghost and bat on the bigger box.  However, these arrived so late in comparison to the other Halloween Treat Challengers that this is the first time I could fairly get them revealed to you.  The good news is that there isn't anything holiday specific about the chocolate itself so if you've read our earlier reviews, you know what those are like and see if you want to order them for a holiday in the future.

For Halloween you could get their chocolate in boxes or containers ranging in size from 6-108 pieces.  For other holiday I'm sure they will have specially packages offers as well.  The only problem I see with TCHO for Halloween is who to give it to.  For most children darker chocolate may well be too bitter.  Teens and especially adults are more likely to favor darker chocolates as well as be more appreciative of the single origins bars.  If they offered this packaging with their milk chocolates, it could be a big hit with kids and trick o'treaters.

I want to show you how these four types of chocolate look next to each other because I don't think I've done this before.

From left to right these are Ghana 70%, Peru 68%, Madagascar 67%, and Ecuador 65%.  The 70% is darker than the rest and they each have a unique flavor that we've written about before.

As always TCHO is a great way to sample single origin chocolate and experience the real differences bean, soil, and farming techniques can have on our Sacred Substance.  For their concerns about farmers, their focus on quality, and their products, they definitely earn Sacrament status.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Chocolate Planner for October 2012

We've been so focused on the Halloween season you may have forgotten that the winter holidays are fast approaching, but your Chocolate Priestess has not forgotten.  In fact, I all ready have four companies lined up for the next holiday season so we'll be starting right away in November.  So here's  your planner for next month.

November 7 = National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day -- Another chocolate plus almonds day on the fun food calendar... seems like the almond lobby may be behind this.

November 11= National Sundae Day; National Pocky Day in Japan -- I'm going to look at Pocky on this date so be ready and go get some to munch while you read.

November 20 = National Peanut Butter Fudge Day -- It doesn't need chocolate but wouldn't it be better with some?

November 24, 1615 = marriage of Anne to Louis XIII -- I'll explain why this is important to chocolate lovers in a post later this month.

November 25 = National Parfait Day -- I want to learn to make a parfait with chocolate of course.

November 26 = National Cake Day  -- I know there are cakes out there that are not chocolate I just don't desire them.

November 27 = National Bavarian Cream Pie Day -- Frankly I think this pie deserves more chocolate than it traditionally has.

November 28 = French Toast Day -- Why not add chocolate either in the bread or as a syrup/spread on it?

November 29 = Chocolates Day -- I'm not really sure what this means?  Does it mean "chocolates" as in what we call individual pieces of chocolate candy?

November 30 = National Mousse Day -- Mousse is either excellent or terrible in my experience.  Again why would I want the non-chocolate type?

Sisters and Brothers, do any of these holidays look good for you to celebrate?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Chocolate Recalls 10/27/12

Here are some more recalls related to chocolate, Sisters and Brothers.  Remember to keep checking the peanut recalls every week because new products are being added.

#1: Wegmans Gluten Free Double Chocolate Brownie Mix is Recalled Because the Product May Contain Undeclared Tree Nuts (Pecans) and Milk
10/22/2012 02:27 PM EDT

Rochester, NY - Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. is voluntarily recalling all code dates (from 30Oct2013 to 18Mar2013) of Wegmans Gluten Free Double Chocolate Brownie Mix, 17.2 oz. (UPC 77890 28336) because the product may contain undeclared tree nuts (pecans) and milk. People who have an allergy to tree nuts (pecans) or milk run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reactions if they consume this product.

#2: Bumble Bar, Inc. Recalls Gluten Free Cafe™ Chocolate Sesame Bars and Gluten Free Cafe™ Cinnamon Sesame Bars Due to Possible Health Risk Associated With Sunland Inc. Peanut Products
10/25/2012 08:42 PM EDT

Bumble Bar is recalling certain lots of Gluten Free Cafe™ Chocolate Sesame Bars and Gluten Free Cafe™ Cinnamon Sesame Bars associated with Sunland Inc. peanut products, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infection in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

#3: Tropical Valley Foods Issues Alert On Undeclared Allergens In Dark Chocolate, Organic Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate And Trail Mix Products Sold In Bulk
10/25/2012 08:32 PM EDT

Tropical Valley Foods is alerting customers that because of a label error, Dark Chocolate, Organic Dark Chocolate and Trail Mix items which were sold in bulk quantities contain undeclared allergens. Consumers who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to wheat, soy or tree nuts run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Peanut Butter Cups for Halloween

Another independent consult for a larger chocolate company is Helen Beauregard who represents Xocai, a brand of chocolate that focuses on the health claims about our Sacrament Substance.  Helene is planning to give these individual peanut cups out for Halloween and wanted us to know about them and give us the opportunity to review them and tell you all about them, Sisters and Brothers.  We cannot truly assess the health claims, we do not have the facilities to do so but you have the links to her cite so you can check out the health claims yourself.

She sent us a dozen of these Xocai peanut butter cups so we were able to share it with several volunteers and Acolytes in The Chocolate Cult.  These are 1.75 inches across on the top, almost 0.5 inches thick, and are simply wrapped in the foil, no unnecessary paper cups.  When you unwrap one you get an immediate roasted peanut scent with an undertone of milk chocolate.  The chocolate is cool but a bit waxy in my fingertips.  The first bite makes a soft snap.  A light chocolate is the first flavor and then a very roasted, lightly salted peanut favor.  The peanut flavor is the dominant flavor and it is not too creamy nor too sweet.  The chocolate is fine but it can't honestly compete with the peanut butter.  If it were darker, less milk and less sugar, then it stand up well.  For The Chocolate Cult then, these fall short of what we want from any product with chocolate.

There is both cocoa butter and chocolate liquor in these along with some other ingredients I'm unsure of: Butteroil, Inulin, and XoVita. There is also whey protein that I have seen before in chocolate products but the standard added sugar, milk powder, soy, and so forth.  Are these added titled ingredients what is supposed to make this healthier than other peanut butter cups?  While we've reviewed other Xocai products in the past I don't think I looked into these ingredients before so why not do it now, huh?  Even though I can't determine the health claims, I can try to figure out what those three ingredients are.  XoVita is a blend of cocoa, acai, and blueberry powders.  Inulin is a starch from plants that WebMD tells me it might have positive effects on blood fats.  Butteroil is a dairy product created from butter when you remove the moisture and the nonfat milk solids; it controls fat bloom in chocolate that can be created with varying degrees of temperatures during storage where the chocolate melts and then re-solidifies.

The good thing about the Xocai peanut butter cups is that they are not specific to Halloween in any way. You can check out Helen's website and give them and other products a try whenever you want.  For our Halloween Treat Challenge though this means that they simply won't stand up well to more creepy holiday specific products.  We've reviewed other Xocai products in the past so please do look for those articles here and decide for yourself if you'd like to give them a try.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween LINDT 2012

LINDT Chocolate R.S.V.P. consultant, Amy Sue Lambermont, sent us two adorable entries for our 2012 Halloween Treat Challenge, our fourth year of this event on The Chocolate Cult.  She sent us a pair of Scary Sweet Hats and a trio of Pumpkin Favor Bags; there are also Spooky Ghost Gift Bags for this season.  Aren't these cute?

Each pumpkin or hat contains milk chocolate with a peanut butter filling truffles (pumpkins on the wrapper) and milk chocolate with a white chocolate filling truffle (ghosts on the wrapper).  In these photos you can see that I bit off part of each shell to show you the inside.  The shell is standard LINDT milk chocolate, very creamy and smooth, with a mild chocolate essence.  When you unwrap either all you can smell is the creamy cocoa fragrance.  You do not get even a hint of the inside until you've bitten it open so take the time to do that at least once for each variety.  Cream and vanilla are the main scents once you bite the ghost truffle open.  The shell melts on my fingertips as I hold it to bite through with a loud snap to get a full bite of both types of chocolate.  The white chocolate is much softer than the shell, it just dissolves like cream in my mouth and blends very well with the milk chocolate though the resulting flavor is a bit too creamy for me personally I can say that many people will adore this.  The pumpkin truffle's peanut butter center is also revealed by it's scent though it is lighter than the white chocolate as well as sustainably firmer.  Surprisingly this makes a softer snap when I bite it.  The center while firmer also melts as soon as it enters my mouth.

The Scary Sweet Hats come with eight truffles -- four pumpkin and four ghost wrappers.  The zipper on the side is easy to use and the hats are sturdy.  You do have to remove each truffle one at a time but they are also fairly easy to repack.  You could easily reuse these hats year after year as well.

The Pumpkin Favor Bags come with six truffles, three of each type.  These are just tied shut and when I opened one to take the truffles out the seams torn so this isn't as sturdy as the hats making it less likely they would survive over multiple years but I think you could also mend these and make them stronger.

These are cute bags of delicious truffles especially if you like LINDT chocolate.  Obviously these would be very pricy to hand out to the average trick o'treaters but they might be perfect for a select group of beloveds ranging in age from your kids to your grandparents.  If you go to Amy's website you can find more holiday treats for the fall via a catalog you can download.  If you book a LINDT party, we've done that on The Chocolate Cult, you can sample things before you buy.

We'll be seeing more from LINDT Chocolate R.S.V.P. and Amy just next month because she has sent us some fantastic Christmas items.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Scares, Caramel, and Chocolate

Have you heard of Oliver Kita Chocolates?  He's been an independent gourmet chocolatier for over 20 years and this year we are honored to include him in our 2012 Halloween Treat Challenge.  He sent us an example of one of the five types of "Trickster Treats" you can still get if you hurry for Halloween.  But you will have to hurry.  For this year's challenge they sent us the Scare-a-mels, buttery caramel with sea salt covered in chocolate with a creepy story to accompany them.

I don't want to report the story here, but let's just say that I read it to both children and adults and both enjoyed it.  It was creepy enough for both without being scary and after hearing it they all wanted to try a piece.  The story is an insert inside the nice box the Scare-a-mels came in -- dark chocolate in color, a paper Halloween themed lapel slipped over it, and a black ribbon with "Boo!" written on it.  In fact, I saved the ribbon and I plan to wear it in my hair for Halloween; how's that for reusing something, Sisters and Brothers?  If you sent this to someone they'd know they were in for a treat.  The box was relatively easy to open though I closed it again with a looser ribbon since I knew various volunteers here for The Chocolate Cult would want to see and test them.  As you saw above in the first paragraph each chocolate covered caramel has an Jack O' Lantern face on it and they are not all the same.

When you open the box you get a whiff of dark chocolate that grows stronger as you bring a piece to your nose.  The pieces vary in shape and size slightly.  My set averaged around 0.5 inches think and 1.5 inches diagonally across the upper left to the lower right corners.  I can see that the pumpkin face was stamped on because the tops are very flat and a bit melty in look.  Edible inks on chocolates allow you to do these sorts of things.  The chocolate is very smooth to my fingertips.  In this photo to the right you can see that I've bitten one in half and the caramel is very thick.  When I took that bite the first flavor was a dark chocolate quickly follow but a burst of salt that immediately was replaced by a buttery tang of caramel.  The caramel is, indeed, very thick and a touch sticky.  The salt is very subtle while the butteriness of the caramel is the dominant flavor followed by the chocolate itself.  This balance of flavors was pleasantly surprising because often with chocolate covered salted caramels I've found the salt overwhelms both the chocolate and the caramel.  This was not the case so I was very pleased even if the chocolate could have been a touch stronger.

"Trickster Treats" are part gourmet chocolate and part art, you can see that just by looking at them.  The more fine works are probably best for an adult or an adult Halloween party where their art can be appreciated.  The Scare-a-mels are simple and the story is adorable if slightly creepy, just creepy enough to share at a children's Halloween party before you let them have a piece.  While I can tell this is a darker chocolate I think the caramel essence is enough to balance that out for children who tend to not like more bitter flavors.  Those among our volunteers who normally aren't too fan of dark chocolate really liked this.  For craftsmanship and quality, this earns a Sacrament status and is a fine entry into this year's Halloween Treat Challenge.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Popcorn Halloween Tradition Tweaked

Sweet Poppins is a artisan food company right here in Indiana that specializes in chocolate covered caramel corn.  They sent us two varieties for this year's Halloween Treat Challenge: Caramel Apple Cobbler and Chocolate Peanut Butter.  Sweet Poppins may be an Indiana business but they've been hobnobbing with the rich and famous for a while now.  Check out their Media tab to see whose had their popcorn treats.

The Caramel Apple Cobbler came in an 8 ounce bag.  There isn't an ingredient list but Tashia, the lady I've been working with for this holiday at Sweet Poppins, tells me that 95% of the chocolate for these puffy pieces is milk chocolate while 5% is white chocolate to get a more caramel color.  There is definitely a apple cobbler scent as soon as I open the bag.  The pieces crunch a bit but primarily just melt in my mouth.  There is a hint of creaminess to these and a strong tangy sweetness as well with an undercurrent of tart that might be the apple.  Is there chocolate flavor though?  No, not at first, though the creamy taste and the smooth texture are a lot like a very milky chocolate or white chocolate would be.  With each piece though the milk chocolates start to peek through but I'm not sure anyone I gave these to would say "hey this is chocolate popcorn."

The Chocolate Peanut Butter popcorn balls were something Tashia just came up with after making a chocolate peanut butter popcorn cake!  Two are just balls and two are on sticks; either way eat carefully cause they will fall apart as you enjoy them.  The peanut butter fragrance is the principle one I catch as soon as unwrap them but the milk chocolate is also there making me think of peanut butter cups.  These are much less crunch and very sticky, duh, they are popcorn balls, that is in their nature.  The peanut butter flavor is less than the chocolate, an inverse of the scent.  Once more these chocolate covered kernels almost melted in my mouth.

The chocolate covered popcorn from Sweet Poppins is excellent, it beat my expectations.  This earns status as a Sacrament but how about a Halloween treat?  I remember eating popcorn balls at Halloween parties, I even remember getting them for trick or treating from trusted neighbors.  With so much paranoia these days I fear popcorn is limited to the trusted party venue.  For a party these are great, especially in the balls though bags of a range of flavors in bowls would be great, too.  You can find Sweet Poppins standard flavors online but they make seasonal treats and take requests as well as work with charities so contact them if you have an idea you'd like to see made into popcorn.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Captivate Your Guests this Halloween

Our next challenger in this 4th Annual Halloween Treat Challenge is Captivating Confections, Inc., who sent us samples of their fall flavors of toffee and truffles.  While these are not Halloween specific, they tell me that they can easily add in some jimmies of particular colors or you can just have these as is for a more adult Halloween celebration.

Let's start with the truffles, "Carrot Cake Truffles," and let me be blunt: these have a much shorter shelf life than the toffee because these are actually balls of carrot cake covered in white chocolate.  Order these, keep them cool and sealed but make sure you eat them within a week or two for their best flavor and texture.  We don't really have a Cake Acolyte though I'm considering the wisdom of this and wondering what you all think about it, Sisters and Brothers.  So this was tested by a group of five people, one Acolyte and four others, three of whom are carrot cake fans and two of whom never really had it before.  Here is a summary of their collective opinions.  The white chocolate helped hold in the moisture of the cake ball and added a creaminess to it that did not distract from the cake but was able to hold it's own; they could all taste the white chocolate as the first and last flavor.  Some could smell both cinnamon and nutmeg, others only one of the two main spices I could make out on the surface and the inside of the truffles.  That just shows us how varied individual experiences will be with food and drink, doesn't it?  For those familiar with carrot cake, they could indeed tell it was a carrot cake but with a touch more vanilla.  The texture was good though those not familiar with carrot cake found it a bit one-dimensional.  Conclusion: This is a great example of how white chocolate can be used to enhance a good cake even if it is two-bite sized.

Now we'll turn our attention to the two toffees for this Halloween Challenge but looking at "Teri's Spiced Toffee" first.  I'm not sure what spices are included so if you have any spice allergies, stay clear of all of the treats we are looking at today just to be sure.  Same for folks with tree nut allergies, too.  You can see the dark chocolate bottom layer here because I flipped a few pieces over.  The top later is the toffee layer and it has a lot of nuts, I believe walnuts in it.  The smell is very much a mixture of cloves and allspice with perhaps others I can't separate well with my nose; no chocolate scent.  Taking a bite makes a loud snapping sound as the bottom and top layers are firm but not too hard.  Both layers melt in my mouth leaving the crunchy walnuts (yes my eyes were right) and a bit of stickiness from the toffee.  The chocolate fades quickly in terms of flavors but you'll get more of it if you eat it bottom side down.  The buttery toffee and the pecans are the next flavor but a bit of heat from the various spices builds up with each chew.  A unique toffee that does as well as others in terms of chocolate competing with the other flavors.

What are mulled spices?  I have to know that before I can fully render an opinion on the "Mulled Spice Toffee," right?  In general, the spices mulled in either juices or alcohol include allspice, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and dried fruit peels. Sounds very harvest life, right, great for the autumn season. You know what else this has?  Chocolate and it looks like darker chocolate, too, on the top layer as our photograph shows.  This also has walnuts I believe but in the chocolate layer so I can pick one off and confirm it by taste.  The scent is spices all the way but as we saw with the previous that might not reflect the balance of flavors.  These pieces are half toffee bottom with a cracker base and half darker chocolate frosting with the nuts.  The crunch is continuous from the first bite to the last chew.  If you eat with the cracker side down you get more salt and sweet with a good touch of the chocolaty top and a hint of spices.  If you eat from the top down you get less spice, more chocolate that lingers longer but the toffee sweetness, the spice and the salt does come through at the end.   The chocolate essence here is a bit stronger than in the previous variety so I prefer this one more.

Once more Captivating Confections offer us unique twists on the standard chocolate shop fare of truffles and toffee.  While these are great for a more adult age party these probably wouldn't work so well for trick or treaters or a child's party but with all this fear out there, what well-made and handmade treats are?  With these spices these treats are good even through Thanksgiving and the rest of fall I think earning these a Sacrament status for their uniqueness, season long appeal, and small business support of handmade chocolate creations.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Trio of Unjunked Candy

For my birthday this year I didn't get much chocolate and that's fine.  But one friend, Erica, gave me a trio of treats from the new Unjunked line of candies from the UNREAL company.  I've seen these around in our local Kroger and online it looks like there are five varieties they currently put out.  I had three now to try and I want to share them with you all today: peanut butter cup, candy coated chocolates, and candy coated chocolates with peanuts.

These each have a name that is a bit different.  Let's start with the peanut butter cups called UNREAL77. First thing I noticed is that there is no paper wrapper on these, only a paper liner.  These have a very simple, sweet roasted peanut butter and milk chocolate taste to them.  The chocolate is not waxy tasting nor particularly shiny but I think the simpleness is what makes it more fulfilling.  In fact, I start to feel a slight cocoa buzz that I never get from many mainstream peanut butter cups.


Next let's turn to the two candy coated chocolates called UNREAL 54 with peanuts and UNREAL41 without peanuts.

Let's compare these to the mainstream versions of these same candies as well as to each other.  As you can see, the six colors are more muted in tone, the pieces are about the same or slightly smaller than other candies of a similar type.  However there is an unpleasant aftertaste to the 41 pack, an overly strong sweetness that lingers that is overwhelmed by the whole peanuts in the 54 pack.

Have you tried the Unjunked candies from UNREAL?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

5th Annual Chocolate Walk Reminder 3

About one month from our big Pilgrimage of the year, Sisters and Brothers.

There are several ways to get your tickets and help this amazing humane society that always has an out alive rate in the high 90% range.  Online or call 812-327-3016 OR purchase at the Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau (10 N. Van Buren St ), the Brown County Art Gallery (Artist Dr and Main St) or the Humane Society (128 S SR135).

Contact me if you are in the Bloomington Indiana area and want to join The Chocolate Cult on this Pilgrimage.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Peanut Butter Recalls Fall 2012

Notice: The link below is being updated, the newest update on October 21, 2012.  Keep checking so you are aware of the additions to this list that is growing and growing.  Every Sunday I'll check and send a new notice on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter to remind you all, Sisters and Brothers, to keep on top of this.

Have you heard about the tainted peanut butter?  No, well, you might want to look into that because it is affecting a lot of products including chocolate creations using peanut butter.

To make a list of these products for you all would be pages and pages of materials.

So my best advice at this time is that if you have purchased any products that use peanut butter you want to check out this announcement from the FDA.

The list includes the Target brand Archer Farms, Harry and David products, Natural Valley products, and many peanut butters themselves.  There are well over 250 total recalled products at this time.

PLEASE go check the list yourself and be aware of any updates.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Indonesian Chocolate Drink

Sisters and Brothers, today is our first feature for the 2012 Halloween Treat Challenge but it today is also special because it marks the first Asian chocolate company or product we have featured on The Chocolate Cult.  Grek brings our geographical range now to four continents with North America, South America, Europe, and Asia with numerous countries.  I need to find a map to make for you all so you can see how wide our current reach is and how far we have left to go before we can really say we are exploring and sharing chocolate worldwide.  Grek Chocolate and Coffee had a website but that seems to have disappeared, a bit disconcerting because we'll we've seen businesses fail within a year or two of featuring them, to have one disappear within two weeks of a sample arriving is very odd.  They do have a Facebook presence you may check out but it doesn't seem to have much information.  If they ever reclaim their website or their representative gets back to me, I'll update this information for you all.

A chocolate drink, of course, should be tested as the creator intended but here we run into a little problem: the directions are very simple on the boxes, a bit too simple, but at least they are in English.  I'm going to show you the difference between the Black and Spanish varieties in the mix itself and then again once it is a hot beverage before I describe the full sensory experience of drinking it.  To the left you see the ingredients you need: the Greek cocoa plus sugar (left container) and powdered milk (right container) and of course water but do I really need to show you all that?  The directions are an odd mixture of metric and American with 1 T sugar, 1 T powdered milk, and 2 T cocoa mix all blended together with 200 ml of hot water.

Let's compare the unmixed cocoa itself.  Here you can see on the left the Spanish and on the right the Black variety.  It is clear that the Black is indeed darker than the Spanish but I hope you can also see white mixed in with both.  The ingredient list only says "chocolate creamer foam" so is the white dried creamer?  I don't know so if you have any food allergies that you need to be cautious with around chocolate, you'd want to avoid this or at least be very careful with it.  Did this color difference survive the transformation into a hot beverage?

No, it didn't.  As you can see the two cups (left is Black, right is Spanish) are basically the same in color.  Any difference has been masked by either the liquid or by the added dry ingredients.  Both have a strong cocoa scent to them and both clumped up a good deal, I had to break up the clumps and work them but eventually they did melt or get worked in.  Surprisingly I didn't need to keep stirring to keep the liquid and cocoa mixed well and I can't even say that about most of the American, Canadian, or European cocoas we've featured here over the past three years.

Since I suspect the Spanish variety is less cacao content, I'm going to start with it in terms of drinking.  It has a very smooth taste, not overly sweet or bitter, the recommended ingredients were perfectly balanced for my mouth.  There is a slightly earthy aftertaste that reminds me of single origin chocolate bars.  The Black variety has a more bitter and deeper cocoa scent even if it looks identical in the cups.  The taste is definitely more bitter and has an almost coffee like edge to it with a cocoa aftertaste that reminds me of 75% or higher chocolate bars.  If you are used to strong cocoa or coffee, go for the Black but if you like a creamier hot chocolate then select the Spanish version.

Hot chocolate isn't a great trick or treating idea, is it?  If the parents of all those kids showing up at your door don't want you to hand out apples, imagine how much less they want their kids sipping something you hand them.  There is also nothing particularly Halloween about this product but the company wanted to submit it to our Challenge.  You could use it for a Halloween party with either kids, adults, or both but making large quantities of hot beverages can be a bit tricky.  Instead this is more a small group or individual drink that you could have in place of coffee.

Indonesia is one of the major producers of cocoa beans in the world, ranking number two in the latest 2012 numbers I could find. (1)  Currently they are quickly approaching the 20% mark for world cacao growth and this makes their products and their farming techniques important to us all.  Encouraging local Indonesians to use their own cocoa beans and create their products for sale locally, regionally, and internationally could have two effects. They may choose to follow the old European model that didn't care very much about how the cocoa was grown only that it got into consumers hands.  They might choose a more sustainable route that environmental and workers rights group are promoting.  Which way they go will in large part be decided by you and I as consumers, Sisters and Brothers.

1: The Top 5 Cocoa Bean Producing Countries

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