Saturday, November 8, 2014

5 Huge Chocolate Bars with a Conscious for the Holidays

I'm sure that many of you will be making treats between now and the end of 2014 for various holidays.  I'm sure many of you will be using chocolate so let's look at some of the different chocolate bars from Equal Exchange that you could just enjoy as it. Please note that 2.5 servings make up each bar. I'm focusing on the bars that I had help testing for these feature since I just made a halloween themed treat with Equal Exchange in October.  I received so many bars that we will only look at a few today and then more in 2015. Today we'll look at those bars that I turned over to an Acolyte or which had tree nuts: Organic Dark Chocolate with Coconut, Chocolate Espresso Bean, Milk Chocolate with a Hint of Hazelnut, Dark Chocolate with Almonds, and Dark Chocolate with Raspberry.

We'll start with the Organic Dark Chocolate with Coconut Bar that our Coconut Acolyte tested for us; her words are in italics and the photo was taken by her. The first thing I notice is that this bar has a two-piece wrapper.  The outer wrapper not only tells you what it is, but if you look on the inside, it also gives you more information about Equal Exchange and where some of the ingredients come from.  (Note: all of the wrappers on Equal Exchange Products include similar information) It also gives you a suggested pairing with one of their coffees.  I’m not a coffee fan but if I were, I’d definitely want to try the two together. The bar breaks in half easily and with a snap. The chocolate scent is subtle and not really detectable until I get it close to my nose.  Sadly, I don’t smell the coconut at all. As is my habit, I let the first bite melt on my tongue. The chocolate is smooth in texture and definitely a darker more alkaline flavor. It’s slightly sweet, just enough to provide a balance with the darker flavors but doesn’t try to completely mask it.  Almost instantly the chocolate melts away and reveal lots and lots of toasted coconut. In this type of confection, I prefer the toasted coconut because it adds such a nice textural counterpoint to the creamy chocolate. It also brings out the coconut flavor and when the bite  is down to just enough chocolate to hold the coconut together. then the coconut flavor is outstanding.  Sweet and yet slightly nutty.  It’s nice to to see that they take just as much care with their coconut as they do their chocolate. The second (sample) I immediately start to chew. Mashing (both samples) together the chocolate is further sweetened by the coconut but that does tend to mask the coconut’s flavor and in this case, it’s there just as a textural counterpoint. While I can’t say this is the best chocolate and coconut bar I’ve had, it’s definitely worth space in my pantry.

Speaking of coffee let's look at the coffee variety of their bars, the Chocolate Espresso Bean made with 55% cacao in a brown-tone wrapper. As soon as I unwrapped it for the testers there was a strong coffee fragrance so let's see how the testers felt this did in terms of their other senses. A really good espresso smell, not really chocolaty.  Hard to break into pieces but melts quickly in his fingers.  Lots of crushed beans with a variety of textures, makes audible crunching sounds. The flavor is very balanced -- first the coffee then the chocolate -- resulting in a very mocha coffee drink.  Very much what I expect from an espresso coffee chocolate bar. Definitely for coffee lovers because this lives up to its name.

The Milk Chocolate with a Hint of Hazelnut has 38% cacao is covered in a two-tone blue wrapper. When I bring it to my nose I get that hazelnut and cocoa scent and a light reddish tone to the chocolate.  The chocolate is cool and a little soft when I break off a few pieces to try.  The first bite reveals an immediate roasted hazelnut, chocolate, creaminess, and that unique sweetness I associate with Equal Exchange.  Letting a piece melt in my mouth spreads out the hazelnut and cocoa flavor as well as decreasing the sweetness and allowing the creaminess to built up in my mouth.  Personally I really loved letting the pieces melt in my mouth slowly most but how did the others who helped me test it enjoy this bar?

The Dark Chocolate with Almonds bar has 55% cacao and comes in a buttercup yellow wrapper. The back of the bar has large pieces of almonds showing just under the chocolate but not a almond scent, only a dark cocoa fragrance. This is a harder bar, it takes a bit of effort to break the pieces off and with each snap more of the dark chocolate scent is released.  After taking a bite the first flavor is dark chocolate, then the sweetness, and the earthy almonds before returning to the sweetness and finally the dark cocoa essence.  This isn't the sort of chocolate bar you can let melt in your mouth so you need to chew it.  In this case I didn't really like the sweetness with the dark chocolate, I thought it tasted a bit sour but what did others who helped me test think?

Finally the Dark Chocolate with Raspberry bar is 60% cacao and has a raspberry colored wrapper.  Our Fruit Acolyte tried this one out while I asked questions and took notes so the feedback is hers with specific wording in italics.  The bar is hard to break and makes a loud snap; as you can see in the photo it was difficult to get it to break into the pieces laid out for you on each bar.  The initial flavor is just dark chocolate, not sweet and not buttery then the tart raspberry bursts out as you chew.  The raspberries are crunchy, dry, with seeds, too, but good; sometimes chocolate with raspberry seeds are very annoying but this one was not.  You can see the pieces of raspberry in the photo as well. Letting a piece melt in your mouth actually increases the raspberry flavor and blends the dark chocolate and raspberry better than just chewing but then you also feel more seeds. Rene declared it very good for raspberry lovers who like them tart not sweet.

More thoughtfully created chocolates from Equal Exchange to for you to consider this 2014 Winter Holiday season.  Their thoughtfulness is not just in the chocolate, how they treat farmers, or the ingredients but also the wrappers themselves are biodegradable and come from sustainable tree farming only. With all of this in mind we can say that these five bars earned Sacrament Status.

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