Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Trio of Darkness from Equal Exchange

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I want to look at three bars from Equal Exchange Chocolate that all come from Central and South American countries of Panama, Ecuador, and Peru.  Yes, yes, I know that Cinco de Mayo is really a very Mexican holiday but in the USA we tend to celebrate all south of the borders things. If you will recall, Equal Exchange focuses on fair trade, working with small farmers whom we learn about on their wrappers, and organic practices. These three bars are also certified Kosher as well. They are simple chocolate bars without additives -- organic chocolate liquor, organic raw cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, and organic vanilla beans not even a lecithin. We'll examine these bars in ascending order of cacao content from 65-80%.

We begin our journey of dark chocolate in South America with the west coast nation of Ecuador in this Dark Single Origin Chocolate at 65% cacao. This has a deep cocoa scent but also hints of nuts and sweetness that remind me of a floral fragrance.It makes a very loud snap when I take a bite and the first flavor I get is a surprisingly creamy chocolate with light sweetness that stays very level with each chew. I put another section in my mouth to melt and as it slowly does so I note that the cocoa and sweet flavors blend together even more. So it really is up to you -- want sharper difference between the flavors, chew it; want a thorough blend, let it melt in your mouth.

Next we move further along the South American west coast and the nation of Peru where the biographical focus on the wrapper discusses the Cacvra Co-op there.  This is the Very Dark Chocolate bar with 71% cacao content. The fragrance is so very intense that it borders on coffee-like yet all three of these bars are identical in terms of color.  Perhaps it is just me but the sections feel more difficult to break apart. I get a few broken off then and take a bite and am shocked to find it softer and less noisy than the previous bar. At first there is no flavor and then a burst of dark cocoa and intense sweetness that blend into a slightly coffee-like flavor that the scent suggested. Letting the second piece just melt in my mouth really tones down the intensity of the flavors, smoothing them out and blending them together but this is still clearly darker than the previous bar. Again it is a matter of what you want -- more intensity of flavors means chewing it but a blended dark chocolate will result from melting it in your mouth.

Finally we head a bit normal into the southern tip of Central America for the Panama Extra Dark Single Origin Chocolate bar that has 80% cacao content; don't be afraid, I'll walk you through my sensory experience. This has another strong cocoa scent but a hint of a deep, earthy fruit essence as well to my nose. This is as difficult to break into sections as the previous bar even though it is 9% darker. A bite makes a sharp crack sound and I get a bit of sweetness immediately followed by a dark cocoa that builds with each chew; for me personally, that is ideal for dark chocolate. But let's see what letting it in mouth changes about the flavor. The sweet kick at the start is replaced by a soften dark essence that remains very balanced as it continues to melt; if darker chocolate is a bit scary to you, try letting the pieces of this melt in your mouth first before chewing it.

Our final big chocolate bars from Equal Exchange have now been revealed, Sisters and Brothers.  The balance of the organic cane sugar and the darker chocolate was excellent but you have to like dark chocolate. Their social and economic policies are just a bonus for these Sacrament worthy bars. Buying from Equal Exchange isn't celebrating Cinco de Mayo with money and your mouth but supporting a company that cares about the farmers. And that, Sisters and Brothers, wrapped up our journey exploring the chocolate options from Equal Exchange. So now after everything we have revealed to you in around a dozen posts, which Equal Exchange chocolate have you tried?  Where you do find it?

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