Saturday, September 17, 2016

Lake Champlain Chocolates Go Organic

September 22nd is Organic Food Day so let's look at an organic variety from one of the bigger names in chocolate in the USA, Lake Champlain. These three organic bars from Lake Champlain are more than plain chocolate, they have added ingredients that we'll look at in depth for each variety. Each bar is 2-3 servings so you can easily share these if you want to, you might not want to. I got these three bars free from Lake Champlain Chocolates through a Foodieblogroll program; I was not otherwise compensated for this review.

The organic bars vary in terms of amount of cocoa content and the added flavor ingredients but all three are certified organic by QAL, Fair for Life Fair Trade certified by IMO, Kosher Dairy, and USDA Organic certified. We'll look at each of these bars one at time and I'll highlight what is the most different for each one. Note that when I say X% cocoa I am not mistyping, this is what the labels all say themselves. The nutritional details vary quite a bit but I'm going to focus on calories and serving sizes which I found very interesting. Read the labels yourself before buying if you have concerns about specific nutritional information.

We'll start with the salted caramel bar that is 60% fair trade ingredients and has 57% cocoa content. This is the largest bar at 3.25 oz but don't be fooled by the nutritional information on the back. This bar is three servings at 160 calories each so the entire bar is 480 calories. The biggest challenge to this nutritional information is the fact that the bar is etched and designed as 8 individual squares... 8 doesn't divide easily by 3, folks! This has a roasted cocoa scent to it but not a caramel tang nor sweetness and no salt fragrance. the individual squares required a bit of effort to break apart. Two of the squares were a bit sticky on the top so I plan to test those two and expect some caramel inside the dome shaped square. Yes, I was right, there is a pool of soft, slightly sweet caramel right under the dome which cracks open easily when I take a bite while the bottom makes a loud snap because it is much thicker. The caramel and a light hint of salt gives the chocolate a very smooth quality but then I don't think of 57% as all that dark though milk chocolate lovers might worry about that. Don't worry, unless you only love white chocolate, you may like this.

The spicy aztec bar also has 57% cocoa and 93% of the ingredients are fair trade. This is a 3 oz bar and the nutritional label says it has 230 calories per serving with 2 servings per bar for a total of 460 calories, that's 20 calories less than the first bar in the feature. The most surprising aspect of this bar is not the spices but the presence of pumpkin seeds... of all of the discussions of Aztec chocolate, I've not heard that they added seeds to it. Pumpkin was very popular for Aztec and all Mesoamerican cultures but that doesn't mean they had to put it in their chocolate or that they didn't. Given that they consumed chocolate as a hot spicy drink, it seems unlikely but back to the bar. The spicy scent and the dark chocolate is released when I break the bar into individual squares. The pumpkin seeds look to range from large to small pieces and aren't as numerous as in the almonds and sea salt bar we'll look at next, you can take a bite and get no pumpkin at all. Taking a bite makes a loud snap and the seeds are crunchy when I encounter one. At first there is a smooth slightly dark chocolate but very quickly the cayenne pepper and cinnamon build up with each chew and within half a square I've broken into a bit of a spice sweat! The pumpkin seeds didn't really add much in terms of flavor but were a change in texture. I liked it but it was very easy for me to only each one square before I needed a lot of water.

The highest cacao content bar is the almonds and sea salt which comes in at 72% cocoa and 90% fair trade ingredients. This is also a 3 oz bar with two servings but this time with 240 calories per for a total of 480 calories just like the first bar. I break the bar into pieces and more of the dark chocolate fragrance escapes with a hint of salt riding the edge. I can see the pieces of almonds within a dark, nearly black bar. The bars makes a loud snap which I break it apart but it breaks easily. Taking a bite makes a loud snap and there is an audible crunch whenever I encounter an almond piece. I want to say that the chocolate is bitter or smooth and that the almonds are roasted or not but I can't because the first and strongest taste is salt, salt, and more salt; I needed a lot of water and to rinse my mouth out after this just one square. This is deeply disappointing for a dark chocolate lover like me. Cut the sea salt amount at least in half please!

These are only 3 of the 24 organic chocolate bars you can find on Lake Champlain Chocolates' website. Perhaps in the future we'll be able to test and write about other flavors they offer. Until then, check out these bars while you're planning for your winter holidays. If you have had any of these bars, leave us and the brand a comment below to let us know what you thought.

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