Category Archives: Fair Trade Chocolate

Seed and Bean Chocolate

The older I get the more I appreciate something different, as long as it’s not different for different’s sake. When it comes to chocolate, that might be a particularly fabulous bean, a new flavor combination, or just a novel take on a classic. So, smoked Cornish sea salt in a 70% bar, or coconut and raspberry intrigue me.

Seed and Bean is based in Britain and devoted to producing an organic, Fair Trade, handmade chocolate range using beans from four areas: the ‎two volcanic islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic.

I sampled five of their dark bars:

70% with Cornish Sea Salt is a very silky chocolate from Nacional cacao enhanced with a hint of smoked salt. It sated my chocolate craving with its lingering briny edge, and micro-crystals of subtle crunch. A truly excellent bar. The more I ate of this delectable bar the more I loved it.

72% Extra Dark from Dominican Trinitario beans is a deep, layered experience of dark fruit flavors in a very smooth, slowly melting bar.

58% Just Ginger is made from the same bean with the addition of spicy ginger. Here, though, the ginger is not crystalized, but powdered. This allows it to fully infiltrate every bite, adding just the right amount of heat and complexity to a sweeter, creamier chocolate.

72% Chili and Lime is fetchingly hot and citrusy. Not scorchingly hot, but hot enough to grab your attention without making you suffer. The beans are Dominican Trinitarios.

66% Coconut and Raspberry uses São Tomé cacao, a touch of virgin coconut oil, raspberries, and raw cane sugar to create an easy-to scarf-down chocolate. The coconut oil adds just a hint of flavor while complementing the raspberries and velvetizing the texture.

Seed and Bean currently offers 18 different bars, including milk and white options. You can order from outside the U.K. by contacting them on their website. (All the companies I have reviewed are linked on the right side of this page.)

Mystery Chocolate Box

Mystery Chocolate Box is the brainchild of Peter Messmer. When Peter was growing up, his family had a tradition where one of them would buy a bunch of chocolate bars, remove the outer label, and try to guess what was in each bar. Then, they read out their guesses and the person who brought the chocolates revealed the answers. They found the guessing and the eating a ton of fun, not to mention having a great time together as a family.

Peter and his family found out how different it was to taste what was in a chocolate bar once they already knew the ingredients, from trying to blindly figure out add-ins without any clues. As someone who eats chocolate daily, I can attest to his assertion.

If you aren’t already intrigued and need a bit more incentive, you can win a prize if you guess correctly on their website within a specified amount of time.

The three large bars (each monthly delivery including shipping is $30) arrived in perfect condition with ice packs. Each was labeled Mystery Bar A, B, or C. There was a guessing card, and information on allergies. I have decided not to post my guesses, just in case you are interested in procuring your own Mystery Chocolate Box. Suffice it to say, I am not even 100% sure I guessed correctly, and that’s even after visiting the three websites the bars came from (two of the names were printed on the bars themselves, while for the third nameless one, I did a little sleuthing).

Peter focuses on this as a family activity, which is a great way to do something different and fun with the kids. I can think of plenty of teens, and adults who would love it, too. It could also be a great fund-raiser for your favorite charity if done in small groups.

Barefoot & Chocolate

Is there really anyone who doesn’t like Nutella? I must admit I don’t usually indulge my cravings because it’s like chocolate crack and all too easy to overdo. But, my real reason for not eating it is the hydrogenated oils. Barefoot & Chocolate, whose name derives from the Sasha and Trent’s images of “jumping in the lake on a hot summer day, bliss inducing yoga, and sharing laughs with dear friends over good food and chocolate,” makes a Hazelnut Chocolate spread that is even more delicious with no hydrogenated oils.

The texture is dreamily creamy, the flavor a great juxtaposition of chocolate, nuts, and sweetness. (Over twice the amount of nuts in other spreads.) I can’t imagine a child who wouldn’t be just crazy about this. As an adult, it appealed to my inner kid. I don’t know about you, but when I get a new toy I like to experiment. I started imagining well-toasted English muffins with some gorgonzola and hazelnut chocolate spread, crepes with fruit and hazelnut chocolate spread, filling little chocolate liqueur cups garnished with a caramelized hazelnut, as the center of mini chocolate meringues topped with raspberries, or swirled into Greek yogurt. This jar is just brimming with possibilities. Trent, one of the founders, has some incredibly delectable recipes on their website, like: Chocolate Quesadillas, Chocolate Hazelnut Pumpkin Pie, and Banana Coconut Chocolate Almond Bread.

I also tried their Almond Coconut Chocolate spread, which was completely different. The consistency is still creamy, but thicker, and the coconut has been completely amalgamated into its luxuriously velvety texture. I found the chocolate almond flavors predominated with the coconut adding a subtle undertones. It’s a tiny bit less sweet and would be fabulous on whole grain toast with thin slices of crisp apple or barely ripe banana, sprinkled with a few grains of sea salt.

Desiderio Chocolates

Artisan, gluten free, organic, local, fair-traded, and vegan chocolates from a great new chocolatier in Grand Rapids, Michigan: Vanessa Metalli Dionne.

Vanessa grew up in Rome, studied Industrial Design, and apprenticed at her parent’s Italian restaurant making desserts and breads. That’s the kind of credibility I find appealing: the interplay between modern with ancient, and discipline with creativity. All of which allows Vanessa to explore every aspect of the chocolate kingdom that piques her interest.

Her sleek looking chocolates, pure little rectangular bars or square caramels presented in the simplest wrappings, beguile you with their unadorned clean lines. Vanessa wants the focus on her delicious treats, not their trappings.

I sampled four small bars from her collection and the Salted Caramels. All are enrobed in a well-balanced dark couverture, and sport two layers: an infused ganache with a topping of gooey caramel. There is no discernible olive oil or coconut milk flavor, though their richness is easily detected.

Whiskey & Smoked Caramel Bar has a marked whiskey taste offset beautifully with textural interest from both the ganache and caramel. Of the four bars, this one has the most pronounced alcohol flavor.

Stout Caramel Ganache is simply divine, as its beery presence mixes with a hint of whiskey. Little bursts of Celtic Grey Sea Salt sprinkled on top provide a perfect gustatory counterpoint to the velvety interior.

Gourmellow :: Vegan Marshmallow Bar has a heaping layer of home made super-fluffy marshmallow on top of that incredibly chocolatey ganache.

Pumpkin Pie Caramel Truffle is a real gem. Redolent of pumpkin, spices, caramel, with a taste that bursts out of its chocolate confines, a truly memorable treat.

Salted Caramels :: Vegan Caramella with Himalayan pink sea salt is a rich dessert in two bites. Fabulous with tea or espresso, they come in a box of six and would make a great stocking stuffer.

Alter Eco Truffles

Alter Eco, the company that insists on organically grown Fair Trade beans and sustainable farming practices, has two new truffles for you to enjoy. Both are infused with coconut oil, which makes them healthy and delicious. (If you are unfamiliar with the health benefits of coconut oil, please see this link: http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/surprising-health-benefits-coconut-oil.)

I adored the Black Truffles. Enrobed in a dark couverture, their lighter colored creamy interior is not too sweet, yet deeply satisfying. They make a great two-bite dessert with some herbal tea or a cappuccino. If you are a fan of milk chocolate the dark milk Velvet Truffles are even richer and a tad sweeter. They sport a more traditional milk chocolate color and their flavor is super milky. Both varieties have that irresistible silky texture.

If you love Lindt truffle balls but crave something healthier, these two options fit the bill. In addition, they are packaged prettily and would make a great gift.

Dante Confections: 98% Organic Stevia sweetened bars, Turtles, and Truffles

It is unusual to find both traditional and organic high intensity chocolates under one roof, but Dante Confections straddles these two often disparate areas. Their handmade truffles are lovely little domes of shiny, well-tempered white, milk or dark chocolate encasing ultra rich, smooth ganache centers infused with 25 different flavors. From liquors, to fruits, to eggnog, to peanut butter, and mint, there is something for everyone. They come in petite and large sizes. I found the petite version offered up a few bites of snappily textured chocolate against velvety centers. The flavors are on the mild side, so if you are someone who loves a hint of Grand Marnier, for example, and doesn’t want an alcohol wallop, these would be perfect.

In addition, I sampled their milk and dark chocolate Turtles, also available in white chocolate. Every chocolatier seems to have their own rendition of these classic treats. Dante’s are huge 2″ rounds with thick layers of chocolate encasing a super chewy caramel. The very fresh and crunchy nuts, either pecans, cashews, or almonds, are embedded at the edges. The whole experience is quite decadent: über-chocolatey, with a very satisfyingly caramel presence, and enough whole, roasted nuts to keep you coming back for another bite.

On the other end of the spectrum are Dante’s 98% chocolate bars sweetened with stevia. There is the traditional bar, and a Fair Trade, organic variety. Both would surely sate anyone’s craving for the densest chocolate experience this side of a roasted cacao bean. While not for the faint of heart, their flavor profile is almost hard to discern because the intensity just blows your taste buds away. A friend of mine was crazy about them. He loved the thick texture, super slow melt, and lack of sugar. Stevia adds some sweetness, but it definitely doesn’t make these bars sweet. To my surprise, I actually found the original rendition a bit gentler on my palate. It is interesting to note that one bar, 45 grams, gives you 70% of your daily requirement for iron, 7 grams of fiber, and 7 grams of protein. Both of these 98% extreme chocolate bars provide one of the strongest, most concentrated chocolate experiences out there. If you are looking for a wild gustatory ride, this is it.

You can buy the bars from Dante’s website, on the right side of this page, or on Amazon.

Ethereal Confections

The dictionary lists celestial, heavenly, and spiritual as synonyms for ethereal. Delighting in chocolate’s gifts can bring spiritual joy, and a heavenly sense of bliss; so, I can see how sisters-in-law Sara and Mary Ervin chose Ethereal for their chocolate’s brand name. At the same time, chocolate is a very grounding substance. As a matter of fact, I would actually suggest eating a piece can root you in the moment as well as a Zen koan. All that notwithstanding, Ethereal’s chocolates are divine.

The packaging is just as appetizing as the chocolate. Whether it is the cellophane windowed sleeve that shows off strawberries, rose petals, and pink peppercorns in one of their Artisan Dark Chocolate Bars, or the beautifully painted cardboard wrapping of their Meltaway bars, the attention to detail and aesthetics is obvious before your first bite.

I sampled three of their offerings, starting with a French Vanilla & Salted Almond Meltaway bar. This looks like a flat, scored 66% dark chocolate bar, but it is far from your typical experience. Inside is a celestial, silky firm mousse of roasted almond olive oil, vanilla balsamic vinegar, organic coconut oil, sea salt, and organic chocolate. While that combination may sound more spacey than the Wrath of Khan, it works incredibly well. The beautifully tempered dark chocolate shell melts into the velvety center as all the flavors coalesce, each working seamlessly with its partner for a riveting effect.

Their 66% Artisan Dark Bar with Strawberries, Rose Petals, and Pink Peppercorns is a joy to behold, and a completely different experience from the Meltaway bar. Here, each ingredient holds its own, yet overlaps with the others like a gustatory Venn diagram. I loved the punch from the peppercorns, the tart sweetness of organic freeze dried–yet still soft–strawberries, amped up with floral notes from the rose petals.

After tasting these bars I immediately went to their website and ordered a variety of other treats.

My last Ethereal exploration was their Peanut Butter Nom Noms (1.25 ounces), which provided an intense hit of peanut butter, dark chocolate, and sea salt. Think of a bon bon with a fairly firm center enrobed in glossy, crisp chocolate, with a sprinkle of sassy, crunchy salt crystals on top.

If you derive joy from perusing chocolate websites that cater to people with somewhat jaded palates, I would strongly suggest you meander around Ethereal’s. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though, Sara and Mary’s creative combinations may have you reaching for your Visa card.