Category Archives: ethically sourced chocolate

Moka Origins Chocolate

I wanted to share Moka Origins mission statement: “To create employment, heal the environment and reinvent the way consumers shop for chocolate and coffee. We strive for the betterment of farmers and their families around the world. By maintaining and investing into our own farm in Cameroon, and by uniting with farming partners around the world, we generate real social change.” I am 100% behind those values, which seem to be part of a larger trend in the craft chocolate bar community, and a welcome one. Of course, it helps when the chocolate is as delicious as these bars from Moka Origins. If you’re more deeply interested in their social impact you can view a beautiful short description here: https://mokaorigins.com/pages/social-impact.

I sampled eight of their 3.5 ounce bars. New varieties appear regularly and can sell out quickly, like the Strawberry White Chocolate. I’m reviewing it anyway, just in case it comes back into rotation, or they offer another white chocolate bar. Typically, I avoid white chocolate and think of it as an oxymoron. Luckily, I like to be wrong. This pretty pink bar was studded with cocoa nibs adding a surprisingly wonderful and unexpected texture that riffed off the uber-creaminess of the strawberry infused chocolate.

The Toffee Almond Chocolate (70%) made with Camino Verde beans from Equador, was another revelation. I expected something cloyingly sweet. What I got was an extraordinarily complex experience of flavors, textures, and aromas all in a visually enticing bar. The topping was a tad sticky, but it appealed to the three year old inside me. The chocolate was beautifully tempered with a glossy finish and nice snap. This was the most adult rendition of these flavors I could imagine…actually, it was beyond my imaginings and quite crave worthy. Despite that, it’s not addictive. Two squares truly sated my desire.

Another stunner was their Cherry Chocolate (72%) with Zorzal Cacao from the Dominican Republic. The earthy, satisfying almost-heavy tasting chocolate was a perfect partner to sweet, slightly acidic chewy dried cherries. The more I ate this, the more aware I became of the cherry undertones in the chocolate itself.

Lemon Ginger (73%) with Brazilian beans, was an incredible combination of textures, tastes, and visual beauty. Also a tad sticky, like the Toffee Almond bar, it was generously strewn with bits of chewy ginger and lemon. Again, I was thrilled with the overall sweetness level of this bar as it was clearly made for people who don’t want a sugar rush. Both this bar and the Toffee rendition are amazingly desserty and feel like a huge treat.

Their 72% plain dark bar from Brazilian beans is rich, dense with chocolate flavor and has a slightly dry finish. It also comes in a rendition with blueberries adding some extra acidity and chewiness from the fresh tasting dried fruit.

Even though it has the same 72% cacao content as the Brazilian beans, the Sea Salt tastes very different. The salt is imbedded on the surface of the chocolate, which looks lovely, and adds a slight crunch, while making the bar more complex and astringent.

Last but not least, is their 70% Espresso with Camino Verde beans from Ecuador. Finely ground coffee, from Moka Origins, is sprinkled generously across the surface of the bar adding both textural interest and a hint of caffeine.

I enjoyed the whole range, though the standouts were the Toffee, Lemon Ginger, Cherry, and White Chocolate with Strawberry and Nibs.

They offer a chocolate of the month club where you can get two bars for $20 including shipping.

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Gallette Chocolates

Gallette Chocolates was founded in São Paulo, Brazil by electrical engineer Gislaine Gallette. Her attention to detail, ethical sourcing, and sustainable business practices are all evident in the chocolate bars and truffles she crafts.

Each of the well tempered 100 gram bars are molded into a beautiful modernist design of 21 squares with bas relief edges.

40% Milk with Almonds scattered on the bottom is made with Trinitarian beans from Brazil. The chocolate itself is rich, creamy and velvety. You can also buy this in a plain version.

56% Dark Milk, also made with Trinitarian beans from Brazil, is a more adult version of the 40% Milk bar. A great choice for people who want a smooth dark bar without any acidity and plenty of plummy fruit flavor.

65% Fazenda Catongo is a satisfying deeply flavored bar with a slightly dry finish.

70% Forestero from the Amazon is the most complex of those I sampled. It has an earthy, chocolate flavor with a lovely smooth texture.

Elegant packaging makes this chocolate a wonderful gift.

Goodnow Farms Chocolate

I must confess, when I look back on my life and whatever joys I’ve been lucky enough to have savored, chocolate is among them. While it doesn’t compare to motherhood or connecting deeply with a loved one, it’s far more reliable. I know, because I have been eating dark chocolate for decades. It has been with me through thick and thin, a gustatory anchor in a constantly ebbing and flowing world.

These days, you can find very good chocolate pretty easily. Excellent, even exquisite, chocolate is less ubiquitous.

As one’s palate gets increasingly educated it becomes ever more exciting to discover new chocolates with their different flavor profiles and unique characteristics.

Goodnow Farms Chocolate has a range to please all your chocolate proclivities while broadening your discernment of subtle differences between percentages and beans.

I usually don’t quote from people’s websites, but the descriptions by owners Tom and Monica Rogan are so evocative I am going to include some. Let’s start with the farmers who grow the Asochivite bean.

“The remote Guatemalan village of San Juan Chivite is perched on the side of a mountain, reachable only by foot. Part of the journey requires crossing a long, narrow wooden and steel cable footbridge across which all harvested cacao is carried by hand.

At the start of the Guatemalan civil war the village was part of a coffee farm, but when coffee prices declined the owner sold the farm and the land ended up in the hands of 64 indigenous Maya families who had been displaced by the war. They began by growing both coffee and cacao but switched entirely to cacao in 2002.

There are now 125 families living in San Juan Chivite, all of whom are descendants of the original 64 families.

When we first visited the village in 2015 the villagers told us one of their most pressing needs was to replace their old and inadequate fermentation and drying area with a new facility that would allow them to improve their post harvest capabilities. We were impressed with the villagers’ commitment to producing high quality cacao and Goodnow Farms agreed to fund the construction of a new fermentation and drying area. The villagers built the new facility themselves, with technical advice from Cacao Verapaz, and began using it for the 2016 harvest.”

The Asochivite 70% bar with maple sugar has only one more gram of sugar than it’s sibling, Asochivite 77%, yet that extra gram, as well as the slightly lower cacao percentage, gives it a beautifully rounded taste. In contrast, the higher chocolate intensity of the 77% lights up the bean’s fruitiness, slight acidity and long finish. I loved both.

The El Carmen bean hails from a Nicaragua farm just outside the town of Matagalpa in Nicaragua’s Central Highlands about an hour’s drive northeast from Matagalpa.

I tasted both bars made with El Carmen beans: the 77% and a 69% with finely ground coffee. The former delivered a real taste of the Nicaraguan terroir without being too earthy. The luxurious, silky texture (something highlighted by the thinness of all their bars) carried notes of dark fruit and raisin to my deliriously happy taste buds. The bar with coffee seamlessly matched the chocolate’s richness with single origin lightly roasted coffee (also sourced from Nicaragua). Sheer delight for those of you who love mocha.

Their Esmeraldas 70% comes from the Salazar farm in Southern Ecuador. The bean is a hybrid of the now-famous Nacional, known for its mellow, fruity flavor. One of the most satisfying chocolate experiences you could ever hope to have. Not surprisingly, it won a Good Food award in 2018.

The 70% Ucayali bar comes from an area at the headwaters of the Amazon in Peru. The beans are sourced from small cocoa farms whose trees line the river’s banks.

I thought this was worth noting: “The Ucayali region is on Peru’s east coast and has long been known for growing coca. While many farmers there once grew coca they have increasingly been turning to fine flavor cacao as an alternative. Part of the reason for this change is the increased price that craft makers like us are paying for premium cacao, and another is an initiative being undertaken by the Peruvian government to eradicate coca crops and thereby reduce the endemic crime it brings.”

The Ocayali bar is beautifully tempered, as are all Goodnow Farms’chocolates I sampled, I was struck by the way its sweeter, fruity presence was punctuated by herbal and slightly acidic notes. Complex and very satisfying.

Almendra Blanca bars, a 60% with almonds and a 77%, look like milk chocolate at first glance, but they aren’t. It’s the lighter color of the “White Almond” beans that threw me off for a second. Tom and Monica give these beans a short, gentle roast which allows the naturally bright, fruity flavor to shine.

The beans are sourced from an 80-year-old family farm in the Mexican state of Tabasco run by Vicente Alberto Gutierrez Cacep. He strongly supports community initiatives and local businesses, including those owned by women.

The Almond bar is creamy, rich, and slightly crunchy as the nuts are finely ground and evenly infiltrate the chocolate. The 77% bar is also velvety, though the intensity of higher cocoa content allows the bean’s natural complexity to sparkle.

If you are seeking a superb chocolate experience, even if you have tasted some of the finest bars out there, I suggest you try Goodnow Farms’ bars. And, while you’re at it, enjoy the beautiful watercolors on their website.

If you sign up for their newsletter you get 10% off your first order.

Single Origin Chocolate bars: 35%, 65% and 75% At Aldi

Just a quick heads up…at least, for my American readers…Aldi is now experimenting with selling their single origin bars as a regular item. Of course, if no one buys them they will quickly disappear. If you love truly fantastic chocolate I strongly suggest hightailing it over to your local Aldi store and loading up on their 65% and 75% single origin bars. The 75% from the Dominican Republic is delicious. All are UTZ certified, and only $2.49 for a five bar pack so you can scarf them down with a clear conscience.

Hershey: Better Late Than Never

Here’s a link to some new programs Hershey is initiating in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, areas historically rife with child labor, and other travesties.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-03/hershey-to-invest-500-million-in-making-more-sustainable-kisses

Aldi Chocolate Bars: Whole Hazelnuts in either Dark or Milk Chocolate

I recently had a chance to taste two of the newly imported Cailler bars (on Amazon at $27.64 for 13.8 ounces), one with hazelnuts, blueberries and almonds, and the other with cranberries and almonds. Both are beautiful, jewel-like creations with fruits and nuts imbedded into delicious thick slabs of UTZ certified dark chocolate. I bought them on Amazon, but they seem to have sold out. Having become a devotee…a chic way of saying addicted…I tried the Aldi roasted hazelnut bars in milk and dark chocolate, as they were UTZ certified and I thought might be worthy contenders. Of course, the enormous cost saving was also a big draw.

The verdict?

The Aldi bars were worthy contenders, though not as visually arresting as Cailler’s. They weigh in at a smidge over seven ounces each, are are really semi-sweet at 50% cocoa, and for $2.25 a pop they’re an extraordinary bargain. The chocolate is delicious, especially the dark bar, and the roasted whole hazelnuts perfectly crunchy and rich. One portion, a seventh of a bar, is a dessert unto itself. If you like milk chocolate you will probably prefer that version. For me, the dark one is really stellar.

Now, I just wish Aldi would offer their single origin mini bars on a regular basis. They were truly amazing.

Double Spiral Chocolate

Stuart & Mhairi Craig, creators of Double Spiral Chocolate, named it after an ancient Celtic symbol resembling the Taoist Yin-Yang. Two opposing spirals emerge from a single line to signify how opposite components can find balance. The opposites they speak of are taste & nutrition. One of the guiding forces behind their company is minimal processing with only 2 or 3 organic ingredients sourced by Direct or Fair Trade: cacao beans (70+%), unrefined cane sugar (non-centrifugal*)and a whole food ingredient like mint leaves, raspberry, ginger, etc.

I sampled the Tanzania 75% Kokoa Kamila and the Haitian 73% with freeze dried banana. While two bars is not a comprehensive review of their wares, it does indicate attention to detail and quality. Their lack of cocoa butter makes for a slightly drier finish. I was quite taken with the banana bar as the character of the chocolate was a great match for the tiny pulverized pieces of freeze dried fruit. The Tanzania bar had a pronounced rustic quality.

Check Double Spiral out if you are a purist who seeks a minimally processed bar that connects you with the bean’s true nature.

*Non-Centifugal Sugar (NCS) – This organic, fair trade, traditional raw sugar is obtained by evaporating water from sugarcane juice. Importantly, there is no centrifugation step to remove the nutrient rich molasses. NCS is produced in sugarcane growing regions around the world, and known by many different names such as panela, rapadura, jaggery, gur, kokuto or muscovado. These have superior nutrient content compared to other ‘brown sugars’, such as turbinado, demerara or refined sugars mixed with molasses.