Category Archives: Non-GMO chocolate

Cocoa Parlor

I am happy to report that it’s becoming de riguer for chocolate companies to source their beans ethically, pay cacao farmers a decent wage and improve their living conditions. Cocoa Parlor does all that and uses organic beans from the Dominican Republic.

Their bars weigh in at 2.82 ounces, or 80 grams. there are 28 sections and they break cleanly. The package design is cheerful and inviting. They keep it simple which helps the cost stay lower than you would expect for quality chocolate: $5 a bar. I sampled seven of the 16 they offer. All were well tempered and appealing.

Night Train, a 75% bar with nibs was a very easy-to-eat dark (for those of you who eschew anything over 70%). I happen to love the inclusion of nibs as it really heightens the bar’s intensity. The chocolate itself had a lovely complexity I have come to associate with beans from the Dominican Republic. Its fruitiness makes it a good choice for people who don’t like any bitterness, acidity, leather, or coffee flavor in their chocolate.

Simple Pleasure, a bar with roasted hazelnuts and Himalayan pink salt was perfectly balanced. Its nutty crunch was perked up with just the right amount of salt. (Maybe someone can explain to me why hazelnuts are so much more popular in Europe than the US, except in Nutella, of course. They are so rich and delicious; especially, when roasted.)

Cowboy Up 70% with toasted almonds and Himalayan pink salt was another deliciously textured offering.

Popped Quinoa 70% had a different appeal as the quinoa offers up a gentler, smaller crunch and allows more of the chocolates personality to shine.

Jungle Peanut in 35% milk chocolate had the largest roasted nut pieces. The nuts are sourced from the wilds of Ecuador and accented with that same pink salt. These peanuts definitely tasted different from the ones I typically eat. More rustic, more natural, with a milder peanut taste. You might think this bar would be quite sweet, but it wasn’t, even though it had a fairly light milk chocolate base.

Into Dark 80% was a nice fruity ultra dark bar. It was intense, but not bitter. Very satisfying.

Dark Perfection 70%, with a tiny bit more sugar, was a touch less intense.

In addition to the cocoa mass they use, they add cacao butter and cacao powder, but no vanilla. This allows the bean’s true nature to come through.

They also make a very popular non-chocolate Quinoa Bar that’s made with cacao butter. It’s packed with almonds and gluten free. Great for campers, gym rats and meal skippers.

How to keep your chocolate costs down while still enjoying a cornucopia of choices.

“One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.”
Iris Murdoch

How we rationalize spending money on our passions is as individual as we are. I consider the pleasures many people enjoy, like theater, sporting events, and travel, all things I don’t often crave; then, I convince myself I’ve just saved a fortune by not doing them. In comparison, that $10 chocolate bar is a bargain; especially, when I think of the joy it’s likely to bring me.

Here are some ways to save on your chocolate purchases.

* Subscribe to your favorite chocolate company’s newsletters. This will insure you’re notified when they have a flash sale or other promotion.

* Take advantage of free shipping. Sometimes there is a minimum, but there are two sites that offer free shipping every day, without a minimum purchase:
Caputo’s Deli and Worldwide Chocolate.

* Get a subscription to Moka Origins monthly two bar deal. It’s $20 a month, including shipping. They pick the two bars, but you’re notified every month before your box ships so you can cancel if that month’s selection doesn’t appeal to you. The wonderful thing about that plan is you get to try limited edition bars, new flavors, or seasonal bars.

* Check out the bargain basement at Chocosphere for soon to expire bars they offer at a two-for-one price.

* Some companies, like BOHO chocolate, offer special incentives on a regular basis, like 20% off all bars with a minimum purchase of four (they’re each 3 ounces) with free shipping. This is an especially wonderful deal if you’re mailing gifts.

* Check out end of season and after holiday sales.

Pascati Chocolate

All of Pascati’s chocolates are organic and made with ethically sourced Idukki beans from India’s Kerala region. Pascati’s mission is to support the local cacao farmers. Through Fair-trade, they pay a premium for the cacao which goes back to the Kerala farming community. This also supports several community initiatives to sustain the ecosystem, and ensures that no child labor is used.

Kerala, a state on India’s tropical Malabar Coast, covers part of the southwest portion of the continent with nearly 600km of Arabian Sea shoreline. It’s known for its palm-lined beaches and backwaters. Inland are the Western Ghats, mountains whose slopes support tea, coffee and spice plantations as well as wildlife.

One of my favorite chemicals in chocolate, anandamide, comes from the Sanskrit ananda, meaning bliss. ˜Pascati” is derived from a Sanskrit word ˜Pascat Parivesya” which translates to a sweet meal.

I sampled eight of their bars. All are 75 grams, have 24 bite-size sections, and boast a snappy temper. Seven of them were 60% and one, the Dark Idukki, was 72%.

The 72% Dark Idukki bar is different from all the other chocolates I have ever sampled. It has a lingering, slightly dry finish, licorice notes, a definite earthy-woodsyness and a silky texture.

The 60% Sea Salt Dark was quite different. The salt perked everything up, as it often does, and played with the extra creaminess of this lower cocoa content bar. Slightly sweeter, it delivered a very rounded cocoa flavor with enough acidity to keep it interesting.

Raspberry and Hibiscus is a delicious combination of fruitiness and floral notes. Subtle, nuanced flavors point up the bean’s depth and making it intriguing.

While we’re on the subject of flowers, Rose Almond Dark is another interesting combination. The almonds are finely sprinkled throughout the bar and the rose gives it that classic Indian culinary rosewater presence.

Saffron Pistachio Dark has a slightly crunchy texture from the nuts, but they don’t dominate. The saffron’s dryness accentuates the bean’s dry finish, all of which is gentled by its creaminess.

Orange Cinnamon Hazelnut Dark is a deft mix of those three warming flavors, not one of which is pronounced. All three work in concert with the chocolate to create another nuanced bar that deeply satisfies.

Lemon Ginger Dark, a classic tea combination at my house, was perfect. Just the right amount of lemon and ginger perked up the chocolate without overpowering it.

Mango dark, with pieces of freeze dried mango embedded on its underside was unique and a bit addictive. Again, in a counter-intuitive way, the dryness of the mango accentuated the dry finish of the bean, which was enhanced by its velvety texture.

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.

UPDATE:
Looking for a wonderful rendition of Peppermint Bark? Moka Origins has one they only offer before Christmas. It has a slab of their marvelous white chocolate topped with a layer of 70% dark and sprinkled liberally with pieces of peppermint candy. Each piece is a desert unto itself.

Aldi’s Single Origin Moser Roth Chocolate bars: 35%, 65% and 75%

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.

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.