Friday, May 7, 2010

Divine Mint Dark Chocolate

3.5oz (100g) bar
Ingredients: fair trade cocoa mass, ft. sugar, ft. cocoa butter, peppermint crisp 5% (sugar, peppermint oil), soy lecithin, peppermint oil, ft. vanilla.
15g sugar/50g serving (30% by wt.)

As I increase the number of reviews on this blog, I find myself needing more ways to describe chocolate. It's not that all chocolate tastes the same, it's quite the opposite: I've eaten bars that I would describe using the same basic terms but that taste rather different, though it took a few reviews before I'd encountered enough similarities and differences to know that. I'm going to begin the in-depth review process by experimenting, sharing not only what I'm experiencing with a bar but also how it differs from other bars and other flavors.

With Divine's mint bar, let's start before I've taken my first bite. The bar looks smooth and glossy but not shiny. Its color is medium brown, like the shell of a nut, touched with white and yellow rather than the almost black purple-brown of super-dark chocolate. It smells sugary-minty, reminiscent of candy cane, not fresh mint or mint tea or Oreos.

Now to taste. An unexpected surprise! The mint isn't merely flavoring the chocolate, it's also distributed in a dense scattering of tiny mint-flavored sugar crystals. They provide a crunchy counterpoint to the chocolate that is a lot of fun, though I'm not sure the “candy” element is what I usually want out of my chocolate. (Unlike everyone else, I apparently no longer think of chocolate as candy.)

The chocolate itself is also subtly minty, as well as mild, a bit earthy, and not especially complex, a flavor and texture that I immediately associated with Endangered Species' mint bar. In my review I called that bar “chalky,” though that's not really accurate, it just seems less rich and chocolatey than, say, the Newman's Own Organics bar that is similarly mild and sweet but less insipid. Comparing the Divine bar to the Newman's Own one, they have similar levels of fat (about 44% by wt.), soy lecithin as an emulsifier, and vanilla for flavoring, and though this one has a bit more sugar, presumably the mint-sugar crystals account for that. I guess the difference must be something in the cacao processing.

On the plus side, Divine is unusually progressive for a chocolate company. While its chocolate is not organic it is fair trade certified, and the company is jointly owned by several non-governmental organizations and the cooperative of Ghanaian farmers who supply the cocoa beans. The chocolate isn't particularly expensive either—in the range of Endangered Species and Green & Black's—so Divine seems to have a workable model of large-scale, non-luxury chocolate production that treats farmers with respect. It's a great goal, so I'd really like to give the chocolate at least one more shot.

Conclusion: Divine Mint Dark Chocolate's mint crystals make it more interesting than the everyday mint bar, and the company is admirable, but the chocolate is too one-dimensional for my taste.

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