Tuesday, March 8, 2011

New Zealand Chocolate: Scarborough Fair

Corporate Info: Auckland-based Scarborough Fair offers a small range of fair trade coffees, teas, and chocolate bars, so when I saw the brand's espresso and peppermint chocolate bars in a grocery store, I snatched them up. Turn-offs: The chocolate has silly names like “Decadence” and “Enigma” (not to mention “Sinless,” “Adore,” and “Sublime”); Scarborough Fair is actually owned by corporate-sounding Lighthouse Ventures Limited, for whom the bars are produced by some unnamed manufacturer; and the website is pretty drab. Turn-ons: I bought fair trade chocolate for a reasonable price while visiting another country. So hey.

Decadence Dark Espresso Chocolate 70% Cocoa

120g (4.23oz) bar
Ingredients: fair trade cocoa liquor, ft. organic cane sugar, ft. cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, espresso flavor
6.8g sugar/20g serving (34% by wt.)

Appearance: Dullish, grayish brown.

Smell: I can't smell any coffee here. There's a slight roasted beaniness that could be either chocolate or coffee, but it's not distinct or strong. Most of what I get is sugary and a little musty.

Taste: Texture is creamy and slightly chalky, which isn't a bad thing. The flavor is weird, though: mostly over-sweet and creamy with just a hint of coffee, like cheap coffee ice cream.

Enigma Dark Peppermint Chocolate 70% Cocoa

120g (4.23oz) bar
Ingredients: fair trade cocoa liquor, ft. organic cane sugar, ft. cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, mint flavor
6.8g sugar/20g serving (34% by wt.)

Appearance: Redder and a little glossier than the espresso bar.

Smell: Mint extract, distilled and thin, and a musty, saccharine sweetness. It doesn't appeal to me.

Taste: Texture is great, first with some bite but then creamy and melty. But the taste is still weirdly over-sweet, which surprises me since this is all cane sugar. The mint doesn't merge well with the chocolate, as though the chocolate is too sweet, the mint is too sweet, and the two kind of co-exist in the bar rather than melding. The aftertaste is similar, with a thin, menthol-y flavor predominating.

Conclusion: I like Scarborough Fair's fair trade goals, but the chocolate feels like an afterthought, with a thin, sweet, and not very chocolatey taste. If customers are spending more for a fair trade product, I think they'll be disappointed.

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