Thursday, May 26, 2011

Shaman Organic Chocolates 82% Cacao Extra Dark Chocolate

2oz (57g) bar
Ingredients: Organic sugar, o. chocolate liquor, o. cocoa butter, o. soy lecithin, o. vanilla
5g sugar/28.5g serving (17.5% by wt.)

Corporate Info: As of this writing Shaman's website is under construction, but the bar packaging explains that the point of the company is to support Mexico's indigenous Huichol people. I've found a lot of positive commentary on assorted unfamiliar-to-me websites and an A rating by the Better World Shopper; I hope this organic, fair trade chocolate's actual practices live up to the hype.

Appearance: Small bar, reddish brown, glossy, with little air bubbles in the corners.

Smell: Not strong but bright and fresh, like unripe stone fruit.

Taste: Raw, sourish, a little harsh but muted, not off-putting. Some tannins but not heavy, like a light red wine. Chalky texture, drying. I'm struck by how different this is from last week's Michel Cluizel bar; chocolate is so interesting!

Conclusion: Shaman Organic Chocolates 82% Cacao Extra Dark Chocolate is light, fresh, and dry.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Michel Cluizel Noir de Cacao 72%

100g (3.5oz) bar
Ingredients: Cocoa, cane sugar, cocoa butter, Bourbon vanilla
11g sugar/40g serving (27.5% by wt.)

Corporate Info: I've seen Michel Cluizel's black boxes at all the fancy shops, and I've bought the confections. When I googled the brand I found pages and pages of commercial sites, reviews, and news bytes, though nothing especially edifying. I'll just tell you what the Cluizel site says: Michel Cluizel is a French brand (there's even a museum/experience in Normandy) that started in 1948 and opened a U.S. subsidiary in 2004. It's not chocolate you can feel socially responsible about, but the product quality seems to be well respected.

Appearance: Rather dark, sightly glossy, sharply molded.

Smell: Dried fruit: fig, raisin, that sort of thing.

Taste: Buttery in flavor and texture. Both bitter and sweet. Fairly mild, actually—the bitterness is a flavor, not a mouth-drying, tannic experience, and it fades while the sweetness lingers and lingers, like drinking a sip of coffee and then eating a big raisin.

Conclusion: Buttery Michel Cluizel Noir de Cacao 72% starts bitter and ends a little too sweet for my taste.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Equal Exchange Orange Dark Chocolate 65%

3.5oz (100g) bar
Ingredients: Organic fair trade chocolate liquor, oft. raw cane sugar, oft. cocoa butter, oft. unrefined cane sugar, o. orange oil, oft. ground vanilla beans
13g sugar/40g serving (32.5% by wt.)

Corporate Info: Massachusetts co-op Equal Exchange is serious about fair trade, organic growing methods, relationships with farmers, and everything that goes along with it. I'm actually overwhelmed by the extensive website, but suffice to say that the reason behind the company's founding was to do good via products that now encompass your usual array of tasty and potentially problematic foods from the tropics: chocolate, coffee, tea, bananas, etc. At this point they're well-established and respected (the Better World Shopping Guide gives them an A+), so if you care about “Corporate Info” enough to read this paragraph, this is the sort of company you'll love.

Appearance: A good, solid, mostly matte, slightly greyish brown.

Smell: I actually bought, partially ate, and intended to review this bar ages ago, but I also just bought a new one as well. The old pieces smell only a little and not of orange at all, more like dusty dried ginger too long unused. The new bar, fresh from sealed plastic, retains the volatile orange oil, light and warm and a little spicy. An interesting contrast.

Taste: Let's try both bars here too. The old one has little orange flavor per se, but it's still tangy (not sour or acrid) and fresh-tasting, with a tiny bit of spice—not an autumn-pie cinnamon or allspice, but something lighter like cardamom, ginger, or nutmeg. The new bar still tastes subtly of orange oil, which to be clear isn't at all like the flesh of the orange (or, say, juice) but again more like an interesting and unique, slightly bitter spice. Also, this chocolate tastes less tangy, perhaps because it's more balanced by the flavoring. Texture is dense and somewhat chalky.

Conclusion: Equal Exchange Orange Dark Chocolate 65% is mostly chocolate, with a little bitter warmth from the orange oil.