Saturday, December 24, 2011

Whole Foods 71% Cacao Costa Rica Dark Chocolate

3.5oz (100g) bar
Ingredients: Chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla flavor
10g sugar/38g serving (26.3% by wt.)

The other day I stopped by Whole Foods for vegetables and discovered that the chain had changed its entire line of store brand chocolate bars. The new line presumably aims at the same demographic—people who will spend extra for local/organic/fair trade/sustainable and are leery of unpronounceable ingredients, i.e. Whole Foods shoppers—but the change seems to be an attempt to stay within current trends in both sustainability and chocolate consumption. The old chocolate was your basic “Milk chocolate” or “Dark chocolate with almonds” in bright, simple packaging, sometimes using the words “organic” or the classic, evocative “Swiss.” The new line includes more dark varieties, single-origin bars, and upscale flavoring combinations in Vosges-shaped thin boxes bearing lots of words, sustainability-certification-type stamps, earthy colors, and photos of people and sights in tropical locales. They're also marketing it under their Whole Foods brand rather than under their 365 “value” brand.

I bought three of the new bars to review over the next weeks, among them today's 71% single-origin Costa Rican bar (but made in Belgium, so there's still some Euro-cachet). Incidentally, this bar's carries Whole Foods' self-defined Whole Trade Guarantee and is made with Rainforest Alliance Certified cacao. These distinctions are, like organic, fair trade, direct trade, and all those others, complicated and varying degrees of meaningful to the well-intentioned consumer. I won't pretend to fully understand them (I suspect very few people really do), and one of these days I'd like to write a post on whatever I can learn about the real-world significance of each. Compared to eating chocolate, that's frustrating and boring, so it's on the back burner.

Corporate Info: After all the above, let's keep this one short. Whole Foods Market is a major American supermarket chain focusing on upscale and health food. People have all sorts of opinions on it because of its relatively high prices (at least in part because of the nature of the products, maybe also because its customers are willing to pay more), penchant for taking over regional health food chains, and outspoken co-founder/one-time CEO, but it also gives health-food devotees supermarket-style access to their preferred products, including many of the chocolate bars I review here.

Appearance: Surface is semi-glossy and finely textured, with a red-orange undertone.

Smell: Big, warm, round—that is, there's a lot of aroma but nothing pungent. Like ripe cherries or berries or something.

Taste: Texture is creamy, waxy, rich, mouth-coating. Flavor is full, not too sweet, not at all sour or bitter. This is the crowd-pleaser of very dark chocolates, fruity and winey without any challenging or unpleasant edges.

Conclusion: Whole Foods 71% Cacao Costa Rica Dark Chocolate is exactly what an upscale store brand would do when attempting to make a good-quality but not off-putting fairly dark chocolate.


  1. This Costa Rican dark chocolate is THE best dark chocolate at Whole Foods. I would buy it by the case, but now it is discontinued? I want it. I'm having withdrawal from it. please get it back!

  2. You know, I haven't looked lately, but I think I saw it last time I did. When did it disappear from your Whole Foods?