Saturday, October 20, 2012

Trader Joe's Organic Stone Ground Salt & Pepper Dark Chocolate

2.6oz (73.7g) in two discs
Ingredients: I lost the label for this (it's a sticker on the back), but the Taza product contains just organic cocoa beans, organic sugar, salt, and pepper, and is 55% cacao.

Corporate Info: (Copied from 10/6/12) I've had very mixed results with Trader Joe's chocolate, enough that I rarely review it. The quirky-gourmet company is hit or miss anyway, with some products being regular purchases for years, some becoming favorites and then disappearing from shelves, and some straight up disappointing. There isn't much to say aside from a fun fact: The US's beloved Trader Joe's is owned by Germany's ALDI, which operates discount supermarkets all over Europe—and that explains why we saw packages of dried fruit and nuts labeled Trader Joe's in an ALDI in Osnabrück.

This Bar: (Altered from 10/13/12) Trader Joe's is known for offering store brand goods that are possibly lower-cost, identical products made by a name brand manufacturer and sold in very similar packaging that makes the connection even more obvious. Today's stone-ground cacao discs look mighty familiar, don't they? Well, they're as close as you can come (without being 100% positive) to Taza's two-to-a-package, spoke-scored, stone-ground Salt and Pepper Chocolate Mexicano, which I actually haven't reviewed here, though I can't compare the ingredients as I write this (see above). TJ's is only $3.99, while Taza's is $4.50 on its website and $5-6 in stores around my city. I don't have the Taza product here, but I can review TJ's discs alone. So how are they?

Appearance: This actually has a slightly darker, redder undertone than last week's 70% bar, despite being lower cacao (I think). Again, it's glossy with a grainy cross-section, due to the stone-ground cacao and sugar crystals.

Smell: Rich, dark, and a little sweet, with the black pepper adding a spiciness that doesn't stand out but rather makes the chocolate smell more complex.

Taste: Again, the texture is gritty, reflecting both the cacao and the sugar. The first flavors that hit me are salty-savory and sweet, not chocolatey, which is interesting. The salt and pepper don't taste strongly salty or peppery but rather contribute to an overall savory flavor, with the flavor-enhancing properties of salt and the slow burn of pepper. The sweetness stands out, probably because of the lower cacao content (I think) as well as the separate sugar crystals, which makes it a little too sweet for me but does provide a good counterpoint to the savoriness of the salt and pepper. Personally I'd like to taste this spice blend in 70% cacao, but it works if you like more sugar in your chocolate.

Conclusion: Trader Joe's Organic Stone Ground Salt & Pepper Dark Chocolate is sweet and savory, with the interestingly gritty texture of stone-ground cacao.


  1. Hi Molly! Just trying a new sea salt bar, myself. It's LAmourette's 72%, and I'm really enjoying it - it's rich and not too sweet. I've never actually bought a sea salt bar, but sometimes sprinkle a little kosher salt on at home (tres gauche, oui?) I think this TJ's bar would be way too sweet for me. I usually buy 75% and up. My local grocer has been out of my fave 80% Taza for a while, sadly.

    Hope you're doing well! Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful reviews!

  2. Looking at L'Amourette's page right now...ooh, candied pomelo peel, cherries and almonds, sea salt...I'll have to try them sometime.

    I say there's nothing gauche about DIY salted chocolate if you can make it just right for your taste. It sounds like you enjoy chocolate as much as I do!

  3. I'll look forward to your review of L'Amourette. So far, so good in my book. And thank you for the practical attitude toward self-saltage!

    I've especially come to appreciate very dark chocolate since I've been eating otherwise controlled carbohydrate for about three years now. Other than a square or two of dark chocolate and some berries now and then, I don't eat any other sugar, so my palate is overwhelmed with joy at the slightest hint of sweet. Really been appreciating your blog as an accompaniment to my chocolate explorations!

  4. I know that feeling; Trader Joe's once carried a 100% cacao bar that I actually liked, but even then, 85% was better. Enjoy your berries and very dark chocolate!