I choose the latter, and it turned out to be a great choice!
Before I even opened the grocery bag-type paper wrapper, I was intrigued. The back of the wrapper explained that the bar is a Chocolate University Project -- an opportunity for high school students from Missouri (where Askinosie is based) to get involved in the operations of this fair trade company, even traveling to Tanzania! I learned that the woman on the wrapper is the head of the farmer group with whom the company partners. How cool is that!
Fortunately, the single-origin chocolate inside lives up to the packaging. It's deep, dark and delicious. It's crisp and robust. To me, it's really the perfect chocolate.
I can't wait to try all the other Askinosie varieties!
I have to admit that I'm a bit of a sucker for the "fair trade" label, especially when it comes to my some of my favorite foods like coffee and chocolate. So, I'm predisposed to like the Dark Chocolate Mint Crunch Bar by Equal Exchange, which was founded to support small farmers and ensure they work for a fair wage and under fair labor practices.
However, I'm certainly not going to buy a fair trade product if it doesn't also taste good. Fortunately, the Equal Exchange Dark Chocolate Mint Crunch is quite delicious. I'm enough of a chocolate nerd to realize that my "sweet spot" (which in my case means it's not too sweet) is between 67% and 72% cacao. For me, the intense chocolate in this bar is just right, and the subtle crunchiness of the mint crunch is a pleasant surprise. Like other chocolate with this percentage of cacao, it's a bit dry, which is something I've come to like. The spearmint flavor nicely complements the dark chocolate.
I like that this bar breaks easily into bite-size chunks, although I'd be lying if I said I only ate one.
If you'd like some reading with your chocolate, there's always the inside of the wrapper, which lists the countries of origin of each ingredient and profiles a Latin American cacao farmer.
The Equal Exchange website bills this chocolate as "vegan, soy and gluten-free," a plus for anyone following a specific diet. For everyone else, this bar is a tasty treat you can feel good about eating.
I am a chocolate snob. There, I've admitted it. One of my favorite pleasures is an after-dinner treat of really good dark chocolate. Even better if it has a bit of a twist...in this case, sea salt.
If you haven't tried dark chocolate with sea salt, you're in for a treat and I think Mindo's 67% Sea Salt bar is one of the best.
Like many artisanal chocolates, it has a hard, almost crumbly, texture. The chocolate is strong, intense and not too sweet. The sea salt both brings out the chocolate flavor and adds to the flavor profile without being too salty...something that other chocolate makers seem to struggle with.
Better yet, Mindo is a brand based in Dexter, MI, one town over from where I live. Mindo bills itself as producing "bean to bar" chocolate sourced from family farms in Ecuador. Clearly, the company focuses on sustainability and environmental protection -- even the packaging is compostable!
If you're a chocolate snob like me, I'd strongly suggest giving Mindo's 67% Sea Salt bar a try.
Hesitantly, I bring one of the bite-sized, ridged triangles to my lips. “It’s really good,” the woman at the store had told me when she’d noticed me eyeing the odd concoction. Now, I'm not so sure.
I like spicy. I love chocolate. I’m always game for a good dark chocolate with chili peppers. But, Tabasco Brand Spicy Chocolate?
I nibble. After all, a little bit of Tabasco sauce usually does the trick. At first, all I taste is…chocolate of the Dove variety: a perfectly fine store brand that doesn’t ascend to the chocolate heaven heights of some of the more artisanal varieties on the market (at least not to the palate of this chocolate snob.) The taste is good, but it’s a bit waxy and slightly sweeter than I’ve come to like my dark chocolate.
Then the heat hits me. Yowza! The spicy sensation begins at the tip of my tongue, then travels up mid-way…where it seems to stop. As the flavors meld, I start to enjoy this chocolate more and more, enough that I decide to have a second triangle.
My 9-year-old gives it a try and pronounces it “the kind of burning you like.” Yes, I do. In small quantities - meaning the triangular wedges are the perfect size.