Archive for the 'organic' Category

Dagoba Super Fruit

August 24th, 2009 by Rosa

It was bound to happen. I bought and wrote a review for a candy that I’ve already written about: the Dagoba Super Fruit bar. But I’m publishing it anyway, as it’s far more thorough than my first review of it.

In my defense, the bar’s wrapper has changed, so I um… didn’t recognize it?

The chocolate smells dry and dusky, and it tastes that way too. The melt is dry, and the texture is just shy of chalky. It makes me think of cocoa powder, in a good way.

The bar itself is a 74%, with bits of acai, currants, and goji berries. Every once in a while, you come across a bit of dried fruit, which delivers a powerful hit of sweet red berries.

I came across a currant, which was chewy, and some other slightly crunchy dried fruit that was either the acai or the goji.

I wish there were more fruit bits. They were too few and far between, and I didn’t want to eat the whole bar to get a good feel for it. Still, it was good, and my original OM rating stands. But Dagoba, stop being so stingy with your super fruits!

Category: chocolate, Dagoba, Hershey's, OM, organic, review | No Comments »

Taza Tour + Mexicanos review

June 26th, 2009 by Rosa

Today’s post is super long, but hey, you’ve got the whole weekend to read it. I start with a mini wrap-up of my tour of Taza’s chocolate factory and finish with a review of their four Mexicano disks.

Coincidentally enough, on the day that my written-weeks-ahead news post about a virtual tour of Taza posted, I was taking my own in-person tour of the Taza factory. Aaron, their director of marketing, was kind enough to show my boyfriend and me the works while stuffing us full of yummy samples (dude’s also a whoa-legit foodie – he’s got a pig’s butchers’ guide tattooed on one arm and a carrot on the other).

I already knew quite a bit about the company from their website and from the good publicity they’ve been getting, but Aaron still left me with plenty of additional tidbits. Their organic Domincan Republican beans are bought directly from the farmers at an above fair trade price, thus ensuring quality control while also helping their farmers maximize profits (similar to how Kallari runs things). The photo above is of their raw beans, waiting to be roasted in Taza’s retro-looking mid-century machines.

All of Taza’s ingredients are organic, and their vanilla pods and cinnamon sticks are also biodynamic. They buy their cane sugar from Green Cane, which uses the leftover cane fibers to power the cane sugar factory and the surrounding village.

Taza’s castoff cacao shells are used to flavor tea or beer or turned into compost. In a nice touch of cyclical, sustainable agriculture, the farmer who grows chilies for Taza uses their cocoa mulch fertilizer. Most of Taza’s employees bike to work, and they even bike their bars to local farmers’ markets in a specially outfitted tricycle from Mexico. Now that’s commitment to being eco-friendly!

Taza chocolates are unique because their cacao is ground with two doughnut-shaped, hand-chiseled Mexican granite millstones called molinos (background of above photo, covered in ground cacao and cane sugar). They give Taza its unique, slightly gritty, natural-tasting texture.

Aaron guesstimated their chocolate to be around 80 microns. Most chocolatiers aim for about 20. The minimal processing really makes Taza’s flavors zing. Their chocolate is unmistakably bright and fruity, and you know you’re getting good quality stuff.

I’ve had three bars before in past tasting parties – they make 60%, 70%, and 80% bars – but I’d never seen their Mexicano disks before I visited their factory. They currently come in four flavors: cinnamon, Guajillo chili, salted almond, and vanilla. Each hand-wrapped 2.7 oz package contains two disks of 8 wedges each.

The Cinnamon Mexicano is made with real Ceylon cinnamon, not the Cassia stuff that most people keep in their pantries. Ceylon cinnamon is sweeter than Cassia, with a more delicate flavor that’s more reminiscent of cinnamon oil than what you’d sprinkle on your oatmeal. The difference is even noticeable in the smell of the Mexicano: it smells and tastes like chocolate and red hots.

The cinnamon flavor plays under the fruitiness of the chocolate. There’s a slightly bitter and astringent finish to the Taza that I countered by popping another wedge. For me, at least, this Mexicano needs a chaser, but I don’t mind. An OM.

Taza’s Guajillo Chili is like chili chocolate to the umpteenth power. It initially tastes just like a standard Taza chocolate bar. Then woo baby! the burn comes through. It’s just on the bearable edge of tongue and throat burning pain. The tingle lingers for a bit, but it does subside on its own after a few seconds. It’s definitely not for the faint of tastebud, but I relished the taste experience. An OMG.

Salted Almond isn’t quite what you’d expect from a chocolate and nut bar. The roasted almonds (roasted in the same roaster used for the cacao beans) are ground right along with the cacao beans, so that the whole disk is evenly textured. I’m guessing the fatty nut addition is what makes this disk’s crumble a bit softer than that of the other Mexicanos. Unlike the previous two Mexicanos, organic cane sugar is the first ingredient listed, making the salted almond a bit sweeter than other Tazas.

The sweet characteristic Taza frutiness gives way to a roasted nuttiness, which then yields to a sharp salty finish that’s quite intriguing. It’s nicely balanced, but I actually prefer Taza’s chocolate-covered almonds to this Mexicano – the flavors are the same, but the chocolate-covered almonds have more nuttiness and a more addictive textural contrast. An OM.

Vanilla also has cane sugar listed as the first ingredient, and it’s noticeably sweeter than all the other Mexicanos. That extra boost of sugar makes this taste especially round. The vanilla flavor comes through in the finish. Taza uses real vanilla beans, and the difference is definitely noticeable. If you’re used to vanilla extract and have never had the pleasure of smelling a real vanilla bean, you’re in for a treat. Another OM.

Taza is quite unlike anything out there in the U.S. chocolate market. Instead of showing off with flashy flavor combos and pretty designs, Taza impresses with high quality ingredients and a rustic feel that I adore. Lucky for y’all, they’re doing quite well and appearing in more and more stores across the country. And if you’re ever in the Boston area, swing by their factory, where you can buy their products at a price that’s lower than what you’d pay elsewhere.

Category: chocolate, nuts, OM, OMG, organic, review | 1 Comment »

Lake Champlain Chocolate Organic Truffles

May 15th, 2009 by Rosa

More truffles! And I’ve got more unwritten truffle reviews in my tasting notes. Why so many? Because, as previously mentioned, a box of truffles and a bottle of white wine make for an excellent girl-time afternoon of aimless chit-chat and bonding.

This box of Lake Champlain Chocolate Organic Truffles was made for the holidays (hence the ornamental theme) but purchased in January (at half off!) and consumed in March. So they weren’t exactly at their peak of freshness. But since they’re mass produced, they do have a preservative (soy lecithin) and had survived well enough. Besides, for truffles that are sold in prepackaged boxes through grocery stores like Whole Foods, how fresh could they really ever be?

From top down, left to right, they are 70% Dark, Honey Fig, Aztec, Vanilla, Ginger Lemon, and Milk.

70% Dark – “Sweet & bitter goodness with a rich chocolate coating.” Bland cocoa flavor. Meh.

Honey Fig – “Wild honey & succulent figs join milk chocolate in aromatic delight.” A soft ganache with a sweet fruitiness to the finish. I don’t get fig, exactly, but then again, I rarely eat figs.

Aztec – “Cayenne & cinnamon warm dark chocolate, while a touch of lime chills.” Creamy ganache with a dry cinnamon spice and a dry heat. I love Mexican chocolate, and I enjoyed this truffle the most. No noticeable lime flavor or chill, at least in my not-so-fresh truffle.

Vanilla - “Pure vanilla notes in concert with 70% dark chocolate.” My friends ate this one while I was in the bathroom. They said it was good.

Ginger Lemon - “Tangy citrus & zippy ginger in perfect harmony with dark chocolate.” An initial ginger undertone with a light citrus finish.

Milk – “Rich milk chocolate whipped with cream & butter into silky smooth simplicity.” A super soft milk chocolate ganache with, sadly, no flavor notes. Blah.

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I was underwhelmed. They were nice enough, and I’ll bet they were even better at full price when they were more fresh. And they’re certainly a cut above the even more mass-produced chocolate of other brands. But I like my truffles to have more of a wow factor. For me, that usually comes from creative flavor combinations, and these guys just didn’t deliver. An O.

Category: chocolate, Lake Champlain, O, organic, review | No Comments »

Seeds of Change

May 8th, 2009 by Rosa

Seeds of Change has been making the rounds in the candy blogosphere. They’ve been sending out lots of free samples to promote their nationwide launch of six new flavors of organic chocolate: milk, milk with puffed grains, dark, dark with cherries & vanilla, dark with coconut, and dark with mango & cashew. I got sent free bars of the later four dark bars.

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Each packaged bar was an envelope containing three smaller, individually wrapped bars. The individually wrapped bars were prettily molded and segmented into four smaller squares. Each square was imprinted with either the words “Seeds of Change Organic” or their patterned logo.

First up is the Dark Chocolate, a 61% cacao that forms the base of the other three. The snap is pretty soft for a dark bar, and its melt was pretty thick, like a dark ganache. It started with deep, dry cocoa flavors that gave way to a lightly sweet finish. Quite pleasant and OM-worthy.

The Dark Chocolate with Cherries and Vanilla had little bits of dried cherry sprinkled throughout the bar. The dried cherry pieces imparted sweet and sour cherry flavors that were quite nice in the creamy chocolate melt. I didn’t pick up blatant vanilla notes but still enjoyed the bar. Another OM.

Dark Chocolate with Mango and Cashew (above) was… interesting. Mango and cashew isn’t a standard flavor combination to me, especially with chocolate, though it could be common in another culture for all I know. Unlike in the cherries and vanilla bar, the dried fruit here doesn’t add any significant mango flavors, though there is a bit of a chewiness to the bits. Similarly, the tiny cashew bits add a light crunch but not much nuttiness. Just an O.

Finally, the Dark Chocolate with Coconut (below). It had a strong coconut scent that signaled a strong coconut flavor. The bar was chock full of toasted coconut flakes that carried a light crunch. The coconut flavor was STRONG. I appreciated the genuine flavors, but it was too much for me. I couldn’t eat more than a bite of this at a time, so it gets a O.

All in all, a nice line of certified organic chocolate bars. I liked the simpler flavors, while the more complex bars didn’t work for me, though I did appreciate the effort.

If you’d also like to try the bars for free, you can enter their “Change Tastes Good” contest. The grand prize winner will get a year’s supply of Seeds of Change bars, which works out to three per day – even I don’t eat that much chocolate! To enter, visit their website and submit a video, photo, or story about what you’ve done to help the Earth by July 31st.

Category: chocolate, nuts, O, OM, organic, review | 1 Comment »

Taza Stone Ground Organic Chocolate, 80%

April 17th, 2009 by Rosa

Taza Chocolate made it onto my radar via my friends Justin and Nana, who highly recommended it. Unfortunately, because they’re a small artisan company, the chocolate isn’t that widely sold in stores, and shipping chocolate gets expensive, so I resigned myself to waiting until the next time I went home (probably after graduation) to try to track it down at an Austin Whole Foods.

Lucky for me, I found some at a local New Haven cheese shop, Caseus, when I popped into pick up some Vosges bars for my next Calhoun College chocolate tasting.  They had the 60%, 70%, and 80% bars, but I only bought the latter because, at around $8 a pop, they weren’t cheap (even if it was Calhoun’s money that I was ultimately spending).

Taza is notable because they’re one of the few U.S. chocolate makers that make their chocolate from bean to bar. They’re also special because the chocolate is stone-ground, which yielded an interesting texture. I found the unusual texture intriguing and novel and interesting.

It was quite grainy, almost crunchy, and the whole thing kind of explodes in a burst of grit after a few chews. Our Associate Master remarked that it would probably make her 5 year-old son cry. Another taster likened the experience to eating sand. I thought the latter characterization was a bit of a stretch, as the grit wasn’t that rough, and I’d happily eat sand if it tasted as good at the Taza bar did.

The bar smells kind of acrid and plasticy – not exactly appetizing. Surprisingly enough, however, it tastes nothing like it smells. It’s actually quite bright and fruity, enjoyably so. Overall, I’d give the bar an OM. I took home the remainder of the bar, and I couldn’t stop popping the pieces because they were so texturally entertaining. I’d give it a higher rating if it weren’t so pricy, but for an organic, artisinal product, you definitely do get whatyou pay for.

Category: chocolate, OM, organic, review | 2 Comments »

Master’s Tea with Judy Logback

March 16th, 2009 by Rosa

A couple of weeks ago, on February 25th, I skipped my bootcamp class at the gym and went to a Master’s Tea with Judy Logback, the founder of Kallari chocolates, instead. After complaining about the Times Styles’ snarky chocolate review that fawned over Kallari a bit too much, how could I pass up the opportunity to meet and taste chocolate with the woman who founded the cooperative?

Judy, a student at Yale’s School of Management, gave a great talk and tea. She covered the details of how the Kallari cooperative works, what the cooperative’s farmers and chocolate makers do, and how each step that they do themselves earns them more money and helps them work their way out of poverty. I was quite impressed.

Along the way, Judy threw in neat chocolate facts. I learned that processing cacao with alkali (aka Dutch processing) darkens the color of the cacao without affecting the flavor, which explains why some chocolates manage look so much darker than they taste. I also learned that high quality chocolate doesn’t need lecithin as an emulsifier because they’re comprised of just cocoa butter and cocoa solids. And, most shockingly of all to me, I learned that in the U.K., single-origin bars only need to contain 10% of beans from that single-origin. In the U.S., the claims are totally unregulated.

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We tasted 8 bars along the way, four of them from Kallair. Three were the above bars that Kallari is now selling via Whole Foods, and the fourth was one of their artisanal bars. While the Whole Food bars are machine tempered and molded, the artisinal bars are entirely handmade, from tempering to molding. Judy had us taste the chocolates as she went through her Kallari slideshow, stopping every few slides ask us about what we thought about what we were eating. It was a little intimidating to verbalize my tasting notes to a chocolate expert, but it was also neat to hear her responses and feedback.

The bars were tasted blindly, though Judy gave us their percentages as we went. The bars and my notes are below the photo.

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  1. 86% Ghirardelli – cool, thin, glossy melt thanks to good use of cocoa butter. Pretty bitter, dry finish, but not exactly unpleasant.
  2. 85% Kallari artisinal bar – more burnt smell; sweeter, winey notes to the flavor. A thicker melt than the above bar, but still not thick, exactly, and with a slight grit
  3. 85% Kallari bar available at Whole Foods – thicker melt, fruity finish. Astringent.
  4. 85% Lindt – strong smell, thick melt. A light, fruity sweetness that gave way to a super dry finish.
  5. 75% Kallari bar available at Whole Foods – milky, caramel notes with a wonderfully dusky finish (Judy said the caramel notes were from their use of organic raw cane sugar). ZOMG
  6. 75% Chocolove – sweet, strong cherry notes. Suprisingly thick melt for dark chocolate.
  7. 70% Green & Black’s – flat fruity citrus sweetness. Unexceptional and, well, flat.
  8. 70% Kallari bar available at Whole Foods – reminds me of European bars with the dusky caramel flavors.

My favorite bar of the lot was number 5, Kallari’s 75% bar. I went back for seconds, and it definitely merits a ZOMG! I’ll be looking for it next time I’m in a Whole Foods.

Finally, just a logistical note to point out, these bars aren’t technically certified Fair Trade, but I’ve chosen to tag them as such. Kallari has gone so far above and beyond the ideals of Fair Trade that they’re really beyond certification.

Category: chocolate, fair trade, organic, review, ZOMG! | No Comments »

Surf Sweets – Part II

January 30th, 2009 by Rosa

Today brings the anxiously awaited conclusion to my review of Surf Sweets‘ product line that I began on Wednesday. First up (or is it fourth up?), their Gummy Swirls.

The Gummy Swirls were little gumdrop shaped gummis about the size of the first joint of my pinky finger. They came in two versions, pink/white swirled and orange/white swirled. Pink/white was strawberry, I believe, and its flavor was of lightly muted “red” candy. I’m not sure if the muting came from the white swirl or from the all-natural ingredients. A bit of each, perhaps? My guess is that orange/white was orange-flavored, except I didn’t find it to taste very orangey. Instead, I got more of a pear profile. The gummy itself was fairly firm and sproingy, while the sugar coating added a bit of textural grain.

Surf Sweets’ Gummy Worms were absolutely gorgeous, proving that one doesn’t need artificial colorings to make something look tasty. They came in red and yellow and red and lighter yellow/clear. Cherry and pineapple, maybe? The flavors weren’t terribly distinct, but they were nice and fruity. Appearances aside, however, there wasn’t much to separate these gummy worms from their artificially-flavored (and much cheaper) counterparts.

While the Gummy Worms were fairly run of the mill, I found the Super Sour Worms to be truly exceptional. Like Wednesday’s Fruity Bears, these were more like a fruit pate or a fruit gem, which may be why their moniker leaves out the word “gummy”. The sour sugar coating on these is mostly sweet and only lightly tart, but it’s just right.

The red and yellow one tastes of cherry – as I’ve written many times, I have difficulty differentiating red-flavored candies, but this one had a bit of a bite to it, so I’m going with cherry – with a sour finish of lemon. The orange and white one tasted like a lovely sweet yet tart orange. Either the white part was also orange flavored, or it was too lightly flavored to compete against the brightness of the orange.

The Super Sour Worms were my favorite of the Surf Sweets bunch. I couldn’t stop eating them, so they get a ZOMG! The Gummy Swirls and Gummy Worms, while good, weren’t exceptional, and, as I said on Wednesday, I’m too poor to shell out extra for all natural and organic when artificial and full-of-pesticides tastes pretty much exactly the same, so they get Os. If you’re not poor like me and care about what you put into your body, or your kids’ bodies, then the whole Surf Sweet lineup is probably perfect for ya – they taste all-natural, but in a good way, and you or your kids won’t miss unnatural flavorings/colorings one whit.

Category: gummi/gummy, jelly candy, O, organic, review, sour, ZOMG! | No Comments »

Surf Sweets – Part I

January 28th, 2009 by Rosa

One of the biggest perks of my candy blogging hobby is getting free samples from candy retailers. When Surf Sweets offered to send me samples of their all-natural and organic candies, I eagerly agreed. They sent me a generous box of their complete line-up. We’ll cover half today, and the other half on Friday.

First up, a classic: Gummy Bears. Surf Sweets’ gummy bears are extra sproingy and firm. They come in pineapple, lemon, orange, and cherry, I think. Why only I think? Because Surf Sweets are made with all-natural ingredients, their flavors aren’t as artificially strong as other gummis. They’re more mild, so they’re harder to differentiate. The gummy bears were good and seemed quite genuinely fruity, but tastewise, there’s really nothing to distinguish them from normal gummy bears.

Their Fruity Bears were more distinctive and more fun. On the surface, they look like the gummy bears, just covered in sugar, but they’re quite different. They’re not even a gummy, which surprised me when I bit into my first one. Instead, the bears are more of a fruit pate, with a soft give to them. These come in five flavors: pineapple, lemon, orange, strawberry, and cherry. I’m more sure of these flavors because they were stronger. The strawberry and cherry barely differed in color, but their flavors were distinctive, with more of a bite to the cherry.

And last but not least for today, their Jelly Beans. These also come in the same color and flavor palate of the Fruity Bears: pineapple, lemon, orange, strawberry, and cherry. Texturally, these are different from most jelly beans. They have a softer (but still crunchy) shell with softly sproingy insides. Pineapple was my favorite flavor of the bunch – it really captures the essence of pineapple flavor with it’s core-y taste. The other four flavors are pretty standard and unexceptional.

Paradoxically, I found Surf Sweets to be at once muted and bright. They’re muted because they don’t use artificial flavors or colors, yet they’re bright because they taste so genuinely fruity. Think about the difference between a can of orange soda, a carton of orange juice, and a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice. Orange soda will be super bright but artificial, orange juice would be the most muted, and fresh-squeezed orange juice falls in between. Surf Sweets are the candy equivalent of fresh-squeezed juice.

The Gummy Bears get an O (because I’m too poor to really care about eating only organic and natural), the Fruity Bears get an OMG (I adore fruit pate), and the Jelly Beans get an OM. Tune in on Friday for the rest of their line-up!

Category: gummi/gummy, jelly candy, O, OM, OMG, organic, review | No Comments »

Dagoba Superfruit and Mon Cheri

November 7th, 2008 by Rosa

Dagoba was my introduction to upscale chocolate. It was a big part of my first chocolate tasting party, when I first really tasted chocolate, which is why I have reviewed as many Dagoba bars as I have. That and they’re sold at the campus convenience store, where I used to have $150 to spend there as part of my meal plan, back when I was on a meal plan. And they come in a ton of flavor varieties, so there are several types to review. Here are two more.

The Mon Cheri was a 72% dark chocolate with berries and vanilla. It was a smooth bar with a creamy melt, which is surprising for a 72%. I was also a little curious about the 72% part – if I remember correctly, most of Dagoba’s super dark bars are 74%. 72% would mean they have a second dark base?

The berries are tiny bits that stud the bar. Based on the color of the bits and the name of the bar, I’m going to guess that cherry was the predominant berry present. Chocolate and berry is a nice flavor combination, though the addition of fruit tends to overwhelm the natural notes of the chocolate. An OM.

The Super Fruit bar I disliked on principle. Just take a look at the wrapper, and see if you can guess why.

Any ideas? It’s a 74% dark bar with acai, goji berries, and currants. In other words, it jumps on every hype train! All it’s missing is pomegranate seeds and giant boasts about antioxidants splashed across its wrapper. For the record, I don’t buy into the “dark chocolate is better for you because it has more antioxidants” hype. You’d need to eat a ton of it to get any real effect, and eating a ton of any kind of chocolate is bad for you.

All the hype aside, this bar isn’t bad. It tastes a lot like the Mon Cheri – like dried fruit plus good quality chocolate. I thought I noticed a slight saltiness around the dried fruit bits, but it was so faint that I couldn’t be sure. Another OM.

Basically, Dagoba makes good, solid bars. I don’t give them Os because they’re so much better than your standard Hershey’s bars (even though Hershey’s owns Dagoba), but they also don’t stand out enough to warrant higher ratings. The way I see it, they’re great to taste your way through, but I’ve yet to find one that I’ve become attached to enough to buy a second time.

Category: chocolate, Dagoba, OM, organic, review | 4 Comments »

Zotter Mango-Brazil Nuts

July 28th, 2008 by Rosa

I discovered Zotter bars in The Candy Store in San Francisco. They carried several varieties, including one with blood orange, one with cheese, and one with mango and Brazil nuts. I thought long and hard about buying the one with cheese, just because a cheese-filled chocolate bar isn’t something you come across every day, but it was $8 a bar, so I decided to play it safe and opted for the mango-Brazil nuts bar instead of possibly wasting all that money on something too exotic to be enjoyed.

What are Zotter bars, and why are they so expensive? For starters, they’re fair trade and organic and made in Austria. And their creative fillings (of which there are a bazillion creative varieties) are hand-scooped. Hence the hefty price tag. Was it worth it?

According to the Zotter website, the mango-Brazil nuts variety is “Excitingly tropical. Mango and mango puree with Brazil nuts in dark alp milk chocolate.” Dark alp milk chocolate strikes me as oxymoronic. Zotter takes it to mean a 50% cacao content.

The bar carried a strong winey smell. The dark milk chocolate enrobing layer was thin, and I couldn’t get much sense of its flavor profile because the filling’s flavor was so strong. The mango paste filling was quite sweet but tasted to me more of apricot than mango. Little bits of dried mango and Brazil nuts can be found in the paste, which adds a nice chew when you come across them. The Brazil nuts weren’t very noticeable and were too bland to add much in terms of flavor.

My final verdict? $8 is a lot to spend on a single bar, and this particular variety wasn’t worth it to me. An OM. But that won’t stop me from pining after the other flavors. To name a few unusal ones: Lemon Polenta, Rowanberry or Mountain Ash, Spicy Chicken Ensemble – Chilli, Tofu and Sake, Sweet Potato Mocha Rosemary, Tomato Liquid Olive, Wine with Curd Drops, Yellow Chocolate with Brittle, and Beetroot with Galangal.

Cybele tried the Lemon Polenta (zitrone polenta) and Banana Curry.

Category: chocolate, European, fair trade, nuts, OM, organic, review | 1 Comment »