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Ethically Sourced

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Equal Exchange Dark Chocolate: 65%, 71% & 80%

Equal Exchange Dark ChocolateThe first experience I had with fair trade chocolate as Equal Exchange exactly five years ago. I was in love with their ethics and their product. Fair Trade as a concept means that everyone in the chain to create a product for sale gets a fair payment. It also means that working conditions are safe and that child labor or slaves are not engaged.

The bars are now much easier to find and the breadth of the program and the product line has expanded over the years. I was sent this assortment of their darkest bars: Ecuador 65%, Very Dark 71% and Panama 80%. First of all, they’ve redesigned their packaging to great effect. The wrappers are simple and compelling and distinctive in the now cluttered world of chocolate bars. The focus is on the product and the producers, the inside of the wrapper details Equal Exchange’s programs.

Each bar is 3.5 ounces and is certified organic and Kosher. Unlike some Fair Trade bars, all of the ingredients in Equal Exchange’s dark bars are Fair Trade content.

Equal Exchange Dark Chocolate

The Organic & fairly traded Dark chocolate from Ecuador (the bar on the top of the pile) is 65% cacao content. The bar looks crisp and perfect, right down to the snap when I broke it in half. Each bar is sealed inside an opaque plastic sleeve to keep it fresh.

This silky, 65% cacao content origin bar is reminiscent of baked brownies fresh out of the pan. Highlighting the work of cacao farmers in Ecuador, the bar’s sweet, fudgy richness is balanced by hints of citrus and floral notes.

This bar did have a crunch to it, the tempering was crisper than the other two bars. It smelled of toffee and stewed fruits. It was sweet on the tongue at first but had a lot of flavors going on immediately, a light tangy note of apricots and then some more fudgy flavors like the tasting notes predicted. It was sweet and didn’t have the puddly melt like the others but still had a very fine texture.

Equal Exchange Dark Chocolate

The Organic & fairly traded Very Dark chocolate is 71% cacao content but doesn’t list the origin beyond “Latin America.” The bar was nicely molded, shiny and with no voids or bubbles. It had a slight red cast to it.

71% has a great blend of flavor characteristics. It has a rich scent, very woodsy with coffee and cherry notes. On the tongue I was getting more green notes, like olives and asparagus plus a little hint of charcoal. It’s bitter but also has a silky melt that’s also a little sticky.

Equal Exchange Dark Chocolate

The Organic & fairly traded Extra Dark chocolate from Panama is 80% cacao content. This bar was more of a smoky brown and had less of the red color that the other two had.

This 80% cacao content bar is Equal Exchange’s darkest yet. Unlike many high cacao content bars that are dominated by a bitter or sour note, this bar is perfectly balanced in a way that allows the true chocolate flavor of the Panamanian beans to shine.

This bar smells distinctly like raisins, tangy and fruity with a little wine note to it. The flavor is the same: a strong tannin base but with berry and cherry notes. It’s a little tangy but with a great soft melt on the tongue and a light dry bite. For a very dark bar this is incredibly munchable, smooth and not too bitter or chalky.

I found myself drawn to both the 80% and the 65% for wildly different reasons, they were all distinct but those two fit my desire for rich chocolate at the moment. I liked the wrappers and the plastic sleeve that held its own (I was able to put the uneaten portions back in there without making a crumbly mess or melting it by handling too much).

Equal Exchange has also made some more “candy” version of their bars such as Organic Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt and Orange Dark Chocolate. I’ll have reviews of those soon. All of their chocolate is a pretty good value, retail for these bars is around $4.00 which is less than some of the more upscale bars but more than your standard Lindt or Ghirardelli.

They’re vegan, soy free and gluten free. They may contain traces of tree nuts, milk and peanuts.

Related Candies

  1. TCHO Fruity
  2. Sweet Earth Chocolate Cups
  3. 3400 Phinney: Fig, Fennel & Almond and Hazelnut Crunch
  4. Equal Exchange: Espresso, Mint & Nibs
  5. Equal Exchange Miniatures
  6. Divine Chocolate: Fair Trade
  7. Equal Exchange Chocolate


Name: Dark Chocolate: Ecuador 65%
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Equal Exchange
Place Purchased: samples from Equal Exchange
Price: $4.00 retail
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 156
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Green Halloween, Equal Exchange, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Kosher, Single Origin, 8-Tasty, Switzerland


Name: Very Dark Chocolate 71%
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Equal Exchange
Place Purchased: samples from Equal Exchange
Price: $4.00 retail
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 156
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Green Halloween, Equal Exchange, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Kosher, Single Origin, 8-Tasty, Switzerland


Name: Extra Dark Chocolate Panama 80%
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Equal Exchange
Place Purchased: samples from Equal Exchange
Price: $4.00 retail
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 163
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Green Halloween, Equal Exchange, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Kosher, Single Origin, 8-Tasty, Switzerland

POSTED BY Cybele AT 4:42 pm     All NaturalCandyGreen HalloweenEqual ExchangeChocolateEthically SourcedKosherOrganicSingle Origin8-TastySwitzerlandComments (1)

Friday, April 2, 2010

An Easter Dash - Reviews in Short

Easter DotsEaster Dots come in one of the happiest looking boxes I’ve seen in a long time.

They’re also crazy cheap, most of the time a theater box like this that holds 7 ounces is just a buck. When I looked at the flavors on this box I was a little confused about what made these an Easter version besides the box (Mike and Ike come in holiday boxes that are the exact same candy). The flavors are Blueberry, Lemon, Lime, Cherry and Orange. The flavors of the classic Dots box are Strawberry, Lemon, Lime, Cherry and Orange. So in this version the Strawberry has been swapped for Blueberry.

These were very fresh. Tootsie does a good job of sealing up the boxes well and Dots have a clear cellophane overwrap.

Easter Dots

Once I opened the box I found out the big difference, it’s the color. Easter Dots are bright and opaque little nubbins.

Well, maybe there was another difference. These seem to be just as smooth but have a “shorter” chew to them, so they didn’t stick to my teeth like Dots usually do. I liked the freshness of the flavors, though it’s a little bland it’s also soothing. The blueberry was pretty convincing though I wish that one replaced the cherry instead of the strawberry.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Divine Milk Chocolate Speckled EggsI’ve been searching all over for these for the past month and finally found them at Whole Foods yesterday ... not with the candy but at the end of the cereal aisle.

Divine Milk Chocolate Speckled Eggs are all natural and fair trade milk chocolate eggs with a candy shell.

They’re freakishly expensive at $4.99 for 3.5 ounces, far more than I’d be willing to pay on a regular basis. I really only bought them because I’d been searching so hard for them it seemed weird to find them and then get decide they were too expensive. The chocolate is made from beans from the Kuapa Kokoo cocoa cooperative in Ghana. Seems like Easter is one of those holidays where folks may want to pay more attention to the social responsibility behind the treats.

The stand up box is charming. Inside is a little clear cellophane bag with a little more than a handful of eggs.

Divine Milk Chocolate Speckled Eggs

They’re very similar to Cadbury Mini Eggs. The shape is more football than pear. They beautiful muted colors and a matte finish.

The shell is smooth and softly decorated. The shell is quite thick and crunchy. The chocolate inside has a silky melt, a little sticky with a good caramelized dairy note. I liked them a lot and will probably buy them again next year. Hopefully they can be found in larger packages for better value. (Also, Whole Foods could do a better job of putting them where people can find them. I went to three different stores and it wasn’t until the fourth circuit of the one at 3rd & Fairfax that I found them - even after asking a stockperson.)

Rating: 7 out of 10

Sour Patch BunniesThe Sour Patch Bunnies are like many other Easter versions of regular candies. As you can imagine these are little bunny shaped candies instead of being shaped like spiky haired children.

I liked the box a lot, it was easy to tell apart from the regular Sour Patch offerings. The only quibble is really the packaging. Like many theater box candies, inside the box the candy is inside a plain cellophane bag. As I mentioned above, the Dots are just tumbling around in the box and there’s a cellophane seal on the outside. For this version I have to open the box top completely to get the bag out, dump the candy into the box and then I’m faced with an opening that is really too large for dispensing.

Sour Patch Bunnies

They’re a little lighter in color compared to the Sour Patch Kids. Honestly, I prefer this. They’re colored enough that I can tell them apart and guess the flavor and that’s really all I need. Other than that, the shape was so vague, unless you told me these were bunnies I wouldn’t have known. Pink is the classic Swedish Fish flavor with a tangy coating. Green is lime, yellow is lemon and orange is orange. A biting sour coating, a chewy sweet jelly candy in the center ... they’re great.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Russell Stover Peanut Butter PastelleI bought this Russell Stover Peanut Butter Pastelle Rabbit online from Russell Stover. I just couldn’t find it in the stores and thought it was a unique product.

The rabbit is similar to the white chocolate one I tried last year (and didn’t like that much, so I wonder why I was curious about this one). It’s a peanut butter coating (like peanut butter baking chips) with a peanut butter filling.

The three ounce flat rabbit is nicely molded. The butterscotch color is also really appealing. It smells like vanilla pudding and peanut butter. The coating though is a bit waxy and stiff, it melts but not in a dreamy way that good white chocolate does. But it’s not too sweet, which is a relief as well. The filling is a crumbly peanut butter with a salty note and a dry grainy crunch. I kind of got into it. I’d prefer it in a smaller format though, maybe one of the smaller eggs they do.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

Brach's Classic Jelly Bird EggsBrach’s Classic Jelly Bird Eggs are cheap jelly beans. I don’t know what classic is, the package gives no indication what the flavors are.

They’re only 99 cents for a generous 9 ounce bag. Even at that bargain price, they’re not much of a deal. They’re pretty enough to look at and probably decorate with, but they’re inconsistent in flavor and execution. I also resent not knowing what’s inside. It’s not like the bag is tiny and has no room for information like the flavor array.

Brach's Classic Jelly Beans

White is pineapple. It’s sweet and floral but bland. Green is lime and rather strong but lacking zest. Purple is grape and is utterly stupid ... seriously, it tastes like sweet stupidity. Black is licorice. All of the black ones seemed to be smaller than the other jelly beans. Still, they were tasty and well done. Pink is bitter and just dreadful. Perhaps it’s strawberry. Red is not as bitter but still dreadful. Orange is sweet and empty. Finally there’s yellow, which is actually pretty good, it’s like a sugared lemon peel.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Brach's Spiced Jelly Bird EggsSo as annoying as I found the Classic beans, you’d think I would be happy with the Brach’s Spiced Jelly Bird Eggs which are quite clear on the front that they feature spice flavors.

I was hoping for rich flavors, but of course I know Brach’s well enough that I really won’t be getting much more than a decent looking product. The bag doesn’t promise much more than a good value, so I should probably adjust my expectations.

Brach's Spiced Jelly Beans

Red is a mild cinnamon, not as good as Hot Tamales and kind of tinged with some of the mint notes, but still pleasant like a cup of spiced chai. White is peppermint. I have to say that a peppermint jelly bean is a little odd especially since it’s so grainy but still fresh tasting. Pink is wintergreen which I really love except when there’s too much food dye like this one that has a weird bitter clove & plastic aftertaste - but at moments it’s kind of like root beer. Purple is clove and is actually mild enough for me to enjoy though true clove lovers will probably be disappointed. Orange is sweet and again lacking in any pizazz. Black is again licorice and pretty good (though it makes my tongue dark green).

I think the problem is that I’ve already had some pretty good spice jelly beans from Hot Tamales (Just Born) and there’s really no need to switch brands, the price is comparable, availability is the only issue.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Related Candies

  1. Halloween Dots: Bat, Candy Corn & Ghost
  2. Divine Fair Trade Chocolate
  3. Whoppers Reese’s Peanut Butter Flavored Candy
  4. Dots Elements: Earth, Air, Fire & Water
  5. Cadbury Popping Mini Eggs
  6. Hot Tamales Spice Jelly Beans
  7. Cadbury Mini Eggs
Thursday, February 11, 2010

Divine 70% Dark Chocolate with Raspberries

Divine Dark Chocolate with RaspberriesOne of the newest bars from Divine, a fair trade chocolate maker, is 70% Dark Chocolate with Raspberries.

The packaging is another iteration of their West African iconography in gold and red on a black background. The bars is 3.5 ounces (not available in a single serve size at this time) and is wrapped well inside the paper overwrap with a textured medium grade foil.

Divine bills itself as Heavenly Chocolate with a heart. They use mostly fair trade ingredients (in this case it was the sugar, vanilla and the cacao), are all natural and use non-GMO soy lecithin. Their dark bars do not use any dairy products and are considered vegan though are produced on shared equipment with milk, wheat and tree nuts.

Divine Dark Chocolate with Raspberries

The construction of the bar is simple. Dark chocolate with a layer of freeze dried raspberries sprinkled on the bottom.

Divine Dark Chocolate with Raspberries

Flipped over, the bar is quite beautiful, like all the Divine bars I’ve had. Nice gloss and snap, a rather red hue to it; I wasn’t sure if it was from the raspberry inclusions or just the natural state of the chocolate. It’s a moderately thick bar, thicker than a Lindt Excellence bar, but not as thick as something like Ritter Sport. The sections are 4 by 6 and pretty easy to snap apart.

It absolutely smells like raspberries with some woodsy and seed notes. The dark chocolate is strong, dark and slightly bitter. I was expecting a fruity chocolate, instead it had strong coffee and charcoal notes. The texture is silky with a dry finish and of course the raspberry bits created some texture. The raspberries are freeze dried bits, with lots of seeds. Chewing the seeds gives off grassy and sesame flavors while the pulp part is quite tangy and has great natural raspberry flavors.

Overall I liked the bold combination of flavors - this was not a timid bar. It was not a bar that I could munch on forever though. I had two pieces, then needed to rest for a while until I was interested in having some more. It wasn’t something I was craving at any point though. If they could do the same bar without the seeds, I think I’d prefer it.

Related Candies

  1. Kohler Chocolates Garden Ganache & Toffee Mountains
  2. Divine Fair Trade Chocolate
  3. 3 Musketeers Cherry & Raspberry
  4. M&Ms Razzberry - Limited Edition
  5. Cadbury Raspberry Bunny
Name: 70% Dark Chocolate with Raspberries
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Divine Chocolate
Place Purchased: sample from Fancy Food Show
Price: retail ~$3.00
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 162
Categories: Chocolate, Germany, Divine, Kosher, All Natural, Fair Trade

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:25 pm     Comments (5)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sun Cups

Sunflower Butter Cups ... saying it out loud it doesn’t even make sense, is it a flower or is it a candy? Seth Ellis Chocolatier of Boulder, Colorado has come out with a nut free, peanut free, gluten free, fair trade and organic candy. They simply call them Sun Cups.

Seth Ellis Sun Cups (Sunflower Seed Butter Cups)

Sun Cups come in milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Confusing sounding name aside, they’re sunflower butter (like peanut butter only made with sunflower seeds) in a chocolate cup. Just like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, except, well, not like them.

Each cup is .75 ounces and comes in the industry standard dark brown fluted paper cup. The packages I picked up from the Seth Ellis booth at the Winter Fancy Food Show were flawless and perfect. Even the glossy and bold packaging is made from a compostable film.

Seth Ellis Sun Cups (Sunflower Seed Butter Cups)

The Milk Chocolate Sun Cups smells sweet and milky. There’s a touch of sunflower scent, but mostly it’s a fresh note. The organic milk chocolate is silky smooth and has a strong European dairy note. It’s cool on the tongue as it melts. The sunflower center is creamier than a Reese’s, not exactly moist, but not crumbly and not oily. The center is made with sunflower butter mixed with white chocolate, so it’s a little stiff but has an amazing melt with just a hint of sea salt.

Seth Ellis Sun Cups (Sunflower Seed Butter Cups)

The Dark Chocolate Sun Cups smell like semi-sweet chocolate - a little bit woodsy and fruity. The chocolate is actually rather dark and bitter and though it’s vegan (no milkfat) the cups overall aren’t because of the dairy in the white chocolate & sunflower center. The sunflower butter isn’t very sweet, so the whole cup has a much more savory appeal to it. There’s a grassy note to the sunflower which reminds me a little of jasmine tea and tahini.

I thought I was going to love the dark chocolate more than the milk chocolate, but I found both compelling for different reasons. In the milk chocolate version the milk flavors and silky textures blend together well for a decadent and rather fatty feeling treat. The dark chocolate version is deep and complex and kind of requires a little bit of attention while eating to appreciate how it all fits together.

The fact that they’re gluten free and nut free (both tree & peanut) will set these cups apart from most others right away. The milk chocolate version will be easily gobbled up by kids with allergies and sensitivities without any feeling of them getting a compromise candy. Grown ups without allergies will still appreciate the social responsibility (organic & fair trade) behind them along with the tasty ingredients. I still prefer peanut butter, as it’s a more rounded flavor, but I can’t ignore how great these are.

They might be a little hard to find, though most Whole Foods will order if they’re in the system and not on the shelves. They should be in Whole Foods (Rocky Mountain, Northwest and Bay Area) chain-wide at Pharmaca, Sunflower Markets, Cost Plus World Markets, Jimbo’s in So Cal. I still haven’t found them in stores yet, but they should retail for less than $2.00 a package. Hopefully they’ll have individually wrapped ones around for Halloween later this year.

Related Candies

  1. Sunbursts Natural Mix
  2. Short & Sweet: Bites & Bites
  3. Super Sour Worms
  4. Colt’s Bolts
  5. Sjaak’s Vegan Chocolate Assortment
  6. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Line
  7. Chocolate Sunflower Seed Drops
Name: Sun Cups (Milk Chocolate & Dark Chocolate_
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Seth Ellis Chocolatier
Place Purchased: samples from Fancy Food Show
Price: retail $1.79
Size: 1.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 160 & 153
Categories: Chocolate, United States, Organic, All Natural, Kosher, Fair Trade

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:54 am     Comments (9)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Rococo Bee Bars

Rococo Bee BarsRococo is a small chocolatier and chocolate maker based in London. They grow their cacao in Grenada, in a partnership with the Grenada Chocolate Company. They grow organic Trinitario beans which are then turned into bars and fine chocolates at founder Chantal Coady’s space in London.

The design of the packaging and candy itself is charming, quaint and distinctive from other chocolatiers. The flavors she employs are also a distinctive palette of aromatics, spices and florals.

The chocolate is sold primarily in Great Britain, though there are a couple of shops that have mostly the bars in North America. When I was in San Francisco last time I found the line of Bee Bars at Miette Confiserie. The bars are expensive, so I opted for the petite versions - these are only 20 grams each but cost $3.50 (that works out to $39.50 a pound). The bars are about three inches long, so really just one portion.

The packages are beguiling with reproductions of antique French chocolate mold images lined up and printed in pastel colors like purple and olive green in the case of my bars and navy blue, pink and orange for other bars. I picked up Organic Plain Lavender (dark), Organic Milk 37% Cocoa and Organic White Cardamom.

Rococo Milk Chocolate

I was a bit surprised when I got home and opened my boxes that there is no inner wrapper. No foil, no cellophane, no overwrap for the box or even glue or tape for the tabs.

Still, my bar was in exquisite condition - glossy and beautifully molded. The bee bar, my guess, is named for the mold that has a little bee with outstretched wings on each segment. There are no honey ingredients.

The Milk 37% Cocoa Bee Bar is quite simple. It’s a little softer than a dark chocolate, though certainly doesn’t bend like a Cadbury bar.

It has the light scent of milk and sugar and a little musky hint or malt. It’s quite dark for a milk which appeals to me, though it still has that light cooling effect on the tongue that’s common in milk chocolate. The melt is silky and smooth though on the sticky side because of the sugar and 17% milk content. The chocolate notes are overshadowed by the milk for the most part, but it’s still a great texture and the fresh dairy flavors are a highlight.

Rococo Dark Chocolate with Lavender

The Lavender Bee Bar is made from 65% cacao and uses no vanilla, instead it’s organic lavender essential oil that gives this bar its pop. The fact that they use oil instead of flowers is different here. I’ve had other bars that use whole flowers to flavor the chocolate and while that does a nice job of imparting complex flavors, lavender buds really aren’t that tasty or smooth.

The dark chocolate is smooth, a bit dry and bitter. The lavender is woodsy with a hint of pine and a whiff of aromatics like menthol. I like the flavor of lavender, it reminds me a lot of rosemary - both go well with all kinds of chocolate.

Rococo White Chocolate with Cardamom

The bar that was most compelling to me was the White Cardamom Bee Bar. This one was wrapped - both in foil and then a paper-overwrap. The mold of the bar is also slightly different - it’s four sections instead of six.

The bar is beautiful, a light and creamy yellow with specks of spice. The ingredients list 28% cacao (that’d be cocoa butter) and 22% milk.

I love cardamom and love tasting it in candy. This bar utilizes it perfectly, it’s like a rich rice pudding. It’s a little sweet, but the deep nutty flavors of the cardamom, which is kind of like nutmeg, coriander and saffron all in one. I could eat this bar regularly. I wouldn’t mind a little vanilla in it, to give it some bourbon notes, but this is fabulous as it is.

Other flavor combinations I’m eager to try are Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh; Arabic Spices; Basil & Persian Lime; Orange & Geranium and Peppered Mint. For web orders in the US, it appears that Miss Del’s General Store in Clarksdale, Mississippi. At these prices they’re certainly not an everyday indulgence, more of a way to explore the world of flavors.

Related Candies

  1. My Bay Area Candy Adventure
  2. Boules de Miel (balls of honey)
  3. The Apothecary’s Garden: Herbs (and some Bees)
  4. Recchiuti
  5. Nougat de Montelimar
  6. Green and Black’s White Chocolate
Name: Organic Bee Bars: Milk Chocolate, Lavender Chocolate and Cardamom White
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Rococo Chocolates
Place Purchased: Miette Confiserie (San Francisco)
Price: $3.50 each
Size: .7 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, White Chocolate, United Kingdom, Fair Trade, Organic

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:31 am     Comments (3)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Chuao Chocolate Blocks from LEGOLAND

Legoland Chocolate from ChuaoIn the last of my vacation candy theme week, I’ve got something that I didn’t actually get on my vacation last week. But it’s something that you might.

The Man went to LEGOLAND in Carlsbad, CA yesterday, and I asked him to check in the gift shop while he was there to see if they had anything LEGO-ish to complete my week.

He called me from the store and said, “Guess what chocolate LEGOLAND has?”

He just about dropped the phone when I excitedly said, “Chuao!” (It’s not like I actually knew that, but I know his love of Chuao and their proximity to LEGOLAND.)

So he picked up a nice package of the “not quite LEGO branded” blocks. (There’s no actual name on the package of the product, it never uses the name LEGO and it’s not on Chuao’s website, so I’m guessing it’s something that’s only available at the theme park.)

There were three varieties to chose from: all milk, all white or a half & half mix. Each sleeve holds 16 blocks.

Legoland Chocolate from Chuao

Each little block is sized to approximate real LEGO.

A true LEGO 8 block (two rows of four pegs) is 9.6 mm by 32 mm by 16 mm and are basically hollow.

The Chuao version takes some liberties and is 15 mm by 35 mm by 19 mm - which as far as I’m concerned means more chocolate!

Legoland Chocolate from ChuaoI noticed that the sides are not straight verticals, the block is slightly trapezoidal. This is likely an engineering issue - chocolate is rarely injection molded as plastic LEGO blocks are. In order to get most chocolates out of a stiff mold, a little angle can make all the difference.

Also, injection molding means that the item is molded in three dimensions, in the case of chocolate blocks, the bottom is not molded, just leveled flat by gravity when the chocolate is molten.

Each block weighed 10 grams (.35 ounces) ... see, being solid has its advantages.

As I mentioned before, the packaging was so spare and minimalist it didn’t even say what kind of chocolate this is so I’m going to guess. (Hopefully I’ll get a response from Chuao soon and can revise this.)

Legoland Chocolate from Chuao

The Milk Chocolate blocks were practically flawless. The molding was excellent with no voids. The color is a deep, milky brown ... so dark that I wasn’t sure if this was milk chocolate at first.

I suspect that this is El Rey’s beautiful dark milk called Caoba which Chuao is known to favor (though they may have a custom blend done for them).

The chocolate has a beautiful snap. Mine smelled rather milky, but that might be because it was intermingled with the white.

The flavors are dark but the melt is clean and only slightly sweet. There’s a wonderful smokiness to it with a slight background bitterness. It’s quite smooth and has a thinner melt that keeps it from feeling sticky or milky-cloying. It’s good munched up for an immediate bolt of flavor or a lingering melt on the tongue.

Legoland Chocolate from ChuaoChuao’s White Chocolate is dreamy.

The color is a crisp ivory. The molding is precise and the snap is good.

It smells like milky cocoa and pound cake.

The texture is pure, solid silk. It’s sweet but has a consistent melt that is neither greasy nor watery. The sugar is ultrafine so the vanilla flavor as well as some of the cocoa-ness comes through. It’s cool on the tongue so it feels like a great, refreshing summer version of chocolate.

I suspect that this is El Rey ICOA, which is a premium un-deodorized white chocolate.

The final thing to tell you about these adorable, well made and great-tasting chocolates is the price. It was $14.95 for the sleeve. Yes, that’s nearly $1 for each block. At this point I’m just going to buy El Rey or Chuao bars (which are more widely available at grocery and gourmet stores anyway). As it is, these are not kid treats ... they’re a grown-up way to revisit a childhood favorite. Since the only place to get them is LEGOLAND, if you’ve paid $65 just to get in the gate, may as well go for broke (and satisfied).

LEGOLAND - California
One LEGOLAND Drive
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 918-LEGO
(List of Legoland Stores)

Related Candies

  1. Astor Chocolate Lobsters
  2. Disney Pixie Perfect Gummies
  3. Universal CityWalk for Candy Lovers
  4. R.M. Palmer Quax - The Yummy Ducky
  5. Askinosie White Chocolate (Plain, Nibble & Pistachio)
  6. Disneyland for Candy Bloggers
  7. Candy Blox
Name: Chocolate Blocks from LEGOLAND
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Chuao Chocolatier
Place Purchased: LEGOLAND (Carlsbad, CA)
Price: $14.95
Size: ~5.6 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, White Chocolate, United States, Chuao, Fair Trade, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:50 am     Comments (7)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sweet Earth Chocolates

Sweet Earth ChocolatesLast year I made a trip up interstate 101 from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Yes, it’s actually longer than taking I5, but I thought it would be interesting to stop at a few candy shops along the way. One that I was interested in was Sweet Earth Chocolate at about the halfway point of San Luis Obispo.

At that time they were operating out of a space in Splash Cafe in SLO. A few months ago they moved into their own candy kitchen and cafe space just down the street. (More about that here.) I was eager to see the expanded offerings from this unique confectioner that uses organic and fair trade chocolate.

Their new storefront is charming and inviting ... and large! You can get coffee drinks, sit and enjoy your purchases but I was there for the chocolate to take on my vacation.

Sweet Earth ChocolatesTheir candy cases had a nice mix of both comfort candies (chocolate dipped pretzels, house-made jellies, chocolate covered cookies, turtles and marshmallows) and truffles. What sets them apart from many chocolatiers is their line of vegan items. (Here’s the in store menu.)

The store is more than just chocolate though, there’s also information about how fair trade directly affects the communities that participate and some other fun and unique gifts.

Bakers will also enjoy access to fair trade baking chips & cocoa. For those in a hurry who don’t want to select their own box, there are also packages of pre-packed candy cups, chocolate covered goodies and of course their line of chocolate bars.

Sweet Earth Vegan Truffles

I picked up quite a bit of stuff. First, I selected a few items from the “comfort candies” section for me to munch on while on vacation. This included their chocolate dipped pretzels, toffee & chocolate dipped pretzels and some turtles. Since those weren’t for review I also got a box of nine truffles.

The truffles are well priced at 1.50 each though I found them a tad on the small size but mercifully free of the “too hot for the box” styles that chocolatiers have been using lately with artificial colors & cocoa butter ink transfers.

The Espresso truffle was one of those rare modern truffles that actually looks like a truffle. The small sphere smelled woodsy and sweet. The bittersweet chocolate shell gave way to a smooth center with a good pop of espresso flavor. A little acidic but a crisp finish with a little fruity twang. There were a few fibery bits of the coffee beans though at the end.

Sweet Earth Ginger CreamGinger Cream

This dark chocolate triangular piece holds a sweet if slightly grainy cream with a light touch of ginger.

I liked the texture and the woodsy flavor of the ginger. It didn’t have a warming burn, but a pleasant note of the root mixed with a not-too-sweet fondant-like cream. The dark chocolate shell was thick enough that there was no leakage and also provided a bittersweet background to the earthy flavors.

It was a good sized piece as well.

Sweet Earth Cardamom & GingerGinger & Cardamom Truffle

This was definitely one I was looking forward to. I love the combination of cardamom and chocolate.

The center of this truffle also had a bit of a graininess to it, I think, because of the crystallized ginger.

The cardamom was quite overwhelmed by the chocolate & ginger flavors at first, but emerged later and gave me a fresh & lingering aftertaste.

Malt Milk ChocolateMalted Milk Chocolate Truffle

I admit that I was confused by this one. I couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was when I got home. I don’t think it did well on the trip either, something about the central coast being very humid this time of year made the outside tacky.

So when I took it out to photograph it, I was puzzled. So I bit into it and yes, the flavor did remind me a bit of a Milky Way, but I still didn’t put it together until days later when I was trying to write this up and looked at the Sweet Earth Chocolates website.

Anyway, it was sweet and milky and yes, it did have a little malty hit to it. But the outside was like the sticky, stale inside of a seafoam candy so the whole thing was a bit chewy. Not unpleasant, but not “truffle-like.” I’ll give it another go though, as I’m always game for some malt.

Sweet Earth HazelnutMilk Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle

Sweet & slightly grassy tasting center with little bits of hazelnuts. Milky and entirely addictive.

This would make an excellent chocolate cup too, I would love a bigger bite ... or more of them. And maybe some in dark chocolate. Yes, a true winner. (I’m wondering if you can make a dark chocolate gianduia that’s vegan.)

Sweet Earth Vegan Truffle & Classic Truffle

Finally, I got two of the classic dark chocolate truffles. They come in a full cream version and a vegan version.

The Vegan Dark Chocolate truffle is cute, a small hand rolled sphere with a flurry of zigzags of chocolate for decoration. The aroma is dark and woodsy chocolate. The bite is soft and the center is smooth. It’s barely sweet and has a strong woodsy & tangy flavor that comes through ... then a note of coconut and a rather bitter & dry finish.

The dairy Dark Chocolate truffle has a similar look, with its decoration mostly parallel stripes. The center seemed just a bit softer but also a bit smoother. The tangy bite wasn’t there at all. The chocolate flavors seemed more pronounced, though the chocolate shell still participated with quite a bitter chocolate bite & dry finish.

Sweet Earth ChocolatesOn the whole, I find the Sweet Earth Chocolates 65% dark chocolate a bit on the astringent side. The dairy cream centers worked well with this and some of the flavors combined well to tip it more towards woodsy or berry/raisin.

What’s so refreshing about the shop & the chocolates is that they’re so approachable and fresh-tasting. I didn’t feel assaulted by political messages about fair trade and organics - for the most part the shop is about the wholesome enjoyment of freshly made chocolates ... that happen to be organic and fair trade.

I reviewed their mainstream offerings of foil wrapped candy cups last year.

If you’re in San Luis Obispo or passing through during business hours, give it a try:

Sweet Earth Chocolates
1445 Monterey St
San Luis Obispo, CA
Hours: 10 AM to 6 PM (call to confirm)
805-782-9868
Twitter: @slochocolate

Related Candies

  1. Divine Fair Trade Chocolate
  2. Askinosie Chocolate
  3. 3400 Phinney: Fig, Fennel & Almond and Hazelnut Crunch
  4. Zotter Candy Bars
  5. Sjaak’s Vegan Chocolate Assortment
  6. Terra Nostra Pocket Bars
  7. CocoaVino
Name: Fair Trade Organic Truffles
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Sweet Earth Chocolates
Place Purchased: Sweet Earth Chocolates (San Luis Obispo)
Price: $1.50 each
Size: unknown
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, Coffee, Ginger, United States, Organic, Chocolatier, Fair Trade, All Natural, Shopping

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:15 pm     Comments (1)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Javaz - Milk & Dark Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans

Javaz Milk & DarkSince the introduction of chocolate covered espresso beans sometime in the seventies not much has changed. Oh sure, sometimes they’re milk chocolate covered ... sometimes dark chocolate and even white chocolate.

At the Fancy Food Show in January I did get to try what I thought was one of the best revisions of the classic caffeinated confection: JAVAZ.

First, they’re all natural and use organic, fair traded coffee beans. Second, they use good quality chocolate. Third, they have a candy shell. But most of all, they actually roast the coffee for eating. That is, instead of roasting it for optimal brewing, it’s roasted with the idea that someone is going to crunch & consume it.

They come in two varieties: Milk and Dark.

Javaz Milk Chocolate

JAVAZ Milk are much larger than most chocolate covered coffee beans, so it’s a goodly dose of chocolate. I threw some coffee beans into the photo to show the scale.

They’re even larger than Peanut M&Ms.

They look like little bird eggs: a faint tan color with brown speckles.

The shell is thick and crunchy and the milk chocolate is sweet and has a strong dairy/milky flavor to it. The coffee bean at the center is crispy and light, I wasn’t getting the fibery, woody bits that some coffee candies seem to leave behind. The coffee beans don’t have that acrid, oily taste to them.

The whole thing tastes like coffee ice cream with crunchy bits.

Though there’s obviously caffeine in here it’s not as much as you might think: a 55 gram bag has about the same amount as a cup of coffee.

Javaz Dark Chocolate

JAVAZ Dark are decorated in the reverse of the milk ones. The shell is brown with beige speckles.

The chocolate layer here is dark chocolate, though not “pure” in the sense that there’s some dairy in there (sorry vegans, but the confectioners glaze spoiled these for you anyway).

The chocolate is quite sweet and the punch of the coffee bean is nice and balances that sugary-ness quite well. I might have preferred a little more coffee flavor.

They’re substantially crunchy, I can’t say that these are a quiet way to get a caffeine boost.

I like how thick the shells are and how easy it is to hold them in my hand or just throw a few in my jacket pocket without the protection of the bag. As long as they stay dry, they do just fine. (Okay, maybe that’s not the most sanitary thing, but I’m just being honest about my road-testing of the product.)

The coffee is sourced from Indonesia and uses only Arabica beans and benefits the Indonesia Relief Fund.

They’re made in the USA and are Kosher. The packages are a little expensive ($3.00 for 1.94 ounces), but I expect that’s because they’re just starting out ... volume usually helps to even these things out and they’re only sold in the small package. Right now I can only find them on Foodzie, though they’ve been at some food trade shows so might be in cafes and gourmet delis as well.

Related Candies

  1. Trader Joe’s Espresso Pillows
  2. M&Ms Premiums
  3. Crackheads
  4. Starbucks Chocolate
  5. Caffe Acapella - Coffee Confections
  6. Pocket Coffee
  7. Coffee Beat
  8. Bali’s Best Coffee & United Coffee Candy
Name: JAVAZ Milk & Dark
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: How Do You Take Your Coffee?
Place Purchased: samples from HDYTYC?
Price: $3.00
Size: 1.94 ounces
Calories per ounce: 142
Categories: Chocolate, Coffee, United States, All Natural, Fair Trade, Organic, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:21 am     Comments (10)

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Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.

 

 

 

 

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