Equal Exchange’s Organic Very Dark chocolate bar

chocolate bar wrapper designThis chocolate bar is produced in Switzerland for the Equal Exchange co-op of West Bridgewater, Mass. It comes in a large bar of 80g (2.8 oz.). The bar is firmly wrapped in a sealed white envelope of a cellophane-like substance, inside an outer branded wrapper of paper. Its ingredient list contains four things: chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter and ground vanilla beans. The list actually contains five items – two types of sugar, raw cane and unrefined whole cane.

I like a short list of ingredients in a chocolate, the same way I like music reduced to a few elements: a jazz trio, say, or a couple of singers accompanying themselves on acoustic guitar and fiddle. The ingredients are all organic, certified by Oregon Tilth, which has its headquarters just down the road from where I live. It’s also certified kosher pareve, vegan, and soy- and gluten-free.

The first impression on the tongue is of sugar, but that’s quickly supplanted by the bitter taste of the 71% dark chocolate. As it melts on the tongue, it provides a pleasant combination of that bitter with a light tartness. At 71% chocolate there’s not much room for cocoa butter, so it melts quite slowly on the tongue unless you’re also drinking something hot at the time. (Which Equal Exchange recommends, offering a pairing of their own Organic Love Buzz coffee with this bar.) Sounds like a good idea, be right back …

Yum, that’s quite good. I’m not pairing it with Equal Exchange’s coffee (although I could; it’s sold locally) but rather with another local product, Bespoken Coffee Roasters‘ Valle del Cauca decaf. Their sister company’s coffee shop, Tried & True, is coincidentally located just over a stone’s throw from the Oregon Tilth headquarters, and they are my favorite coffee roasters. They ship freshly roasted beans weekly; just sayin’.

The coffee’s warmth does aid in the chocolate’s melting, and the tartness of the lightly roasted coffee rather emphasizes the tart elements of the chocolate.

The chocolate has a pleasant aftertaste and leaves a slight astringent mouth feel. The ingredients list includes “ground vanilla beans” and if I really look for it I notice the vanilla taste. But it’s ground finely enough that there’s no feeling in the mouth but melted chocolate. The chocolate is multiply sourced from small farmers in the Dominican Republic, Panama, Peru and Togo, with sugar from Paraguay and vanilla from Madagascar. So the chocolate itself doesn’t have that sometimes startlingly unique flavor you get from single source chocolate, but the flavor is a well balanced blend. So not a “Wow!” chocolate but good quality and comforting. Recommended.

Gary Whitehouse

Gary has been reviewing music, books and more at the Green Man Review since sometime in the previous Millennium. He lives in a mostly hipster-free part of Oregon, where he enjoys dogs, books, music, the outdoors, and craft beer, cider, and coffee.

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