Organic Chocolate – The Definitive Guide
Organic chocolate is luscious, whether eaten in chunks, blended as truffles, whisked into desserts or baked into pastries. A few years ago, organic chocolate didn’t exist. Then Green and Black’s was born, and now a plethora of excellent organic chocolatiers are active and out there, certified and delicious. From regular dark, milk and white chocolate to exotic lime, chilli and salt bars, here’s the definitive alphabetical guide to organic chocolate and raw organic chocolate.
Delicious fairtrade chocolate from this San Francisco-based fair trade company. Four varieties of fair trade chocolate, of which two are certified as organic. All four bars are made in Switzerland, home of fabulous smooth chocolate. All four list the ingredient names alongside the name of the country of origin. The two USDA certified organic bars are the Dark Chocolate Almond and the Dark Chocolate Velvet. The Dark Chocolate Almond is only 58% cocoa, but is warm and sophisticated with a wide palette of rich fruity flavour notes. The Dark Chocolate Velvet is actually a dark milk bar, with a whopping 46% cocoa, which is tons for a milk bar. The melted butter in this bar contributes to the creaminess. This is the one for me. This bar gets nine out of ten for a milk chocolate bar, with the Dark Almond getting about seven. That said, the packaging is a bit everyday health food shop, and I was disappointed about the plastic inner wrapper. Check out other Alter Eco foods, which include organic teas and gourmet grains such as coral rice.
This Dutch company make lots of quality non-organic chocolates, but also the sublime Australian Dreamers organic praline selection. It gets top marks for packaging in terms of design, with some grumbles about the un-eco plastic bits. The aroma is pleasantly rounded and nutty, with stunning Aboriginal-style pictures on each of the big individual chocolates. They’re melt in the mouth good, and taste sweet and heavenly. Overall, we give them nine out of ten.
A Spanish chocolatier that makes exceptional chocolate. As far as I know, these guys only make two kinds of chocolate bar: Chocolate Negro and Chocolate Leche. And why bother making any more when these are just so good?! The milk chocolate is smooth and creamy, perhaps a little on the sweet side, and with a treacley flavour from the raw sugar. It’s nice, definitely good chocolate. But it’s the dark chocolate that’s the queen of the crop. At 72%, it’s definitely high in cocoa, but not the highest percentage on the market. Which means it must be the quality of the beans that gives this bar such deep and rich earthy tones. Smooth and dark, with a pleasing snap, this is set to become one of my favourite organic dark chocolate bars. And I love the paper wrapper complete with a waxed paper inner wrapper. Very very classy. Perhaps nine out of ten for the dark, and seven and a half for the milk.
Howe Pit, Norwich Road, Brooke, Norfolk, NR15 1HJ – Tel: 01508 558888
These extremely creamy vegan chocolates from come in lots of truffle varieties, including Midnight Espresso, Hazelnut Crunch, and Cognac Flambed Banana. The super-strong Champagne truffle is laced with rye alcohol, making them taste more like cognac, with effectively strong alcohol content… They’re all quite earthy and bitter for such a gooey confectionary, and are covered in a loose cocoa flour. We had mixed feelings about the packaging, preferring the original round wooden box to the newer ‘Black Magic’ style cardboard box. Overall, we give them seven out of ten.
Heavenly fine Swiss milk and dark chocolate from an Irish company — and there’s a good cause, too! For every bar you buy, 10p goes to the hunger relief project of your choice. This is a welcome addition to their non-organic charitable range that includes a Belgian chocolate world and a chocolate map of Africa in an ocean of white chocolate. They get ten out of ten, cos you can’t knock chocolate for charidee…
The Chocolate Alchemist
Seriously luxurious and full-flavoured chocolate bars and chocolate chunks. Nice modern packaging combining transparent eco-friendly cellulose with contrasting graphics. Not so sure about the plastic box’s eco credentials that the Choc Chunks are housed in, but other than that, looking good. Tasting divine, particularly the Brazil Nut and Sultana Chunky Bar that makes your standard Yorkie bar look like a wafer thin mint. No wonder it won Gold in the 2004 Great Taste Awards. We also like the Chilli Spicy Bar. Over all, we give them eight and a half out of ten.
The Chocolate Society
Simply fabulous plain and milk bars. Okay, the wrapper design isn’t very exciting, but we liked the recipe inside the paper for a classic chocolate mousse. And once you get inside, you immediately know you’ve hit gold. A superbly rich aroma follows through to the smoothest, darkest, melt-in-the-mouth plain ole gorgeous chocolate bliss. An amazing ten out of ten.
This tiny company make truffles and brownies with a sumptuousness that oozes luxury and loveliness. Run solely by a lady called Sarah Payne, everything about Cocoa Loco brownies and truffles shouts out ‘Business Run By Serious Chocoholic’. Forget Pret a Manger’s hollow ‘Passionate About Food’ claims. Sarah actually IS passionate about food. And chocolate in particular. The truffles ooze creamily just like they should. The brownies are moister than a moist thing. Soft and squidgy, chocolatey as they can possibly be. We give them nine out of ten, with a point off the bull’s eye for being a wee bit on the sweet side. Oh, and they arrive packaged in bio-degradable bags with home-made sticky labels, plus they can send them gift-wrapped on request.
The Cocoa Tree
So pretty! The transparent plastic sleeve reveals a very simple range of bars, including the most grown up fruit and nut chocolate in the galaxy. Dried apricots, walnuts and sultanas lie half-exposed in the sweet brown stuff, lifting the slightly cloying texture and taste to nice new heights. This one gets seven out of ten.
Oregon may well turn out to be Heaven – the evidence is Dagoba chocolate. Every different flavour in this exclusively-organic range of dark, milk and white chocolate bars is exquisite. From their lavender and blueberries dark chocolate bar to the milk chocolate ginger-sweetness of the chai bar, every eating chocolate we tried was as near to perfection as we could imagine. And they make cooking chocolate, drinking chocolate (with or without chilli), and a few other goodies like dragees and chocolate syrup. Oh my, we’re going to give them ten out of ten!
Belgium chocolate lozenges made in Surrey, individually wrapped and packaged in fantastique modern and stylish boxes. Fairly sweet plain and milk chocolates, with a nice aroma, good melt and excellent fruity taste. Eight out of ten.
We like it. Grown up and stylish dinner party treats in handy wipe-clean boxes. Individual chocolate thins, superb chocolate coated biscuits, and heavenly chocolate coated mixed nuts. Big question mark about what the Duchy of Cornwall has got to do with the ingredients — cocoa, sugar, macadamia nuts, etc etc. It’s great that the Duchy Originals brand is raising awareness and cash for organics, but we’re concerned about a completely non-Cornish product gaining shelf-space from strong branding of our monarch-to-be. Politics aside, the products are excellent, on the sweet side, with great melting and tasting chocolates made in Britain by Ackermans. Seven out of ten.
A lovely concept. Organic and ethically traded chocolate bars, with 10% of net profits going directly to charities that help endangered species, including Chimp Haven and National Wildlife Federation. This Indianapolis-based company is now the best selling chocolate brand in the American natural products market, so it’s very cool that they’re spreading the conservation message far and wide. However, I have to be honest and say this is not my favourite chocolate in terms of taste. The many different flavoured bars and unflavoured bars are made from chocolate that’s manufactured with a mainstream American palate in mind. I found it to be sweet and bland, without the intensity or complexity of very fine chocolate. Without doubt better than Hershey’s by a long way, but nothing that got me very excited. And although the packaging for the main range of organic bars is inoffensive, I was a bit disturbed by the Organic Bug Bites. These are little individually wrapped bite-sized chocolates… wrapped in heavy duty non-recyclable plastic. I don’t really understand. Conservation-friendly chocs wrapped in non-eco wrapping… So I give this brand five out of ten, and wonder if maybe that’s generous.
This American company (not to be confused with the Scottish tea company of the same name) have been making organic fairtrade chocolate bars since 2004. Okay, the packaging is on the everyday health food side of design, which is a shame, as the actual chocolate bars themselves are astonishingly good. The Organic Dark Chocolate with Pure Cocoa Nibs delivers a major punch, the cocoa nibs adding a fine crunch and a major dose of deep earthy unrefined cocoa. The Organic Milk Chocolate with Ground Hazelnuts is on the other end of the scale, it’s smooth smooth nutty flavour evenly textured and simple in its melt. The whole range is on the sweet side (this is American chocolate after all). But it’s the right kind of sweet, the treacly notes of rapadura and raw can sugar adding a delicate homely flavour to the mix. We gave it eight out of ten.
This is really great chocolate. It’s made in San Francisco by Bridge Brands, an umbrella company who own some little chocolate companies like Book Lover’s Chocolate, and Wine Lover’s Chocolate. Gaia Organic Chocolate is the organic branch of their enterprise, and there are three offerings: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, and Drinking Chocolate. That’s it; very simple and to the point. But good, melty, smooth, not too sweet, nicely packaged in sustainable materials, and with all the Organic, Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance credentials you’d hope for in an organic chocolate. Nine out of Ten.
Green & Blacks
Still fabulous, the company that really kick-started the whole organic chocolate thing in the UK. Simply the greatest white chocolate we’ve ever tasted, speckled with vanilla and meltingly smooth. Also love the cooking chocolate… not so strange when you realise that the great high-cocoa content revolution was started by people simply tucking in to fine French cooking chocolate. A consistently good range of many flavoured bars (although the Maya Gold was a bit too sweet), plus drinking cocoa, ice creams, choccy biscuits, etc We gave them seven out of ten for their bars.
Ithaca Fine Chocolates
The home of the Art Bar, a nice concept. It involves exceptionally good Swiss chocolate wrapped in a stylish design with a mini art postcard under the wrapper, Willy Wonka-style. Artists include adults and children, and varies from abstract modern painting to figurative photos and graphic design. The chocolate isn’t riding on the art though. This is truly gourmet organic fairtrade chocolate. Slow-blended over three days, the finished products are ultra smooth and creamy. We gave it eight out of ten.
This organic health foods company made organic Aero bars until very recently that were delicious. However, they seem to have ceased production now, concentrating on their dark chocolate-coated rice cakes instead. We don’t understand — bring back organic bubbly bars!
Centre d’Affaires le Laser, Z.A. de Fontvert, F84130 Le Pontet, France
We didn’t manage to get any for the tasting, but heard it’s out there and good.
Lake Champlain Chocolates
This American chocolatier produces a range of four very nice organic bars: 55% Dark; 34% Milk; 38% Milk with Sea Salt & Almonds; and 55% Dark Spicy Aztec. Okay, on the downside, I wasn’t very excited about their plain dark bar. Sweet and not very cocoa-ey, it’s not as bad as some, but isn’t something I’d choose to eat again. The milk with salt and almonds was better, but I felt the salt was really heavy handed, which is a shame, because the dark milk chocolate is nice if a little on the sweet side for my palate. The plain milk chocolate bar is delicious. Creamy but with good flavour from the cocoa, it’s rich and sumptuous. Yes it’s sweet, but it seems pretty well balanced with the cocoa. However, the best bar by far in my opinion is the spicy Aztec. Very spicy chili is mellowed by a very generous sprinkling of that wonderful American flavour combination, cinnamon and vanilla. The texture is exciting due to some secret pumkin seeds, so this bar gets seven and a half out of ten, with the others getting six. Oh, and I liked the paper and foil wrappers with a modern yet classic design and good colours.
The ladybirds are cute, but what are they thinking of with that old fashioned truffles packaging? Surprising from this classy manufacturer of truffles and chocs, although maybe explained by them being established almost a century ago. We found these a bit predictable and sweet, but they had a good melt feel. Six out of ten.
Sorry, but this little plastic wrapped milk chocolate bar is the foulest thing to pass off as chocolate since Hershey’s. Almost as bad as carob, it gets two out of ten.
A loud cheer for the lawyers from Brighton! Innovative flavours and shapes, including dried mango dipped in white chocolate, sensuous nutmeg and little white turtles. Fun, slightly kitsch packaging, a bit heavy on the see-through plastics, but hey-ho, they look good. Good robust chocolate flavours and nice melt and aroma. Eight out of ten.
An old-fashioned independent whole foods producer based in rural England. Organica chocolate comes in lots of different flavours, plus there are a bunch of vegan and non-vegan unflavoured bars. I’ll start with the Swiss Dairy White Chocolate Bar. It proudly lets you know on the front that it’s Soil Associaton certified, meaning it’s stringently certified as organic. It also carries logos for recycled paper, 70% Ethical Ingredients, The Monkey Sanctuary (which gets 5% of the wholesale price of each bar), and let’s you know it’s vegetarian, gluten-free and non-GM. Flip the bar, and you get to see a cute monkey and learn about the work of the Monkey Sanctuary. You get the idea… the wrappers are very natural productsy. This is everyday chocolate rather than posh stuff, so it’s nice that they’re wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Okay, here’s what I think of the chocolate. The Dairy White is sweet and creamy, with a reassuringly speckled appearance that proclaims lots of natural organic vanilla pods. The Vegan Swiss White Bar is another member of the Organica family, and to tell you the truth, it’s really not too bad. I mean, the concept of a vegan white chocolate doesn’t sound promising to this cream-lover, but the reality is a bar that I certainly wouldn’t call white chocolate, but that I would eat on a sweet-tooth day. In general, I’d say that the range is quite everyday, not very strongly flavoured, but definitely inoffensive. Perhaps five out of ten.
Lots to choose from this all-vegan range, including the hands-down winner plain chocolate with cayenne pepper. It kicks! We found the other flavours weirdly interesting, with very earthy, almost mushroomy overtones. Kinda nice in an odd way, but not very related to chocolate. Ethical to the max, the cocoa’s from a fairtrade scheme in the Dominican Republic that pays particular attention to women’s rights. The packaging isn’t totally up to scratch, although we like the inter-twined cayenne peppers. Overall four for most of the flavours, but six for the cayenne, especially for cooking.
These guys design for mainland Europe, a very different aesthetic from the UK. The rapadura in this range of milk and nut bars, drinking cocoa plus little ‘tiger sticks’ give a faintly treacley note that completely divided our tasting group. Basically, it doesn’t taste like conventional decent chocolate, so you’ll either love it if you’re a rapadura fan, or loath it if you’re looking for a standard nice chocolate. The scores out of ten ranged from six to the dreaded nul points.
Raw Living Hi-Bar, Hi-5, and Hi-Trail with Goji Berries
This is the real deal. Handmade raw chocolate from Kate Magic’s amazing magic kitchen. Original and best, all of Kate’s products are highly recommended for anyone in the UK and Europe. And they also sell the raw cocoa ingredients, so try using them in Kate Wood’s raw truffle recipe.
Ah yes, this is more like it! We do like the quaint blue and white pouch packet, resealable to keep the contents fresh if it manages to stay in your cupboard that long. These purveyors of exotic organic and non-organic bars provided us with their rose and geranium plain, cardamom white, and milk chocolate salt bars. The basic opinion was that this is a cool quality product, with people preferring one or other of the bars. Everyone seemed to like the salt one best, but maybe this was because it helped to stabilise our palates after such a lot of cocoa! Out of ten, we gave this range eight.
Pronounced ‘Jacques’, this Californian organic company was founded by a Dutch chap who moved to the States in the 1980′s. Still an authentic family company, they make a great range of chocolate bars, truffles and special shaped chocolates, including Valentine, Easter and Christmas varieties. The packaging is nostalgic, using proper thick foil wrapped in a paper wrapper. We fell in love with the Milk Chocolate with Almond Butter bar. The smooth smooth almond praline centre is perfection, and the sweetness of the milk chocolate provides an excellent counterpart. In general, we found their chocolates on the sweeter and smoother side of the spectrum. Eight out of ten, with higher marks on the truffles.
The Stamp Collection
The Warhol-esque pictures of our Terry on these bars is sort of fun, but not very well done. Mr Stamp has joined Buxton Foods again to provide three vegan and sugar-free bars of chocolate, in plain, mint and orange flavours, the only organic, vegan and sugar-free stuff out there to our knowledge. The result is not surprisingly on the bitter side, but is quite pleasant tasting, with an alright melt and aroma. We give it six out of ten.
San Francisco is probably the most gourmet city in the world. It’s also at the center of fair-trade policy and all things computer-geek. So it’s no surprise that this incredibly gourmet, anti-slavery, politically astute, left-leaning, techno-wrapped, eco chocolate hails from California’s Bay Area. Firstly, I need to tell you that it is one of the most delicious organic chocolate brands you will find anywhere. Then I have to proclaim the eco-wrap as stylish and environmentally friendly. It’s wonderful that all the ingredients are rigorously sourced for their fair-trade credentials, but a shame they’re not all of the chocolate bars in the Tcho range are organic. For Tcho’s organic bars, this brand scores 9.5 out of 10.
The Tea Room
Based in Culver City, Los Angeles, this artisan organic chocolate company is actually a tea company, and that’s why their chocolate bars are infused with tea. The teas include black, green and herbal blends, and the chocolate itself is rich and delicious, with a great ‘snap.’ The Mate Tea bar is super dark and bitter, with added tannins from the tea, while the other end of the spectrum is championed by their Chamomile Tea and Honey White Chocolate bar, which is sweet, floral and soft on the palate. And the packaging design is pretty as a picture, so this brand scores 9 out of 10.
Terra Nostra Organic
This Canadian company were founded by a chap called Karlo who is a fifth generation chocolatier. The company produce nine varieties of chocolate bars, all wrapped in nice recyclable paper and foil wrappers. There are four dark varieties, two milk varieties, and three vegan milk chocolate bars that use rice milk instead of dairy milk. Of the four dark bars, three are only 60% cacao with the fourth bar named ‘Intense Dark’ containing 73%. The three 60% bars are sweet and fairly mainstream in flavour, but with a nice texture. The ‘Intense Dark’ is indeed surprisingly intense and dark, with a wonderful array of earthy and leather notes, exactly as it says on the pack. More of this one please… The milk bars are pleasant enough, but to be honest, the rice milk bars I found too sweet and with that horrible rice milk flavour. Overall, I give this brand six out of ten, with the ‘Intense Dark’ getting eight out of ten, and the ‘Ricemilk Choco’ getting four out of ten from me… However, I’ve passed their vegan bars over to my vegan friend Shima, and this is what she says:
“It is true. I love rice milk. And I love milk chocolate. As a vegan, the latter is hard to come by – at least tastily – so I was most delighted to indulge in a Terra Nostra Organic Solid Ricemilk Choco Bar. It melted in my mouth, sweet, warm, light, rich, all good things milk chocolate should be. I also had a go at the Dark Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Truffle bars, but found them more sour than sweet. (Perhaps the rice milk and dark chocolate personalities just don’t mesh.) Vegan dark chocolate is easier to come by (and thus easier to criticize), but I would highly encourage all to dig in to the Ricemilk Choco Bar (of the non-dark variety). You will be pleased!”
Tesco’s is the UK’s top supermarket chain, and they offer a lot of good quality own-brand organic grocery items. They’re also launching a chain of smaller supermarkets in America under the name ‘Fresh & Easy’. Inside the paper wrapper of their organic chocolate bar is a fair to middling brown substance that is basically a bit boring but inoffensive. Middling melt, standard taste, faintly aromatic, it delivers a memory of decent chocolate in an everyday kind of way that’s still a thousand times better than Hershey’s. We gave it five out of ten.
Trader Joe’s Organic Chocolate
Trader Joe’s is a big American chain of natural product stores that ethically trades with the people behind the foods they sell. Whilst there’s a lot of very dubious chocolate being sold in the UK, anyone who has ever tasted a mainstream American chocolate bar will understand why Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bars are considered gourmet in LA. As such, I am impressed with their range of organic bars. They are making an effort. They are all way superior to anything Hershey’s make. For starters, they do indeed contain cocoa. But to my spoiled European palate, 57% is just not enough cocoa for a dark chocolate bar. The Organic Dark Chocolate with Raisins and Pecans bar breaks with a dull thud instead of a snap, giving away the fact that it’s stuffed with fat. It’s also extremely sweet, especially with the generous amount of sultanas its endowed with. However, the 73% Super Dark bar saves the day. Its smoky coffee overtones and earthy rough texture may be a little wholefoody for some, but to my Green & Blacks loving palate, this bar is deeply chocolate. I’ll give this bar eight out of ten and keep my fingers crossed that Trader Joe’s start taking tips from Oregon-based chocolatiers Dagoba for the other bars in their range.
Traidcraft Organic Chocolate
Delicious stuff! There’s a rich plain chocolate that’s darker tasting than its 59% would suggest. Also a nice not-too-sweet milk bar, a praline bar and a cappuccino bar. All great, we give the range seven and a half out of ten.
So many different varieties, all of them organic and fairly traded. The most exciting bar to my mind is the 85% dark chocolate, which is deeply dark, but still has great melt alongside the berryish flavours. One of the few bars over 75% that are definitely still good for eating as well as cooking. The 72% is also lovely, with a really liquid melt to it, and the milk chocolate with hazelnuts and praline bars are lovely and nutty without being too sweet. Let down a bit by the peppermint bar with an After Eight style centre, this all-organic range still gets seven out of ten and will definitely be welcome anytime in my cupboard.
Ysanne’s Raw Chocolate
OrganicFoodee’s founder, Ysanne Spevack, makes exquisite raw chocolate based around one amazing, organic ingredient: her friend Robert’s Criollo cacao beans that he grows in Ecuador. As with any food, the ingredients you use make a huge difference, so when it comes to chocolate, the cacao you use makes or breaks the recipe. Robert’s cacao is heirloom super amazing pure Grade A cacao. By the time Ysanne has combined it with additional ingredients that are all organic and produced in small batches, it is sweet, luscious and sumptuously chocolatey.
Enjoy it in these flavours: Classic Coconut Cacao, Rose, Salt, Chili and Persian Lime, or Cardamom. Currently made by hand, to order.
Many thanks to local, seasonal and wonderful restaurant Bermondsey Kitchen who kindly hosted the first chocolate tasting we had.