Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January 10th: Bittersweet Chocolate Day

Now this is a day I can easily celebrate.  I love bittersweet chocolate (a.k.a. extra dark chocolate) and I try to make sure to eat at least a piece a day.  (It's good for both your brain and your heart!)  It's usually my afternoon snack or my dessert at night.  Sometimes, I'll use it in something like a microwave s'more or crushed and sprinkled into my yogurt. 

When I was younger, I couldn't stand chocolate.  I still don't really care for chocolate cake or ice cream (I much prefer vanilla in both cases), but as an adult, I find I really like dark chocolate.  Milk chocolate is too sweet and white chocolate is even sweeter.  Finding a chocolate I like was hard at first because I was also trying to stick with companies whose business practices I found ethical.  I once read a collection of food essays (I think it was Food for Thought by Rubin, but I can't be sure) and one essay was about the mostly unethical chocolate industry.  After reading that essay and learning about the links chocolate has to child slavery and damage to the environment, I vowed to only buy from companies I thought had good practices.  Stop Chocolate Slavery has a pretty thorough list of chocolate companies and whether or not they claim to be organic and/or fair trade.  I do occasionally buy from Chuao Chocolates, even though they're not organic, because one of the owners presented at the Science of Chocolate and was impressive.  It still has that small family feel and the shop in La Jolla is always nice to visit.

However, I have to admit my go-to chocolate these days is Taza Chocolate.  (It's found at most Whole Foods.)  It really reminds me of the chocolate you buy in Mexico - slightly grainy, rich, flavorful, and just dissolves in your mouth.  It's not listed on Stop Chocolate Slavery, but claims to be Counter Culture Direct Trade Certified and USDA Organic.

Some places, though, I can't find Taza or it is just out of my budget for the day. Another chocolate that I like to buy is Endangered Species chocolate, specifically the 88% with the blank panther on the packaging.  If I'm feeling indulgent or craving something really sweet, I'll go for the 77% with almonds and cranberries (the one with the wolf on the packaging.)  Normally, though, when I'm trying a new brand, I'll reach for the 85% or higher, as that's what I like best. 

I've tried 99% chocolate and I just don't like it.  Yet, I love taking cocoa beans, taking off the outer shell, and then nibbling away on the bean.  Most people prefer to crush the beans and use them as topping because many people find the bean to be bitter.  For some reason, I don't but I still can't stand the 99% chocolate.  I'm not sure why, but for me, 100% cocoa = awesome, 99% = ew!, and 88% cocoa= awesome.

Another chocolate I like is SweetRiot.  Those cute little tins filled with chocolate-coated cocoa nibs are perfect to keep in my purse or backpack.  When I have the urge for chocolate, one or two of those little nibs can help making the craving go away.  They're USDA Organic and are working on earning their fair trade certification.  I'm not sure of all the places you can find Sweet Riot, but I know you can find them at REI, Whole Foods and the SweetRiot website.

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