Sunday 06 May, 2012

The Mint Chocolate Challenge



My definition of a great present is something that you absolutely would love to have but would never get yourself. So when a close friend marked my birthday with a number of wrapped mint chocolate bars from Whole Foods (as well as a pint of Baskin-Robbins’ perfect Mint Chip ice cream), I couldn’t have been more pleased. Mint chocolate has always been one of my favorite flavor combinations, and these organic-sustainable-ethical bars have all intrigued. But I would never have thought to buy them all and taste test. Until now. Yay!

I didn’t necessarily approach the process scientifically, but I did take some time, breaking them all open and trying a bit of each, then leaving them for a few hours before returning and making my mind up.

The Lake Champlain Peppermint Crunch Dark Chocolate (54% Cocoa) didn’t thrill me at first, but definitely grew on me (“opened up,” as they say in wine parlance)—it had some of the creamiest mouth feel, and the peppermint bits were so small as to provide some “crunch” without detracting from the overall texture. The chocolate was nicely blended and didn’t have the unchecked floral-berry tartness that a lot of pure dark has.

Endangered Species All-Natural Dark Chocolate with Deep Forest Mint (72% Cocoa) is really not in danger at all. It was 100% ethically boring. All the flavor notes were subdued, and the texture was unremarkable. So much so that you’d wonder how they decided “this is it” when they came up with the recipe.

I’m thrilled that the Q Bel all natural dark chocolate mint wafer bars were made as a tribute to the owner’s wife (according to the wrapper). But frankly, I hope Isabel is more inspiring than the product.

I had the highest hopes for Theo organic fair trade mint dark chocolate (70% cacao), not only because the wrapper was tasteful, and it actually had the USDA Organic seal, but because I’d heard good things about Theo. Regrettably, it was the most disappointing—a crumbly texture, and distinctly medicinal flavor, with strong notes of sour cherries and oil of peppermint utterly overwhelming any chocolate flavor. Yecch.

Equal Exchange organic and fairly traded mint chocolate with a delicate crunch (jeez, I really think that’s the whole name!) 67% cacao: is also nice, a bit less sweet and less minty, somewhat smooth with only a moderate acid afternote. Quite subtle and satisfying--ultimately, my favorite—and I felt better about myself just for consuming it!

Is it worth noting that all of these bars—except the wafers--had an estimable amount of fiber (3 to 5 grams per serving)? How many candies can boast that?