Love for Ethical Dark Chocolate
Updated: Jul 26
My Chocolate Truth as an Avid Consumer
Single-origin chocolate is generally delightful, so that's what will get me to spend more if I see that on a label. That's also what will get me to go to a finer grocery to obtain it. I haven't gone through the trouble and expense to eat heaps of such chocolate, but I've had enough to understand this point or to have this view. It's what's called terroir in wine, though I don't drink even a drop. An amazing whiskey reviewer, who loves Springbank, name of Ralphy (of ralphydotcom YouTube channel), really likes single malt scotch. Coffee, I would imagine is similar, where a blend muddles the properties. If a company selects a source to commit to on a label, it's probably a good one, too.
Blends are not condemned by Ralphy as regards strong drink. He reviews the likes even of Jim Beam. Likewise, I do eat blended chocolate—a lot of it, actually. I'm no snob, and I eat chocolate both as an indulgence and as a food. Once in a while I'll spend $8-10 on a bar, but don't usually go for $15+. Most of my regulars cost $3-7, common varieties occasionally on sale for $2.50. And I don't eat it like a candy bar, for anyone who doesn't know how all this works. Okay, so, maybe I am snobby relative to your basic candy isle classics. But there are a few sugar bomb abominations of my childhood I'd possibly still select on a whim when hungry and in front of a vending machine.
Dark chocolate of 70% cocoa and higher (or perhaps lower if balanced with bitter garnish or flavor) is a wonderful food, and the bitter of the particular cacao beans used are essential to the overall flavor profile. Contrariwise, fancy milk chocolate can be delicious, but I think of it more so as candy. I seldom eat milk or white chocolate. I've heard things about the various nutritional advantages and disadvantages of either, beyond the effects of added sugar, but not enough to comment beyond to say that lower sugar is preferred for tasting fine chocolate.
That said, I'll mention some milk and white chocolate I recently enjoyed just to ensure I've not disparaged it. Chocolates of the World (made by Astor Chocolate Corp) makes a dark sour cherry I would buy again, while they also made two lighter bars I also enjoyed, but might not every buy again. One was a white dulce de leche and the other tiramisu. Can you imagine? Very yummy, but fudgy sweet. I also had a honey milk chocolate that was delicious, from Ghaw and called Bee Honey, milk chocolate with honeycomb and crunchy caramel. Such things I do not frequently consume, but I have to admit I don't regret buying or eating any of those particular candy bars.
Ethical sourcing is something I look for, so only chocolate makers who at least claim to be ethical and or third-party verified are represented below, though they may not have found themselves on this verified list. Negative revelations about a company would affect my reviews and purchasing, though it's a very complex issue. If you have a genuine, concerned, informed opinion about the ethics of chocolate harvesting you'd like to share with me, then reach out.
Favorite affordable brands
I haven't had any in a long time, but their single source offerings are superb.
But in the hazelnut version, the nut bitter overpowers the cocoa bitter.
2. Scharffen Berger
3. Chocolates of the Worlds (Astor)
Sour Cherry is is mouth watering sour followed by a lasting, rich chocolate.
4. Alter Eco
Try their organic salted caramel truffle.
They make single source. Where I'm at, they're available in fancy, boutique type grocery stores.
And I go up to their 85% on their plain dark bars.
I also especially like the sea salt and the orange bars.
I'm not sure they still make the dark chocolate truffles that come in bar package (though each piece is separate). Those have an enjoyable texture.
6. Green & Black
hazelnut and current: Sweet, chewy fruitiness from the currents combine with mild, crunchy nuts. Sometimes hazelnuts have a bitter that will compete with the chocolate, but these are mostly textural. The tang of the currents complements the cocoa.
These aren't my favorites and may even include milk, but I either liked them or have something to say about them:
Chocolove Chilies and Cherries—It's not 100% about chocolate here, but it's a lovely mix of flavors that come in stages, finishing with a wonderful, mild heat. I also like their coffee, ginger, and nut butters.
Ghirardelli Midnight Tango—It's close to being a candy. Neither the charry or the almond offset the sweet. But, it's a very nice combo and worth trying.
Theo cherry, almond—I wanna say all their chocolate is somehow beefy in texture. The cherries are chewier and more mellow than in the Ghdl.'s tango so the chocolate flavors are pronounced. Theo gets sea salt wrong, I think.
Endangered Species Forest Mint—Has a true mint scent, which I find soothing; mint is not overpowering but you can even get a sense of it in your breath. Texture is firm to smooth while the cocoa and natural mint meld for a high refreshing tone that momentarily reads sweeter than most darks above 70%. The pleasant bitter of the cocoa integrates very well with the mint until it becomes more fully evident in a nice finish. That said, I feel like the company may have changed. I'm not certain.
Kinder—The US eggs are disgusting to me at this point but I still like the plain little bars (just called Chocolate, I guess) as well as Bueno, which is crunchy.
Cocoacara Terravita—empty, smooth crumble into notes of hazelnut and vanilla. Subdued cocoa bitter.
Chuao Firecracker—Sticky sweet for a dark, not much bitter, short spike of heat. The pop rocks do remind of fireworks, especially since they aren't just felt, but heard.
Taza Chocolate sea salt & almond—Dry though it does have some cocoa butter. Good food, but not a particularly sumptuous bar.