Equal Exchange is a “fairly traded” brand that produces a wide range of products from tea & coffee to olive oil, honey, and – of course – chocolate.
It’s the kind of organisation that has me in two minds. One the one hand, it’s a worker owned co-operative that’s producing and promoting fairly traded products. But on the other hand, it’s a relatively big brand with a large range of products made in big factories. I can’t help thinking that the quality of some of the smaller chocolate makers who buy direct from farmers & producers isn’t going to translate into a big umbrella brand like this.
Despite the in-depth story on the wrapper, I’m still unclear where the cacao for this bar comes from. There is a photo of a farmer from Peru on the back and Panama, Ecuador, Peru and the Dominican Republic are mentioned on the inside of the wrapper. I assume that means this is some kind of blend of those origins, which seems a shame given some of the fine flavour cacao that’s grown in the individual countries.
What I can tell you is that it’s a 55% cocoa solids dark chocolate, so there’s a fair amount of sugar along with candied ginger, lemon oil and black pepper.
So how does it taste? Well, almost exactly like you’d expect!
The sweetness of the chocolate and the flavour of the ginger hit you first, followed swiftly by a nicely balanced lemon. Finally the heat from the ginger and black pepper hit you and stay with you long after the chocolate has gone.
While it’s interesting, and the flavours do go together quite well, the black pepper isn’t really necessary here. The ginger alone would have been enough for a pleasant lingering warmth. As it is, half an hour after trying the bar I still have the heat from the pepper in my mouth and I’m ready for it to go away now.
I really wanted to like this chocolate, but it’s just trying too hard for my tastes. The wealth of information on the wrapper that doesn’t explain simple things like where the chocolate comes from isn’t compelling or exciting. The flavours in chocolate had a similar effect on me. There’s too much going on with a lack of focus.
But this isn’t a bad chocolate bar. If you like lemon, ginger and a bit of heat you’ll probably love it. Finding it might be a challenge though, as after checking all the online retailers on the Equal Exchange website, the only place I could find stocking it is Amazon in the US.