With a couple of reviews of the UK version of this chocolate already online, it was lovely to be contacted by Seeds of Change with an offer to try some more of their organic chocolate bars. This time however, the samples came by courier – all the way from San Francisco, USA. New flavours are being launched in the USA, with Boulder, Colorado being the city of choice for the launch because of its long history of positive environmental issues. All good stuff, but is the chocolate as good as the slightly less glamourous UK versions?
I was sent what I thought were four bars, but each ‘wallet’ turned out to have three mini-bars inside.
Of the four, this was the only milk chocolate bar, so it seemed to make sense to attack it first. The ‘puffed grains’ in question seem to be made up from six different cereals, and sat in a layer along the bottom of each bar. Instead of sugar this chocolate was sweetened with evaporated cane juice, which was certainly still sweet, but in a much softer way.
The puffed grains add a subtle cereal flavour which sits well with the slightly ‘darker’ sweetness which is inherent in the chocolate. The cocoa flavours aren’t particularly strong and they tend to come and go in waves with the sweetness of the cane juice, only really becoming dominant towards the finish. This is definitely sweet chocolate, but the choice of something other than refined sugar has resulted in a much more enjoyable kind of sweetness.
Next up was the 61% Dark Chocolate. This was obviously the ‘house dark’ chocolate, so it was a logical choice to sample this in its unadulterated form. The smell of it put me in mind of some of the raw chocolate products we’ve reviewed in the past, but on the palate it was a completely different story. Popping a square into my mouth, I was surprised at how dominant the sweetness of the cane juice was – again. It was the first thing I tasted, but it quickly gave way to subtle dark chocolate flavours. A quick re-read of the packaging and there was the answer – ‘Semisweet chocolate’. For me the sweetness seemed to detract from the chocolate flavours a little – I found myself wishing for more chocolate and less sugar.
Having enjoyed Camaya’s toasted coconut slab, finding this coconut bar in my parcel was a very pleasant (and welcome) surprise. Cracking the mini-slab into four released a wave of coconut aromas which had me licking my lips in anticipation. The coconut in this bar is in tiny fragments and so it delivers its flavours very quickly. I found myself enjoying this one more than I had the ‘pure’ dark bar, as the natural flavour of the coconut balanced the sweetness of the chocolate and provided a nuttier, more natural counterpoint. This was a good pairing in terms of flavour balance.
My final sample bar was a cherry and vanilla combination. Unlike it’s predecessor I didn’t catch a huge ‘whoosh’ of cherry scents as I opened the package but there was a subtle hint of fruit there. When I tasted it, the cherry flavours built slowly as the chocolate melted, delivering that slightly bitter fruit flavour which blended really well with the chocolate, taking the top end off the sweetness and providing a well balanced combination of chocolate and fruit. Of the four bars I found this to be the one that allowed most of the chocolate flavour to come through, and I think that was primarily due to the bitterness of the cherry pieces countering the sweetness inherent in Seeds of Change’s choice of chocolate recipe.
My overall impression of these bars is that there is indeed a big difference between American and European palates. This chocolate is much sweeter than its British counterpart, and for me that only tends to detract from the crux of the matter – the cocoa flavours. Having said that, I did enjoy the coconut and cherry bars, mainly because the added ingredients balanced out the flavours. It was fascinating to taste products developed for the USA after I had tasted their British equivalents, and it really brought home the differences between the continents in terms of consumer tastes.
Seeds of Change in America are running a competition with a grand prize of a year’s supply of chocolate. You have until July 31st to submit a video, photo or story here when the link goes live. I couldn’t tell you whether the competition is open to everyone or just US residents, as it has yet to be formally announced. Obviously, keep your eyes peeled, people.