Get Your Chocolate Fix with These 13 Eco-Sweets
With Valentine's Day just days away, you're likely to be scrambling for last-minute sweets and treats for your loved ones (or just looking for an indulgent snack for yourself). But scramble no more. We gathered Sierra Club staff members together for a massive taste test of some of the best, most sustainable chocolate bars out there. Our not-so-professional tasters — ranging from the chocoholic to the non-enthusiastic — sampled 13 different eco-chocolates from 4 companies. So now you can relax, find out which sweets had everyone reaching for more, and know that Valentine's Day has been saved.
Endangered Species Chocolate
This natural chocolate bar is full of GMO-free, vegan, 72% dark chocolate and bright surprises of raspberry. Senior front end web developer Jesse Browne loved the "peppery, slightly acidic" taste. Mollie Eldemir, calendar program coordinator and online store manager, noted that the dark, rich flavors were reminiscent of raspberry liqueur. This bar is ideal for the fruit lover in your life. Plus, with 10% of the proceeds of every bar purchase going to support species conservation efforts, who can say no?
Milk chocolate: 3.5
With the highest rating of all the chocolates, our tasters were struck by this delicious, creamy milk chocolate made from Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa. Sierra editorial intern Bianca Hernandez said this is the chocolate she'd want most when in the mood for "a classic," and Sophie Matson, digital product manager and known chocolate lover, confided that she "could eat the whole bar." Look no further for a well-balanced, delectable milk chocolate.
Featuring flakes of Real Salt, 72% dark chocolate, and crunchy almond bits, this species-saving bar also scored well with our tasters. Lillian Miller, outreach systems manager, thought this would be the perfect cure for a sugar and salt craving. This bar was too salty for some, like communications operation coordinator George Cabral who thought there wasn't enough almond. Take Hernandez's advice and use it to top a caramel sundae for your special someone.
Equal Exchange Chocolate
These adorable soy- and gluten-free hearts were described as great, straight-forward chocolates, but if you really love dark chocolate, these may not be the right choice for you. Web and graphic designer Libby Lee-Egan said this is perfect for when "you want to eat milk chocolate and not regret it." For the person who can't believe that dark chocolate doesn't have to be intense, be sure to pick up this gift.
Equal Exchange's pink milk chocolate hearts proved less popular than the dark chocolate, with a few comments that it was too milky and sweet. Miller said this would be a great option for a Nutella-lover, and Sierra associate art director Monica Lee thought it tasted like dulce de leche. These seasonal chocolates are ideal for your sweetie with a sweet tooth.
85% dark chocolate: 3.3
Priding itself as a farmer-owned company with fair-trade practices, Divine Chocolate also proved it can make a great dark chocolate. The flavor was too intense for some of our tasters, so this is best for fans of roasty, dark chocolates. Sierra senior editor Paul Rauber, a self-described "discriminating non-addict" when it comes to chocolate, would eat this "after a great dinner with espresso and brandy."
The brightness of this bar was what really grabbed our tasters' attention. Free of preservatives and artificial flavors, the raspberry bits were all-natural and delicious, although some staff members noted the raspberry was overpowering. Miller said this is a great chocolate to "waken your mouth," and Lee-Egan agreed, saying it would be her go-to when "the afternoon is dragging and [she needs] a pick-me-up."
The tasters proved to be pretty divided over this bar, with some feeling it was way too sweet while others thought it was balanced. Lee-Egan liked that it was "crunchy and rich, without being too decadent," and Sierra editorial intern Callum Beals thought it was a chocolate "for all occasions." This bar is a must-have for lovers of fruity, sugary cereals.
Toasted coconut: 3.2
Made of 70% dark chocolate and toasty Madagascar coconut, this bar was a favorite for many of our tasters. Sierra web editor Della Watson thought it tasted "like a cookie," while Browne picked up on the "tropical" flavors. Cabral liked that there was a "strong taste of coconut, but [it wasn't] too powerful." Pick this one up for the loved one who dreams of lounging beach-side on an island (hammock and ukulele not included).
Sea salt and nibs: 2.7
This bar proved to be a let-down for some tasters who thought it was "too salty" or didn't have a good consistency. Browne suggested that it could be good with a beer, and others noted a "light, bright taste" that they found enjoyable. An ideal gift for your friend obsessed with the sea salt and sweets food craze — we all have one, don't we?
The combination of flavors from the combava fruit, pink pepper, and 63% cocoa dark chocolate was striking. Our tasters were most surprised by this mix, but some didn't think it worked well. Lee-Egan thought the flavors were "light and complex, but harmonious somehow." For the chocoholic who has tried them all, this may be the leaf left unturned.
The room was full of wows after staff members tried this concoction of sakay chili pepper and Ceylon cinnamon. "If you like kick, the chili is a fun element," Watson said. Web and graphic designer Josh DeWare thought this would be the perfect companion while reading a book by the fire. Spicy and surprising, this bar will knock the socks off any heat-loving pal.
Espresso bean: 3.4
Another high-scoring bar, the strong espresso flavors and crunchy bean pieces definitely gave a late afternoon caffeine kick to our tasters. DeWare was tempted to eat this while "bike riding through a small town in Europe." Rauber called this bar the "perfect mocha blend" with a "great, nutty texture." Be sure to grab some for the person who isn't afraid to eat chocolate for breakfast!
--Images via iStockhphoto/rothandrus, Endangered Species Chocolate, Equal Exchange Chocolate, and Madécasse Chocolate
Jessica Zischke is an editorial intern at Sierra. She is currently studying environmental studies at Dartmouth College, where she also works as a staff writer for The Dartmouth newspaper.