I've obviously done several posts about chocolate before (See the March 21, 2015, the December 22, 2012, and the August 20, 2012 posts), but recently I decided to try some more. The difference this time was that I went with various smaller companies (or in one case a small division of a huge company) which announce their commitment to various political or socially conscious movements. Also, I was not particularly fond of dark chocolate the few times I've had it, but I decided to give it a more extensive, fair trial once and for all.
Just for a quick review, what we refer to as chocolate usually consists of cocoa solids, fat in the form of cocoa butter, and sugar, along with other preservatives, flavors, etc. "Dark chocolate" has these ingredients, and although the numbers vary from country to country, the minimum cocoa solids percentage is usually 35% and up. "Milk chocolate" also includes milk, of course, and has lower percentages of cocoa solids--in the U.S. a minimum of 10%, in other places 20%. "White chocolate" has the sugar, cocoa butter, and milk, but lacks the cocoa solids. These distinctive chocolate types are easy to tell apart, as white chocolate is, as the name suggests, white in color, milk chocolate is light brown, and dark chocolate is dark brown or even almost black. Dark chocolate appears to be the healthiest option of the three. It has higher percentages of fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc, phosphorus, and antioxidants, and is alleged to help in lowering "bad" cholesterol, improve blood flow, protect the skin versus the sun, improve brain function, and lower blood pressure. (I used the word "alleged" as these effects aren't yet scientifically proven.) But, even dark chocolates' biggest fans will admit it (and the other forms of chocolate) is high in calories and fat, so moderation in consumption should be observed.
On to the companies that made the chocolate I bought. I was struck by the level of detail on the packages. Much of which was about issues unrelated to the food itself. For example, Alter Eco advertises that it is Fairly Traded and organically grown. They claim they worked with the U.N. to enable Peruvian rainforest inhabitants to change from growing coca (for cocaine, with all the associated illegal drug trafficking dangers) to growing cocoa instead. They are also replenishing the forest by planting native trees, which helps protect against soil erosion, and captures carbon to fight against global warming. The Divine company is also big on Fair Trade, with a co-operative with farmers in the Kuapa Kokoo company in the West African nation of Ghana. The Endangered Species company is Fair Trade, gluten free, non-GMO, and certified vegan. But their major cause is in their name, as 10% of their net profits are donated to help endangered animals. Dagoba is a division of The Hershey Company, but is also organic and uses cocoa from the Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. So, to sum up, basically all these companies would cause "South Park" character Cartman to go on a rant about how much he hates hippies.
But enough about nutrition and morality. Let's get to the reviews. As usual, I'm using the U.S. scholastic system of grading, with "A" being excellent, "B" good, "C" average, "D" unsatisfactory but barely passing, "F" for failing, and pluses and minuses as necessary.
Dagoba lavender blueberry flavor, 59% cocoa solids: D+. Didn't like this much. Couldn't taste the blueberries, or the lavender (I think--don't really know what lavender tastes like). Just bitter and fairly unpleasant. I was excited by the name though--more on that at the end of this post.
Dagoba eclipse--extra strong dark chocolate (87% cocoa, the most I could find): D. Bad, and overly bitter, but not as terrible as I anticipated from the high cocoa content. Could finish, barely.
Endangered Species dark chocolate with blueberries, 72% cocoa: D. Similar to the Dagoba, I couldn't taste the blueberries at all, or anything resembling sweetness. Worse than the Dagoba version, probably due to the higher cocoa content.
Divine dark chocolate with ginger and orange, 70% cocoa: C-. Ginger chunks very noticeable, and kind of stuck to my teeth in an annoying way. Orange could be detected as an aftertaste. A little better than the others, but still far from great.
After Eco dark quinoa (See post about superfoods, March 1, 2014), 60% cocoa: B-. Reminded me a lot of Nestle Crunch, which is made with crisped rice instead of quinoa. Still overly dark and bitter, but by far the best of the bunch. Its slightly lower cocoa content was presumably a factor.
As you just read, my opinion of dark chocolate hasn't changed. I love milk chocolate (and white chocolate is pretty good, too), but dark chocolate just has an unappetizing bitter taste to it. Which is unexpected, I guess, since I adore the hop bitterness of many India Pale Ales, for example. But there we have it. Maybe my taste in chocolate has been ruined by constant exposure to the lighter, sweeter, American style chocolate. Whatever the reason is, I don't see my position ever changing.
To end on another note, I was severely disappointed that the Dagoba company takes its name from the Sanskrit word for "temple," and not from the planet Yoda was hiding out on in "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi." And just FYI, according to Wookieepedia, Dagobah is located in the Sluis section of the Outer Rim Territories, near the Rimma Trade Route. Its sun is Darlo, and its sister planets are Ness, Undar, Bubbok, and Sty. Dagobah is the second planet, as determined by proximity to Darlo. The entry goes into a lot more detail about Dagobah's "day," "year," ecology, history, geology, etc. Reading it I felt oddly interested, under-informed, and relatively less nerdy.