Equal Exchange: Dark Chocolate with Almonds, Chocolate Espresso Bean and Extra Dark Chocolate Panama

equal exchangeEqual Exchange is a worker-owned company founded in 1986 specializing in Fair Trade relationships with small producers of organic teas, coffees, chocolate, and snacks. The three Equal Exchange chocolates that came my way were 3.5 oz. bars, as  usual scored into small squares, in somewhat soberly designed and colored wrappers.

The Dark Chocolate with Almonds, rather than having whole almonds scattered through the bar, is liberally laced with crushed almonds, so that instead of a sudden crunch of almond, the entire bar is suffused with the flavor. This bar is 55% cacao, certainly enough to give a strong cocoa taste, but sweet enough to support the almond. Texture is pleasant, although not quite what I would label “creamy.”

The Chocolate Espresso Bean is formulated under the same concept as the Dark Chocolate with Almonds, but the end result is not quite so felicitous. Again, this is 55% cacao, with a good strong chocolate taste, and the texture of the chocolate itself is firm without being brittle. However, the bar is more or less evenly supplied with crushed expresso-roast coffee beans, so that one is left with the not entirely pleasant feel of a mouthful of coffee grounds after as little as one square. Nor is the coffee flavor particularly rich, although it’s not bad — just sort of standard-issue. Not my favorite of the three.

The Extra Dark Chocolate Panama boasts 80% cacao and I was expecting a good strong cocoa taste from this one, but it didn’t quite happen that way. It’s definitely chocolate, with a firm but not brittle texture, but the flavor itself is somewhat muted — it’s not a particularly rich taste, and has an odd undertaste that’s not quite nutty, not quite fruity, and not entirely pleasant. It’s as though this one hasn’t quite found itself — it’s not really bitter, but it’s not terribly sweet, and while it’s undeniably chocolate, it lacks a certain presence.

Overall, these three bars from Equal Exchange are creditable efforts, but not really vivid enough to stick in the memory for any length of time. If you’re willing to sacrifice a little bit of pleasure for a good cause, however, they’re certainly worth a try.

About Robert Tilendis

Robert M. Tilendis lives a deceptively quiet life. He has made money as a dishwasher, errand boy, legal librarian, arts administrator, shipping expert, free-lance writer and editor, and probably a few other things he’s tried very hard to forget about. He has also been a student of history, art, theater, psychology, ceramics, and dance. Through it all, he has been an artist and poet, just to provide a little stability in his life. Along about January of every year, he wonders why he still lives someplace as mundane as Chicago; it must be that he likes it there.

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