Tag Archives: fair trade

The Amateur Chocoholic Reviews: Madecasse 80% Chocolate Bar

Madecasse 80 percent - front wrapper“AT MADECASSE we pay farmers a fair price for their cocoa. Then we do something unheard of. We make our chocolate in Madagascar. This creates 4 TIMES the impact of fair trade cocoa.”

Where I got it: Whole Foods, Ann Arbor MI
Price: $4.99 for 2.64 oz. (75g)
Cocoa percentage: 80%
Website:  http://www.madecasse.com
Reviewed by: T.A.C. (Jeff)  and Rachel (D.o.T.A.C.)

While signing over my paycheck at Whole Foods in exchange for lunch, I caught sight of this bar at the checkout counter. I am usually immune to the siren call of such things, but dark chocolate is the exception. And hey, how can I resist helping cocoa farmers four times more?

Story (from the website):

The founders of Madecasse were Peace Corps volunteers in Madagascar, who “fell in love with the country and people and wanted to do more,” and settled on making chocolate, with an extra twist. Africa grows the majority of the world’s cocoa, but very little (the site says less than one percent) is made into chocolate there, so they decided to go “bean-to-bar in Madagascar,” as the wrapper says.

“Our products represent that personal connection to the island,” the site says, “a deeper understanding of the rich and complex flavors hidden inside the varieties of cocoa, vanilla and peppercorns found exclusively in Madagascar. The result is unique, satisfying products unlike anything you’ve tasted before.” (The chocolate bar does not contain any actual vanilla or peppercorns, so I’m assuming the flavor notes are picked up from the soil.)

MORE: How Chocolate Gets Its Taste (from The Chocolate Life blog)

Appearance:

Madecasse 80 percent - back wrapperThe simple, rustic-looking wrapper with appealing green-on-cream easily caught my eye. An interesting feature of this wrapper is that it opens like an envelope, so you don’t need to tear it apart. The gold foil inside wrapper added a touch of elegance.

The chocolate has a subdued sheen, and a cocoa pod is stamped into each of the individual sections.

Texture:

A slow but even melt in the mouth that releases the intense flavor gradually (a good thing). Very smooth mouthfeel.

Flavor:

The wrapper claims “strong and complex” and the chocolate lives up to it. With an 80% cocoa content I expected, and got, an intense cocoa flavor. Sucking on a section allowed me to taste all the various flavors, while chewing one brought out the mild sweetness primarily. I am not sure which I prefer. I got a hint of vanilla as promised, but could not pick up any “peppercorny” flavors. I also got an intense fruitiness which ended in an almost sour aftertaste. I believe many people will enjoy this (and Rachel did), but I personally do not.

The Bottom Line

Jeff’s Rating:……..★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5 stars)
Rachel’s Rating:…★★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)

This is a very smooth and intensely flavored chocolate, as promised. If you prefer a “brighter” flavor profile, by all means give this bar a try. I give it three stars only due to personal taste preference, not to any flaws in the chocolate.

The maker’s approach to helping African farmers is laudable, and if that means a lot to you, that’s another reason to try this brand. The more support we can give to fair trade practices, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

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NOTE: The Amateur Chocoholic (a.k.a. “T.A.C.”) is my new moniker for such reviews. (This replaces the “Quickie Chocolate Reviews” postings.)

Did you like this review? How can it be made better? Would you like to see more? Let me know.

Quickie Chocolate Review: Theo Congo Vanilla Nib Bar

Theo Congo Bar WrapperWhere I got it: Whole Foods
Price: $3.99 for 3 oz. (84g)
Cocoa percentage: 65%
Website: www.theochocolate.com

I was assisted in this review by my daughter Rachel, who works at Zingerman’s and is thus surrounded by high-quality chocolate from all over the globe, is trained to sell it, and gets to sample it frequently. I, on the other hand, am just a snob. You decide whom to believe.

Jeff’s Rating:……..★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5 stars)
Rachel’s Rating:★★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)

Story: (from the wrapper)
In Eastern Congo, Theo Chocolate and Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) have teamed up with Congolese cocoa farmers to make this delicious and crunchy vanilla nib chocolate bar. The cocoa and vanilla used to make this chocolate bar are all grown in Eastern Congo by dedicated organic farmers focused on quality and sustainability…Proceeds from this chocolate bar will be donated to ECI…”

Theo Congo Bar

Appearance:
The wrapper is visually striking, which is the main reason it caught my eye at the checkout counter. Its exotic origin (Congo chocolate is not common) and the organic/fair trade/non-GMO labels also helped lead me to the impulse buy. Definitely a marketing win.

With such a striking presentation, I was somewhat disappointed with the appearance of the chocolate itself. It lacks the gloss of higher-end chocolate bars, and its large slab-like divisions are unappealing to me, resembling a mass-produced factory product.

Texture:
The bar snaps cleanly without shattering. It does not melt in the mouth quickly, and with chewing, breaks into small pieces before dissolving. The cocoa nibs provide a nice slight crunch to the bar, which I like.

Flavor:
The dark chocolate flavor is what I tasted first – quite nice, distinctive but not overpowering. The cocoa nibs provide a dark roasted coffee-like flavor when crunched. Despite “vanilla” being part of the bar’s name, I did not directly taste it. Given the suggestive colors of the wrapper, I was expecting fruity notes, but it turned sour at the end, leaving, to me, an unpleasant finish.

The Bottom Line

Jeff: This is not a bar I would purchase again. For me to spend $4 or more on chocolate, I have to really enjoy it, and while it has some qualities I like, they aren’t strong enough to overcome its sour notes.

Rachel: I like the flavor of this bar, and I would let my dad purchase it again.

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Did you like this review? How can it be made better? Would you like to see more? Let me know.