For the Love of Organic Dark Chocolate

Organic dark chocolate – sweet but not too sweet and almost lustful in its intensity.  There’s no treat that quite fulfills the essence of Valentine’s Day like a good, organic dark chocolate.  Serve it as it suits: in a mousse, in hot chocolate or in a beautiful bar of chocolate.  Organic dark chocolate is a special treat – especially when shared with your loved one on Valentine’s Day.

Why Choose Organic Dark Chocolate

Chocolate is a potent source of antioxidants – and some research indicates that chocolate benefits the circulatory system and may offer anti-carcinogenic effects.    These effects are made more potent the higher the cocoa content is; that is, the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you. Chocolate is also a rich source of minerals including magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper and iron. Milk chocolate should be avoided, if possible, as it contains powdered milk which rife with oxidized cholesterol.

Organic Dark Chocolate: A Brand-by-brand Analysis

The quality of ingredients and the integrity of manufacturers can vary from brand-to-brand.  From types of sugar and whether or not a company uses soy-based emulsifiers, we examine the details of six organic dark chocolate brands, their ingredients, parent companies and their ethics surrounding social and global responsibility.

Askinosie*

Sugar: Certified Organic Evaporated Cane Sugar
Organic: Uses Certified Organic Sugar. Cocoa beans are not certified Organic, but are “unofficially Organic” and grown without chemicals or pesticides, and with great honesty and connection to the farms.  Consider it “beyond Organic.”
Stance on GMOs: All ingredients are non-GMO
Social Responsibility: Unsurpassed. Sources directly from farmers the founder has met in person, paying Fair Trade market price.  Operates a profit sharing program for farms.
Emulsifiers: None
Unique Factor: Hand-blended, artisan-style chocolate served with unparalleled integrity from source to manufacture.
Parent Company: Askinosie chocolate is founded and owned by Shawn Askinosie.
Price: $7.50 – $10.50
Availability: Limited.  But you may purchase Askinosie chocolate online.

Rapunzel

Sugar: Certified Organic Whole, Unrefined Evaporated Cane Juice (Rapadura)
Organic: Certified Organic Sugar, Cocoa Beans, Vanilla, Cocoa Butter
Stance on GMOs: All ingredients are non-GMO
Social Responsibility: Fair Trade with a commitment to sustainable and organic farming and global responsibility.
Emulsifiers: None
Unique Factor: Classic high quality European-style chocolate at a reasonable price.
Parent Company: Rapunzel is family-owned.
Price: $3.59
Availability: Carried in most health food stores.

Alter-eco

Sugar: Certified Organic Unrefined Cane Sugar
Organic: Certified Organic Sugar, Cocoa, Cocoa Butter, Nuts
Stance on GMOs: All ingredients are non-GMO
Social Responsibility: One of the strongest Fair Trade brands on the market.  Certified Fair Trade.
Emulsifiers: None
Unique Factor: Fair trade, organic chocolate with wide availability.
Price: $4.39
Availability: Carried in most health food stores. You may also purchase Alter-eco chocolate online.

Chocolove

Sugar: Beet Sugar (non-GMO)
Organic: 2 Varieties of Organic Dark Chocolate, other varieties may not be organic
Stance on GMOs: All ingredients are non-GMO
Social Responsibility: Supports World Cocoa Federation with policy not to purchase from firms that support or reinforce exploitative labor or child labor practices.
Emulsifiers: Organic Chocolate line is free from emulsifiers, other varieties contain soy lecithin (non-GMO)
Unique Factor: Charming, affordable chocolates from a Colorado company many unusual combinations of flavors.
Parent Company: Chocolove.
Price: $3.99
Availability: Widely available in most health food stores and even in stores like Target. You may also purchase Chocolove products online.

Dagoba

Sugar: Organic Evaporated Cane Juice
Organic: Organic Sugar, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Cacao Beans, Organic Fruit and Nuts
Stance on GMOs: All ingredients are non-GMO (Its parent company does not share this stance.)
Social Responsibility: Carries Fair Trade designation on many products, but not all.  (Its parent company does not share this stance.)
Emulsifiers: Soy Lecithin (non-GMO)
Unique Factor: Delicately flavored chocolates and unusual flavor combinations.
Parent Company: Hersheys.
Price: $3.45
Availability: Widely available in most health food stores. You may also purchase Dagoba chocolates online.

Green & Blacks**

Sugar: Raw Cane Sugar
Organic: Organic Sugar, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Cacao Beans, Organic Fruit and Nuts
Stance on GMOs: All ingredients are non-GMO.  Its parent company does not share that stance, but does offer organic alternatives that do not contain GMOs.
Social Responsibility: 100% Fair Trade Certified.
Emulsifiers: Soy Lecithin (non-GMO) used in most varieties, but they are working on a few lecithin-free chocolates that maintain the unique intensity of flavor Green & Blacks is known for.
Unique Factor: Widely available chocolate with aspirations to become the leader in Fair Trade chocolate.
Parent Company: Cadbury which is owned by Kraft.
Price: $3.29
Availability: Widely available in most health food stores and even Target. Find a store near you.

How I Choose My Organic Dark Chocolate

I am a chocolate lover.  Organic chocolate and long hot baths are among my two biggest vices – and when I choose a dark chocolate, I rely on a few factors: the ingredients, whether an emulsifying agent such as soy lecithin is used as well as the ethics and social responsibility of the manufacturer.

Sugar: In my kitchen, I avoid refined sweeteners and so if I’m going to enjoy a good organic dark chocolate, I want it to count; that is, I prefer a chocolate made with whole, unrefined cane sugar which retains its mineral content.  That said, any sugar is still a sugar – minerals intact or not.

Emulsifiers: I try my best to avoid chocolates with soy-based emulsifiers, preferring, instead, to enjoy a chocolate with a higher cocoa butter content as cocoa butter is rich in stearic acid – a wholesome, nourishing fat.  This is my personal preference, but note that the inclusion of a higher content of cocoa butter (as opposed to an emulsifier like lecithin) results in a more dilute flavor which is why some manufacturers, such as Green & Blacks choose to use an emulsifier: it’s about flavor.  My personal preference, however, ranks fat content above intensity of flavor.  Note that when an emulsifying agent is used, it is quite dilute and used in very little quantity.

Social & Environmental Sustainability: And, without a doubt, I choose a good dark chocolate from a company who sources organic ingredients and from farmers that are treated equitably, paid fairly and who practice sustainable techniques – that does not mean I only look for the Fair Trade label which is an expensive designation.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

*Pictured
**Please note that Green & Blacks was generous enough to send me a few sample bars for this post; alas, my coworkers enjoyed the milk chocolate bars while I brought home a Mayan Gold dark chocolate bar to my family.