Fair Trade Dark Chocolate Taste Test
Swap out your big brand chocolate for Fair Trade chocolate and feel good about promoting sustainable development and preventing child labor. We taste-tested, rated and reviewed 8 brands of Fair Trade chocolate to find our favorite Fair Trade chocolate bars.
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Rich, smooth chocolate is one of life’s little luxuries that I just can’t live without. It’s a bonus that dark chocolate is packed with powerful antioxidants. Most of us don’t really think about where our chocolate is from — we just can’t wait to tear into it. But, your favorite bar of chocolate may not come from an ethically sourced supply chain. Some cocao bean farms utilize child and slave labor and follow environmentally destructive practices.
Luckily there are many companies out there that care about these social and environmental issues and take conscious steps to ensure that their cocoa beans are sourced from ethical, fair-trade and sustainable farms.
WHAT IS FAIR TRADE CHOCOLATE?
To be Fair Trade Certified means the producers have been paid a price that ensures sustainable production and living conditions, along with a premium to support the growth and advancement of the cooperatives and their communities. This certification holds companies accountable based on social, environmental and economic standards.
HOW IS A CHOCOLATE BAR MADE?
A chocolate bar is made with cacao beans, which grow in pods on the tropical Theobroma Cacao tree. The pods are usually harvested twice a year, and the beans are covered with banana leaves and fermented for 2-8 days depending on the cacao variety. After fermenting, the beans are dried in the sun for a week. The beans are then cleaned and roasted at low temperature.
The cocao shells are separated from the nibs, and the nibs are finely ground into cocoa liquor. This is mixed with cocoa butter and most often a sweetener to make dark chocolate, or processed with both milk and sugar to make milk chocolate.
Most chocolate goes through a process called conching, where the chocolate is heated, aerated, and then constantly stirred to produce a smooth texture. The chocolate then goes through a tempering machine to keep the melted chocolate circulating at exactly the right temperature. Tempered chocolate has a shiny finish and a clean “snap” sound produced when a bar of chocolate is broken in half.
The final step in making a finished chocolate bar is pouring it into a mold, and once cooled, wrapping it.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COCAO AND COCOA?
Cacao typically refers to the pods, beans and ground-up beans from the Theobroma Cacao tree. Cocoa typically refers to the powder left after pressing the fat out of the ground cacao beans. Cocoa butter is the edible fat extracted from the cacao bean.
WHAT DOES PERCENTAGE CACAO MEAN?
Percentage of cacao is the percent of ingredients in a chocolate bar that are cacao beans. If you have a chocolate bar with 85% cacao, then 85% of the bar is derived from cacao beans (including cocoa solids and cocoa butter), and the other 15% is from ingredients such as sugar and vanilla. Two bars with the same cacao percent will not necessarily taste the same – they may have different ratios of cocoa solids to cocoa butter.
FUN FACTS ABOUT CHOCOLATE
- Cacao pods are picked twice a year
- Cacao pods are about the size of a football
- Each cacao pod contains 30-50 seeds
- Each seed is the size of an olive
- There are 500 beans in one pound of chocolate (about 15 bars)
FACTORS THAT GO INTO RATING CHOCOLATE
- Flavor– This is the most important component of rating chocolate. Diversity, balance and intensity of flavors are all considered. We used 7 taste profiles to describe the flavor: vegetative, nutty, spicy, floral, earthy, fruity, caramel. Within these taste profiles there are many flavors. For example, citrus bloom, jasmine, rose and violet are all flavors within the floral taste profile.
- Texture– What is the consistency or texture? Is the texture smooth and velvety or does it have some grit or chalkiness?
- Aftermelt– This is the experience after the chocolate has melted. High quality chocolate will linger and be long lasting and enjoyable.
- Overall– Opinion is subjective. What was the testers impression of the chocolate overall?
FAIR TRADE CHOCOLATE TESTING
We taste-tested and reviewed the following 8 brands of Fair Trade chocolate, and you can read our notes on subtle hints of flavor, texture and aftertaste in the Chocolate Tasting Notes below:
Endangered Species Bold + Silky Dark Chocolate
- Cost: $3.50 for 3 oz bar or $1.17 per oz
- From the Endangered Species website: Endangered Species Chocolate is made with only a handful of health-conscious, high quality ingredients. With no artificial flavors or mystery ingredients, our delicious dark chocolates have nothing to hide—and everything to show.
- Mission: We love the product we create, and we’re proud that our real, delicious chocolate helps to support species, habitat and humanity across the globe. By donating 10% of our annual net profits to conservation organizations, they can continue to do their amazing work on behalf of wildlife every day.
- Highlights: Fair-Trade certified cocoa beans, Sustainably grown cacao, Gluten-free, palm oil-free, non-GMO, dark chocolate is dairy-free, vegan and kosher. 100% Non-GMO Project verified cane sugar, Green E certified renewable energy company
- Chocolate Tasting Notes: The chocolate had a fairly decent snap and creamy consistency in the mouth. It had a nutty flavor with notes of fruity banana. The aftertaste had tobacco notes. Overall, we all really liked this chocolate.
Divine Deliciously Rich Dark Chocolate
- Cost: $3.99 for 3 oz or $1.33 per oz
- From the Divine website: A group of cocoa farmers in Ghana established this chocolate company and launched the first farmer-owned Fairtrade Chocolate product. They use the amazing power of chocolate to delight and engage, and bring people together to create dignified trading relations that empower both producers and consumers.
- Highlights: Farmer owned and Fair Trade certified
- Chocolate Tasting Notes: The chocolate had a good snap and creamy consistency. This chocolate can be described as subtle and sophisticated. It had a fruity flavor with notes of citrus bloom and lemon. The aftertaste had floral notes of jasmine. Overall, we all really liked this chocolate.
Hu Organic Dark Chocolate
- Cost: $5.00 per 2.1 oz or $2.38 per oz
- From the Hu website: We’re Hu as in HUman. That means we put the health, welfare, and happiness of humans above all else in the food we make. Sourcing only simple, clean, and responsible ingredients so that all people can get back to feeling human. We go beyond what’s easy and expected to ensure that our products and our practices are ethical and put both humanity and the human body first.
- Highlights: Fair-Trade certified, All vegan, All gluten-free, Dairy free, Non-GMO, Refined sugar free, Cane sugar free, USDA certified organic cacoa, USDA certified organic cocoa butter
- Chocolate Tasting Notes: The chocolate had a weak snap and creamy yet grainy consistency in the mouth (it did have sea salt added, so that may be why it had a grainy texture). It had an earthy flavor with notes of licorice, and also had a burnt caramel flavor. The aftertaste had notes of burnt caramel. Overall, we all really liked this chocolate.
Chocolove Strong Dark Chocolate
- Cost: $3.61 for 3.2 oz or $1.13 per oz
- From the Chocolove website: Chocolove’s mission is to make and sell the best tasting chocolate in a way that makes customers and everyone involved, happy. The cold, dry mountain Colorado air helps craft the Chocolove taste and we are committed to delivering the highest quality chocolate both ethically and at a good price.
- Highlights: Fair-Trade certified, rainforest alliance certified, non-GMO, K dairy, Member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
- Chocolate Tasting Notes: The chocolate had a good snap and creamy consistency in the mouth. It had a sweet flavor with subtle notes of fruity banana. The aftertaste had lingering tobacco notes. Overall, we all really liked this chocolate.
Alter Eco Organic Dark Chocolate
- Cost: $3.19 for 2.82 oz or $1.13
- From the Alter Eco website: Our Swiss-made chocolate isn’t just dark, deep and unbelievably smooth – it’s also crafted from organic cacao by farmers who are replanting South American rainforests.
- Mission: As part of our effort to become a carbon negative company, we calculate our full carbon footprint each year and plant trees within our farmer’s fields to compensate for those emissions. Learn more about this reforestation project here. Alter Eco remains committed to sustainability in every aspect of our production and is working hard to develop sustainable packaging alternatives to protect our planet. Learn more about our packaging journey here.
- Highlights: Fair-Trade certified, Organic cacao, Non-GMO, All products gluten-free (except the 70% Dark Salt & Malt bar), Peanut-free, Organic raw cane sugar, Milk for milk chocolate is from organic, grass-fed beef, certified b corp
- Chocolate Tasting Notes: The chocolate had a good snap and a slightly creamy consistency. It had a fruity flavor with notes of berry, and also sour fruity notes. The aftertaste had notes of raspberry. Overall, we all really liked this chocolate.
Valrhona Dark Chocolate
- Cost: $9.28 for 3.5 oz or $2.65 per oz
- From the Valrhona website: Company founder and Pastry Chef Albéric Guironnet was dedicated to the creation of unique, artisan quality chocolate with complex, balanced and consistent flavors. This mission of excellence continues as the gastronomic traditions of the renowned Rhone Valley find expression in every mouthwatering taste of Valrhona’s superb chocolate. For almost a century, Valrhona has created a range of unique and recognizable aromatic profiles by perfecting techniques for enhancing the flavor of rare cocoa beans, grown on land masterfully selected for its terroir. Today, leading Pastry Chefs and discerning gourmets rely on Valrhona’s expertise to experience the best that chocolate can be.
- Highlights: Fair-Trade certified
- Chocolate Tasting Notes: The chocolate had a good snap and creamy consistency. It had a nutty flavor with notes of berry. The aftertaste had notes of hazelnut. Overall, we all really liked this chocolate.
Lily’s Dark Chocolate
- Cost: $4.44 for 3 oz or $1.48 per oz
- From the Lily’s website: we source Non-GMO and gluten-free ingredients harvested through Fair Trade practices, and ensure every product is botanically sweetened—meaning no refined or processed sugars. The outcome? A chocolate with no added sugar that’s filled to the brim with pure deliciousness.
- Mission: We pledge a percentage of our earnings to non-profit organizations that support the fight against childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
- Highlights: Fair-Trade Certified, certified Gluten Free by GFCO, Non-GMO, Erythritol and stevia to sweeten
- Chocolate Tasting Notes: The chocolate had no snap and creamy yet grainy consistency in the mouth (it did have coconut added, so that may be why it had a grainy texture). It had a nutty flavor and also a nutty aftertaste, but the stevia used to sweeten the chocolate gave the chocolate a strange bitter aftertaste. Overall, this chocolate takes some getting used to because of the sweetener used. We all like Lily’s Sea Salt and Almond Chocolate bar.
Theo Organic Pure Dark Chocolate
- Cost: $3.99 for 3 oz or $1.33 per oz
- From the Theo website: As a company rooted in cocoa, our mission is to create a more beautiful, compassionate, and enduring world by responsibly making delicious and inspiring products for everyone.
- Mission: support women in cocoa farming so they may develop the skills and confidence to grow better cocoa, build better communities, and thrive in business.
- Highlights: Fair-Trade Certified, Non-GMO, Organic cane sugar, Palm oil free, Certified B corp. Carry an Organic line of chocolate
- Chocolate Tasting Notes: The chocolate had a weak snap and bland flavor. It had an earthy flavor with notes of mushroom. The aftertaste was fruity. Overall, this was not our favorite chocolate, but I would love to test their peppermint flavored chocolate- it gets great reviews.
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