Organic chocolate baskets and free-range egg hunts
Skip the baskets and raise the organic bar. Photo via: Flickr by Sister72
Whether celebrating Easter, Ishtar or Baisakhi—the Hindu festival of rebirth and renewal—skip the marshmallow peeps, tinfoil-covered chocolate eggs and hallow bunnies. Feast on organic chocolate bars. Pioneers like Green + Black and Dagoba have spawned lots of fellow chocolatiers. And now that Cadbury's has gone fair-trade and Mars committed to sustainable practices, perhaps fair-trade support of farmers and safety of the cocoa plant will make eating chocolate even more delicious. There is a dizzying array of green chocolate available, so here's a sampling of many with organic cocoa:
Vosges Haut Chocolat
With a tag like peace, love and chocolate, Vosges has stepped it up with organic ingredients (aiming for 90 percent this year) and include organic sugar, butter, cream and nuts now. It's also recently Rainforest Alliance certified. It's extensive list of initiatives include compostable plastics, facilities with 100 percent renewable energy, and donations of leftover packaging to Creative Pitch for school art programs. Check out the cutesy bunnies in lemon zest/pink peppercorn, smoked almonds/sea salt, almonds/caramelized hazelnut, and chilies/cinnamon. Hopping.
Equal Exchange Organic Very Dark Chocolate
These chocolatiers offer a lesson in how to pair with coffee and a guide to tasting: Is it glossy? Does it break with a snap? Check the aroma, flavor and aftertaste. With a rich 71 percent cocoa and assorted nutty versions chock full of almonds or hazelnuts, mint or espresso beans, it sure beats a Snickers or Kisses. It's fair-trade produced on small farm co-ops in the Dominican Republic, Panama and Peru, with raw sugar from Costa Rica and organic vanilla from Madagascar.
Endangered Species Chocolate
Natural, ethically-traded, naturally shade-grown, some are certified vegan and organic like the goldenberry & lucuma, yacon & acai, goji berry & maca with pecans. The cacao beans are sourced and harvested from small family-owned properties, with fair prices to farmers on the Ivory Coast and Peru. Each ESC bar is wrapped on recycled paper, printed with water-based ink, and donates 10 percent of the profits to help the more than 51,000 endangered or threatened species and their habitats worldwide, working with organizations such as the Ocean Conservancy, African Wildlife Foundation, and Red List. For Eastertime try the Hoppy Treats.
Dagoba Organic Chocolate
With 59 percent cacao, these premium bars combine innovative flavor combos like lavender-blueberries, mint-rosemary, and lemon-ginger and pure milk or dark chocolate. Dagoba chocolate bars are 87 percent cacao bars for really rich palates, packing more anti-oxidants. Not without its controversies (its parent company, Hershey's also owns Rapunzels and hopefully will follow in Cadbury's and Mar's footsteps). Its sustainable practices range from growing to packaging.
Other specific cause-related chocolates include: Shaman Chocolate supports Mexico's Huichol, Kallari Chocolate helps the Ecuadorian Amazon, and Compartes Chocolatiers sends relief to Darfur.
Cocoa bean pods await drying and confecting. Photo via: Flickr by Mary-Lynn
Fearless Chocolate makes raw organic chocolate bars with hemp, flax, hibiscus, exploding coconuts, matcha green tea in 70-75 percent cocoa. A list isn't complete without classic Newman's Own or the deluxe Green + Black's, of course. Some of Chocolove bars are organic and Chuao Chocolatiers are "natural," but its sustainability program supports Venezuelan farmers, the integrity of the local bean, and comes in hot flavors like chipotle, pasilla chiles, cayenne peppers, and cinnamon as well as Chocopods, a clever chocolate egg replacement.
Healthy for body, heart and planet
Chocolate (and the added sugar) is addictive but cocoa is also a powerful antioxidant, reducing free radicals, protecting against cell and tissue damage at a higher rate than vitamin C, green tea and red wine. Dark chocolate's flavanoids help blood vessels healthier and 70 percent cocoa has a low glycemic index. Stuffed with vitamins and minerals (copper, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus) with apparently a fraction of the caffeine in a cup of coffee. Guilt-free chocolate?
More on chocolate:
The Bitter Truth About Chocolate
What Is The True Cost of Chocolate?
Make Your Own Organic Chocolate in Minutes
A Sweeter Truth: Making Organic Fair Trade Chocolate in Ecuador
Focus on Focus Earth: A World Without Chocolate