I’m starting to become more and more aware of chocolate made locally around the Washington, D.C. area. I had no idea that Whole Foods and other organic stores were likely to carry bars locally made in their areas!!! My closest Whole Foods and Mom’s Organic grocery stores definitely carry some locally made bars that I had recently started hearing about and I’m glad to see them popping up at other store locations in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia 🙂
I’ve realized that I need to do more research behind chocolate companies, makers and such. There’s so much I’m ignorant about regarding chocolate and how it’s made! I usually just pick up a bar and inhale it as soon as I can! That needs to change and I’ve been inspired by fellow chocolate bloggers to start learning more about our chocolate! 🙂 I’m going to start share the ingredients lists and more information about each bar.
Ingredients (word for word, according to the packaging): Cocoa Beans, Sugar, Bourbon Vanilla Beans, Turbinado Cane Sugar, Juniper Berries, Green Hat Gin (Water, Wheat, Juniper Berries & Select Botanicals, Yeast), J.Q. Dickinson Sea Salt.
The words “gin” and “green hat” caught my eye with this bar. Chocolate and gin??? I had never tried such a combination! And looking at the ingredients list… juniper berries? I knew that juniper trees existed, but not berries.
Unfortunately when I went to Salazon’s website to read more about their story, the layout of their website and pictures cuts off a lot of the text 😦 But they claim to have been creating salted dark chocolate for a long time and that each bar is personally ensured to the right amount of salt is added to balance out the sweetness from the sugar and bitterness from the dark chocolate.
The back of the packaging mentions that Green Hat Gin is distilled in D.C. and was the first distiller in D.C. since prohibition. The turbinado cane sugar is infused with Green Hat Gin and sprinkled on top of the bar with the salt.
I had to admire the beauty of the salt and sugar crystals lying on top of the chocolate. The bar itself smelled great! Maybe it’s the juniper berries, but I was reminded of the woodsy parts of New Jersey I grew up around 🙂
When tasting the chocolate, the layer of salt and gin infused sugar hit first, followed by the bitterness of the dark chocolate mingled with the gin. I didn’t taste much sweetness until the aftertaste despite the sugar being sprinkled on the bar with the salt. The layering of flavors seemed to work well and all the flavors complimented each other just as Salazon’s website claimed to aim for in their chocolate. The gin definitely added a unique approach to the bitterness, and even though I don’t like gin on its own, so far I’m liking it in this chocolate!
Salazon: Made in Eldersburg, MD
Ingredients (word for word, according to the packaging): Cane Sugar, Cocoa Beans, Cocoa Butter, Pecans, Coconut, Maple Syrup, Sea Salt, Vanilla Bean, Cinnamon, Grains of Paradise (Organic).
Charm School Chocolate prides itself in creating chocolate that vegans and those with dairy allergies can enjoy. According to their website, their chef grew up in Maryland, went to Pennsylvania to study to become an engineer, and then had a change in his career to become a pastry chef.
What I find neat is that the back of bar says their cocoa beans are roasted for five days and made in small batches. I wonder if that means no stale chocolate will be consumed under their name! (Ever bought a chocolate bar that cost more than $5 to find out it had “bloomed” or tasted stale? So disappointing!) I can’t say I understand the relationship between the amount of roasting and flavor, but I hope to learn that soon!
This bar is simple but pretty to look at! Those pecans sprinkled on the back? It makes me feel like human hands were involved in adding them to the chocolate rather than dropped by a machine. I could smell the pecans, maple and coconut in sweet harmonious aroma. The first bite in and already I tasted the light crunchiness of the pecans mingled with the smooth milk chocolate. I could taste more of the coconut milk as the chocolate melted on my tongue. The maple flavoring was very light and there seemed to be a little bit of crispiness from the pecans, maybe from the maple being coated over them. This was very enjoyable and I absolutely loved the flavor and texture combinations!
Charm School Chocolate: Made in Reisterstown, MD
Ingredients (word for word, according to the packaging): Cacao, Cane Sugar, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cayenne.
I remember first hearing about Undone through a coworker, who also enjoys chocolate. Suddenly I started seeing them pop up at Whole Foods and Mom’s Organic! I wouldn’t be surprised if they show up at more store locations 🙂
Unfortunately I couldn’t find the story behind Undone on their website, but they do walk the reader through how they make their chocolate. They even offer classes on how to make chocolate! I may have to look into this 😉
According to the packaging, the chocolate is single-origin from Dominican Republic. This makes me super excited because I have actually visited a small farm in D.R. that grew cacao trees! 🙂 What also makes me excited is that there is a batch number on the bar, so you know they aren’t mass producing this stuff.
There’s a logo on the bottom of the packaging saying “Direct Trade.” I hadn’t seen this before. If I am understanding it correctly, it is supposed to be “fairer than Fair Trade” in that no middlemen are involved when it comes to transferring the money from selling the chocolate bars to the cocoa farmers. And the beans are literally shipped directly from the farmers to the chocolatier.
The chocolate gave a nice sharp snap when broken apart. This showed that the chocolate had been tempered well so it doesn’t crumble. I could smell the spices and dark chocolate upon opening the wrapper. Within my first bite I first tasted the dark chocolate, and then the warmth of cinnamon, cardamom and cayenne pepper filled my mouth. The spices seemed to be equal in strength of spiciness, and none of them were too overwhelming for my palate as someone who doesn’t typically like (hot) spicy chocolate. The dark chocolate was dark and rich in flavor. It didn’t have a dirt aftertaste at all, thank goodness. I’d be interested to try other flavors by Undone, though they currently only have three flavors available: dark chocolate with almonds and himalayan pink salt, dark chocolate with himalayan pink salt, and the bar I just tried here.
Undone: Made in Washington, D.C.