such classy packaging.
right from the get-go, you can tell that you are dealing with a nice situation!
Do you like chocolate? ME TOO.
Actually, I love chocolate so much that I have a little chocolatey nibble almost every day. I even have a special little box in my cupboard full of chocolatey goodies. It has "SWEETIES" written on the side of it in all caps. I love white chocolate, dark chocolate, hot chocolate, raw chocolate, vegan milk chocolate... But, all that said, chocolate is definitely a luxury and not a need - so it's important to me to buy chocolate that I can feel good about eating.
the sweeties box
(no chocolate for doggies, sorry Snoopy!)
In the last several years I have learned more about chocolate, and I do my best to buy organic, fair trade chocolate. I installed the Food Empowerment Project Chocolate List App on my smartphone -- this is a really wonderful app that gives a list of all companies that make vegan chocolates and lets you know about each company's transparency as far as using chocolate from non-slavery areas or sources. For me, veganism is all about non-violence and non-harming toward others, so doing my best to make sure that my luxury chocolate items don't originate from a situation rife with suffering is important to me. It is always a joy to find that the chocolates I'm looking at in the store are approved on the FEP list. And sadly, I have put back (or stopped buying) so many products because of their "not-recommended" status on the list. There is still a lot of work to be done in this arena!
FEP-approved versus FEP-not recommended
So, when the folks at Chuao Chocolatier offered to send me several of their vegan flavors (they also make non-vegan flavors), the first thing I did was check the FEP list -- "approved"!
Yeah! Let's do this thing!
excellent array of tastiness! it was a good day when these beauties arrived in the mail!
I had seen Chuao bars in the stores, but hadn't realized that several of their dark chocolate varieties are vegan, so I had never tried them.
Boy, was I missing out! These were all so excellent. Gentle readers, I have SO many chocolate bars tucked away in my special sweeties box. But, I'm a slow consumer... just a nibble or two per day. So it can take me quite a while to get through a whole chocolate bar. Let's just say, that once these bars arrived on the scene... I opened them and never even made eye contact with any of my other chocolates until these were all gone!
The base of dark chocolate in all of these bars was 100% to my liking -- velvety smooth, a strong dark chocolate flavor perfectly balanced between a little bitter and a little sweet. So good! Each of the individual bars was really unique and they were each really perfectly balanced with their unique flavors. You know how some chocolates are too heavily flavored, or too subtle with their promised flavoring? I really feel like the folks at Chuao got it just right in every case. I was so impressed! I understand that they also have an Orange-a-go-go flavor that is vegan and it sounds great, but I haven't tried it yet.
I'll tell you about each of the flavors I tried individually:
ooh aah almond
Instead of just a simple almond + chocolate bar, the Chuao almond chocolate bar has a few special touches: the almonds in the bar are left whole and are covered in a slightly sweet and slightly salty crunchy coating. Somehow the result is more than the sum of its parts. Smooth, creamy dark chocolate with whole crunchy salty almonds is an all-round good thing, and that sweet-salty crunchy touch on the almonds is excellent!
peace, love & peppermint
I loved this bar. I love chocolate + peppermint, and yet I've found that some minty choco bars just really don't do it for me. Some are too artificial or "extracty" tasting, some aren't minty enough... This bar starts with the fantastic smooth dark chocolate, and then has millions of minty little candy cane bits mixed in... for an excellent peppermint flavor and an excellent crunchy texture experience. Definitely one of my favorite minty chocolate bars ever!
triple nut temptation
This bar is dark chocolate, with whole roasted almonds, pistachios, and hazelnuts mixed it. Nothing more than that, but nothing more is needed. I think this one was Mr. VE&T's favorite. I love the whole roasted nuts in there so much. And those are 3 of my favorite nuts too, so it's no surprise that I was such a fan of this one.
Chuao's take on spicy hot chocolate is definitely my favorite ever in this genre. I like the combo of spicy heat with chocolate, but in some spicy chocolate bars the heat is over-powering and brings no extra flavor... and other times the heat is completely under-whelming and feels like it didn't deliver. I totally fell in love with this bar immediately - it's got complex flavors and just the right amount of heat... from cinnamon, pasilla chile and cayenne in the chocolate. You can really taste the chile flavor even before the heat hits your palette. Quite to my surprise, this was the first bar to disappear from the Sweeties box. A sleeper hit!
Team Chocolate 4Ever
In all, I am a big fan of this chocolate! No doubt that I would be even more stoked about it if their chocolate was also organic and fair trade -- but knowing that it's vegan and FEP-approved helps me feel good about enjoying these delicious treats. And I also wish their website made it easier to locate the vegan flavors, without having to click through each one to find out. I totally love the quality, the flavors, the presentation, the packaging -- and I will definitely buy Chuao bars again. I also think that they would make nice chocolate bars for gifts, because of how beautiful and delicious and special they are.
disclaimer: I was sent these bars to sample and review, but the opinions expressed are mine alone!
PS! We have a winner!!
Congratulations to Gabrielle
for winning a copy of Jess Nadel's latest cookbook "Superfoods 24/7"