Wednesday, September 4, 2013

My Munchable Soapbox: Emergency Chocolate

Emergency chocolate bar vs. Special stuff
As you must have realized by now, I am quite the chocoholic. The distinctions between cacao from a range of countries, varying percentages, and differences in processing are astounding. When you want to really savor the flavors and subtle variations in taste, there are the artisan chocolate bars. Often these are discriminating in terms of quality of cacao, ecological soundness of production practices, and fairness of labor laws. While in New York a couple of weekends back, I picked up two single-origin bars from Madagascar - one from Mast Brothers and the other Raaka. Both these companies have an ethical bent.

But this post (which will have to be cut short) is not about the feel-good stuff. It's about Emergency Chocolate. This is the chocolate that hangs out at the bottom of your bag; it's the bar that resides in your desk drawer or car glove compartment; it is that rectangle of wonderfulness that is there when you most need it. Whereas consumption of the Mast Brothers and Raakas of the world is carefully orchestrated and savored, like an aged balsamic or an expensive bottle of wine (and let me tell you, these are not cheap bars), Emergency Chocolate is a cheaper, good but not mind-boggling slab of cocoa, sugar, and vanilla. 

Emergency Chocolate is critically important for my well-being, yet it also is a social and environment heavy-weight. Sacrificing quality and values for cost is not a new phenomenon, and short of eating less and paying more per bar, the challenge of an emergency is a serious one. Now, I don't normally argue along the lines of paying less for high-cost commodity crops, but when when a conscious chocoholic (who has begun a rapid decent into student debt...) is in a bind, there are still some good options that won't bounce a check or sink you into an ethical depression.

Whole Foods dark chocolate bars clock in at around $3 or slightly less, and also include community support projects or follow organic practices. You can find Theo Chocolate in stores for $4 or less, and they aim to source directly, fairly, and in an environmentally sustainable manner. Salazon is another favorite (although dangerously addictive) that is organic, Rainforest Alliance certified, and founded from a backpacking trip...so what could be bad? You're not going to pay $1 for a 3oz bar, but you also won't drop upwards of $12 for haute couture chocolat!

Perhaps, though, chocolate at our beck-and-call is just not appropriate - as it has never been up until now. If you have thoughts on this dilemma, feel free to let me know.

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