by Lucas Barraza, Merchandiser
Chocolate candy bars, after-dinner mints, brownies, truffles, doughnuts, and chocolate milk—if it has chocolate in it, we eat it. Hot, cold, solid, liquid, over ice cream...even over meat! Yes, a Mexican sauce called “mole” uses unsweetened chocolate in a sauce that is served over meat. It’s a versatile ingredient, chocolate.
It has other benefits besides just tasting great.
• Adam Drewnowski at the University of Michigan found that consuming chocolate causes the brain to produce natural opiates, in turn decreasing pain, reducing tension and creating a sense of euphoria.
• Chocolate contains the same type of disease-fighting “phenolic” chemicals as red wine, fruits, and vegetables.
• Chocolate and cocoa butter contain large quantities of natural antioxidants, called flavonoids. Antioxidants are believed to reduce the number of free radicals in the body that contribute to medical problems, such as heart disease and cancer. Forty grams of chocolate contain about 400 milligrams of antioxidants. Dark chocolate contains about twice that amount. Unsweetened cocoa powder has the most: about two times as much as dark chocolate
• Chocolate makes milk easier to digest if you are lactose-intolerant. Researchers at the University of Rhode Island found that adding 1 1/2 teaspoons of cocoa to 1 cup of milk blocked cramping, bloating and other signs of lactose intolerance. Cocoa stimulates lactase enzyme activity.
There are about 400 varieties and uses of the cocoa bean and the quality and texture varies considerably. Fine gourmet chocolate has the most intense flavor due in part to its high percentage of cocoa and the long conching process (the grinding of the cocoa and sugar particles) it undergoes.
The Co-op actually carries close to eighty different chocolate bars, some of which are strictly for baking purposes and others for making your day that much better.
Endangered Species has twenty-one different flavors alone! Dagoba, Green & Black’s, Equal Exchange, Terra Nostra, Chocolove and Lindt are also top chocolates that we carry.
Green & Black’s features nine different flavors, including one of my favorites, Caramel Center Milk Chocolate. Green & Black’s adds no synthetic chemicals or genetically modified ingredients to their chocolates. Unlike plantation-grown cocoa, their farmers grow their cocoa trees under the shade of indigenous trees alongside other crops, including pineapple, coffee, papaya and bananas. They are pricey at $3.35 a bar, but definately worth your dollar.
Equal Exchange chocolate bars combine famous Swiss standards in chocolate making with cocoa from three farmer cooperatives in the Dominican Republic and Peru, as well as sugar from their cooperatives in Paraguay and Costa Rica.
Terra Nostra, which means “Our Earth” in Latin, is also a Fair Trade producer but pay their growers directly.
Chocolove bars resemble a love letter, addressed and affixed with a “stamp” that declares the cocoa content. Waiting inside each Chocolove wrapper is a romantic love poem and, of course, delicious chocolate!
Lindt originated as a small, father and son Zürich chocolate shop in 1845. Lindt was the first company in the food industry in Switzerland to receive the highly esteemed Quality Assurance Certificate.
Chocolate is one of my favorite sweets to indulge in. It is not something that you can just take one bite of and walk away. Every bite seems to lure you closer until you have consumed the whole bar! I am new to working at the Co-op and already I have tried almost all the chocolates that we carry. There’s chocolate all over the place!