What does one do when faced with the challenge of choosing between three unusual inclusion bars? Use the “eenie meenie miney moe” or “rock paper scissors” method? Well, after some consultation with friends, I did what any sane person would do: tried ALL three!! (OK, you caught me! I really just wanted an excuse to try all of them since I’m doing this research for all of you! 🙂 )
I’m not sure what led me to discover Gracias Chocolate. It must have been photos on either Facebook or Instagram showing off their array of uniquely flavored inclusion bars.
Originally I was hoping to avoid summertime shipping costs & planned on asking visiting relatives from the San Francisco area to transport the bars to me. When that didn’t work out last month, I tried coordinating with a Sacramento friend to visit a local farmers’ market to obtain the bars for me – but then 100+ degree weather messed up those plans! In the end, I think it worked out just fine to buy directly from Jessica at Gracias Chocolate since the delicate bars were expertly cushioned with multiple layers of bubble wrap & sent along with an ice pack to keep things cool (we also waited to ship until the weather cooperated more!)
It’s great that Gracias Chocolate is so transparent about the ingredients they use for their bars. Each bar has a page dedicated to it on their website. There are thumbnail photos of the ingredients, along with a short paragraph about the health benefits about them. I learned so much about maca (a root that grows in the South American Andes) and coconut sugar (made from dried sap of a palm tree) from reading those blurbs. Another great thing is that they acknowledge the sources of the ingredients, right down to the farm or co-op. I wish all chocolate makers disclosed that amount of information.
Gracias Chocolate started in 2014 with the purpose to “create a powerfully great taste experience using high-quality and conscionable ingredients that are healthy & kind to our bodies and the Earth.” This is why they are committed to making chocolate treats that are soy-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan + free from refined sugar. Additionally, they use non-GMO, organic, fair trade or responsibly farmed ingredients, as well as biodegradable packaging (a bonus is that the packaging is clear + re-sealable).
Each of the three bars that I tried had some common “base” ingredients like 10% maca and different percentages of unroasted Ecuadorian Arriba Nacional cacao powder (follow the link to see more information about the 6-8 ingredients that were used in each bar). Building on that base, each bar then had “inclusion” ingredients to make them truly stand out.
All of the bars lacked a sharp “snap” when broken – I blame the summer heat/humidity for making them more bendable than they should be. Not surprisingly, they all had a slightly gritty/coarse texture…but, I didn’t mind the mouthfeel since it made me more aware that unrefined coconut and maple sugars were used.
Below is a brief description of each bar, in the order that I tasted them.
Sour Cherries and Pistachios (64% cacao)
Even after being careful with these delicately thin bars, I still managed to crack this bar before opening the package 🙁 One of the very first flavors that I detected when biting into this bar was anise! I was sure I was imagining things since it wasn’t listed on the front of the package, but indeed there it was listed on the back! The tart, chewy, unsweetened dried sour cherries paired nicely with the salty smashed pistachios and crunchy nibs. This combination produced an overall “earthy” flavor for me.
Olive, Date & Thyme (65% cacao)
This is the bar that originally drew my attention to Gracias Chocolate. Where else can you find a chocolate that sounds like a Mediterranean feast or an Algerian/Moroccan tagine?! This is the epitome of sweet & savory: generously chopped dates for the sweetness and sun-cured olive morsels for the savory. My only complaint is that the dates (I think they were Medjools) stuck to the packaging & that made it harder to remove the bar. To me, overall the bar was more savory than sweet, plus the combination of olives and chocolate is definitely an acquired taste.
Citrus Habanero & Hazelnuts (63% cacao)
Habanero peppers are known to have a kick, so I wanted to make sure to leave this for last in order not to ruin my palate. This one certainly didn’t disappoint in terms of heat! The combination of habanero-infused olive oil and cayenne pepper produced a short-lived, but noticeable “back of the throat” burn…however, it was my favorite bar of the bunch (and it was “juicy” too)! What you see is primarily Oregonian hazelnuts from Freddy Guys Family Farm, but the aromatics are orange oil. I can only imagine this combo as a hot chocolate…maybe I need to experiment a little?!
To see all their flavors and even sign up for a chocolate bar subscription plan, go to: http://www.graciaschocolate.com/ – you’ll thank me for it 😉