Chocolate, an insider’s guide to choosing the right chocolate this holiday!

When Anthony invited me back to his place for chocolate cake on our first date, I did the obvious thing. I fell in love and married him. We didn’t wed right away, of course. That came many cakes later. We’ve melted into many a fudge mouthful together since then but, our tastes in chocolate can also clash.

I often cringe at his choice of chocolate treats. Though no connoisseur, I prefer the rich flavour and natural quality of cacao over the taste of his highly processed chocolate confections.

The cacao bean is the basis for chocolate. The ground cacao bean and a bit of extra cacao butter (which is the fat pressed from the bean), are blended with sugars, sometimes milk, or other ingredients to produce the chocolates we love. Raw cacao is a natural superfood, high in antioxidants, magnesium, and nutrients that promote brain health. Dark and non-roasted chocolates can be wonderfully nourishing, guilt-free pleasures, though the taste may take some getting used to. What I find rich and earthy, Anthony describes as bittersweet and reminiscent of coffee.

While attending The Luxury Chocolate Show in Toronto (http://www.torontochocolateshow.com/), we sampled chocolates of all kinds. Among my favourites were the raw organic bars produced by Giddy Yoyo (http://shop.giddyyoyo.com/). The line is bold yet agreeable, much like the company itself.

blackfoodie_giddy-yoyo-bars

Owned and run by Bridgitte Longshore, Giddy Yoyo is a company with a strong moral compass that aims to produce nutrient-dense foods that make people feel great. Beyond delicious taste, this means their ingredients are ethically-sourced superfoods that are organic, allergen-free, grown in healthy environments, and are true fair trade.

But you don’t need a chocolate show to explore the sensation of real cacao. Whether you’re transitioning to dark chocolates yourself, or considering someone on your holiday gift list, I’ve got you. Follow these tips, compiled with the expert help of Bridgitte, to navigate the new world of raw chocolate.

YOUR 5-STEP GUIDE TO EXPLORING REAL CHOCOLATE

1. Percentage Counts The percentage number on the label (eg. 69% or 82%) indicates how much of the bar is made up of cacao. Bridgitte recommends her 69% Sweet Vanilla as a good “transition bar” for those who are used to the taste of milk chocolate. This particular bar blends the cacao with sugarcane, vanilla and coconut oil. Look for a similar amount of cacao content when shopping other brands at your local grocer, natural food store or online.

2. Play Favourites Vanilla, mint, and orange are popular flavours, especially among milk chocolate lovers and children. For a touch of holiday spirit, try bars with real chai spice, cinnamon or mint ingredients added.

3. Journey Together From different companies to different regions to different textures, there’s so much chocolate to explore. If you’re hosting friends for lunch or dinner over the holidays, why not include a variety of raw chocolates to taste. And for gift-giving, you can mix and match a sampling of raw bars in a box or basket.

4. Feel It Listen to your body. Do you like the texture? Are you satisfied? Do you have feelings of guilt? Bridgitte strongly believes the best chocolate not only feels and tastes good in your mouth, but also makes you feel good and nourished.

5. Keep It Tight You may savour your bar one square at at time, over three or four days like I do. Once open, be sure to re-wrap the bar well and to store it away from other foods. Chocolate absorbs odors well and the taste will change when it does.

Enjoy experiencing the many tastes and benefits of raw chocolate this holiday season and beyond.  You may even fall in love 😉

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