Chocolate That Benefits Farmers in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Chocolate that helps farmers in the Amazonian rainforests.

In the world of chocolate bars, Kallari Chocolate Bars are a definite do-gooder.

All profits from the sales of these premium chocolate bars (available at Whole Foods) is returned to the Kallari Association, a cooperative of more than 850 Quichua families in Napo Province in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The association touts itself as the only farmers cooperative in the world that harvests, markets, and receives all profits from its line of organic chocolates. With this revenue, the Quichua families are able to make a viable living without succumbing to the temptation to make quick money from logging their rainforests or from extracting petroleum from their lands.

The chocolate-making venture was established with expertise and start-up funds from Stephen McDonnell, founder and CEO of Applegate Farms in Bridgewater, NJ, which produces natural and organic deli meats and cheeses. Visitors can even tour the cacao farms in Ecuador now to watch the harvest and the fermentation process.

The smoothest melting chocolate imaginable.

The bars do good. But do they also taste good?

I’ll use my patented scale of 1 to 10 lip-smackers, with 1 being the “Bleh, save your money” far end of the spectrum; 5 being the “I’m not sure I’d buy it, but if it was just there, I might nibble some” middle-of-the-road response; and 10 being the “My gawd, I could die now and never be happier, because this is the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth” supreme ranking.

Kallari Chocolate Bars (each 70g bar retails for about $5): Though the chocolate is made with a blend of several cacao bean varietals, the main flavor comes from a very special one, the Cacao Nacional de Arriba bean. In the early 20th century, this cacao bean was over-planted on factory farms, suffered widespread blight, and nearly became extinct. But the bean managed to survive and flourish in the Napo Province. In 2004, the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity recognized these beans as an heirloom varietal.

The chocolate bars come in three different cacao percentages — 70 percent, 75 percent, and 85 percent.

The 70 percent has just a hint of sweetness, with notes of toffee or caramel and a touch of vanilla. There’s a really creamy quality to it, too. It’s as if you took a milk chocolate and mixed it with a dark one for the best of both worlds.

The 75 percent has an earthier flavor with notes of baking spices. Like the first bar, this one, too, has an incredibly long finish on the palate.

The 85 percent has notes of coffee but without the bitterness. It’s very nutty tasting, with a slight wine-like fruitiness.

The most amazing quality about these bars is the way they melt so incredibly smoothly when they hit your tongue. Take a piece, place it on your tongue, and don’t start chewing right away. Just let it sit there. The heat of your own mouth will transform it almost into unctuous chocolate pudding pooling right there and then in the center of your tongue. It’s truly an experieince to savor. Rating: 10 lip-smackers.

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