Photos and styling by Jordan Elton and Nicole Ouellette
In honor of Valentine’s Day, ONE staffers taste-tested some of the best fair and direct trade chocolate on the market to find our absolute favorite.
To find the winners, we created a bracket, got some serious foodies in the ONE office to judge in the taste-off, and made sure these chocolates were all available for you to order online.
For our taste test, we selected 12 types of chocolate from six different companies:
Each company uses ethically sourced cocoa beans bought at fair prices to produce a treat you can feel good about.
The bracket-style taste-testing was conducted by a panel of ONE’s self-proclaimed “chocolate experts” at our headquarters in Washington, D.C.: Gordon Wong, Norah Valoyi and Samra Wondemagane.
The panel started off by tasting each chocolate in a head-to-head matchup to see which would advance to the second round.
THE TASTE OFF
Taza’s Vanilla vs. Taza’s Cinnamon
“You can tell it’s a different style of chocolate than I’m used to; the consistency is a bit drier,” said Wong, who had heard of Taza before.
“Both chocolates are unique, but the cinnamon and vanilla flavoring aren’t very strong,” said Wondemagane.
Divine’s Dark Mint vs. Alter Eco’s Dark Mint
“These are both something I’d buy,” Wong said, comparing the two mints to some of the more unique flavors in the taste-off. “I know mint flavor. And I really love the crunch in Alter Eco’s.”
Winner: Alter Eco’s Dark Mint
Divine’s White Chocolate with Strawberries vs. Shaman’s Dark Chocolate with Ruby Raspberries
“These two are so different from each other,” said Valoyi, who tends not to prefer darker chocolate and sided with the white chocolate in her decision.
“I prefer the raspberry; it’s a much stronger flavor than the strawberry,” Wong said.
Winner: White Chocolate with Strawberries
Alter Eco’s Dark Almond vs. Divine’s Milk Chocolate with Hazelnut
“These are good, but not as sweet as the others; they are both more bitter,” said Valoyi.
“The nut flavors in both are very subtle,” Wong said.
Shaman’s Dark Chocolate with Coconut vs. Equal Exchange’s Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt
“Caramel crunch seems like such a trendy flavor,” said Wong, adding that he loved the saltiness.
Wondemagane liked them both, but wondered if the coconut flavor was too mild. “The taste is very subtle,” she said.
Winner: Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt
Madécasse’s Citrus with Pink Pepper vs. Equal Exchange’s Lemon Ginger with Black Pepper
“I can see how these flavor names could be off-putting at first,” said Wondemagane. “Both of these flavors are very unique and force you to be a bit more adventurous. The other flavors have been more safe.”
Winner: Lemon Ginger with Black Pepper
Six chocolates emerged from the bracket’s first round, remaining in the running for ONE’s favorite fair trade chocolate. These finalists were pitted against each other, and after careful deliberation (and extra tasting) the panel delivered a verdict and ranked their top-3 chocolates:
“The lemon ginger with black pepper came as a huge surprise to us,” said Wondemagane of the winner. “It’s so interesting and both the lemon and spice flavors really come out.”
Overall, the panelists agreed that these socially conscious chocolate companies offer a wide selection.
“There’s something for everyone; these are all so distinct,” Vayoli said. “You can tell these chocolates are different and richer than big brand chocolate. I love how the companies mixed unique flavors together.”
All of the chocolates ONE sampled are available online through each company’s website or on Amazon.
Have you tried any of these brands? Tell us in a comment below!
And don’t forget to order these fair trade chocolates in time for Valentine’s Day!