Green Star Review
This Mother’s Day (and every day) keep Mother Earth in mind, with Alter Eco Organic Chocolate Bars. We’ve been impressed with all nine flavors, from Moka Milk to Dark Mint. Rich and imminently satisfying, these chocolate bars easily stand out among their competitors. Which is not surprising, since they’re made in Switzerland by a master chocolatier using some of the world’s best quality cacao beans from Bolivia and Ghana.
But it’s their good green profile that jumps them ahead of the conventional pack. Alter Eco’s not the sexiest brand name for foods, but it’s accurate. For besides being organic, Alter Eco bars are fair trade certified, vegan, GMO-free, and contain no artificial flavors, chemical additives, or emulsifiers. The brand specializes in fair trade foods cultivated by small-scale farmers in developing countries. The farmers and their cooperatives are paid decent wages, and Alter Eco adds a premium for investing into community projects, like wells for clean water, computers, scholarships, and even micro-credit loans. Besides the chocolate bars, Alter Eco products include coffee, tea, unrefined sugar, jasmine rice, quinoa and hearts of palm.
Our favorite chocolate flavors? Tough question, as they’re all so good, but the Dark Velvet with a touch of organic milk has dark chocolate’s intensity mellowed by a silky texture. As I say in Cooking Green, one way to shrink your cookprint is to shop with your dollar: buy products with good global impact, which in this case is easy, since these chocolates are tasty winners all the way around.
On the goodness scale, Equal Exchange’s almonds, pecans, and cranberries float to the top: They’re not just organic and Fair Trade Certified, but they’re domestic Fair Trade, from small growers right here in the U.S. Check out their cool “Track Your Snacks” feature:
First, go to Equal Exchange’s track-your-snacks page, type in the use-by date on the back of the package, and you’ll see exactly which farm in their collective grew your food. (My almonds came from Big Tree Organic Co-Op in Carmel; a co-op of black Georgia farmers grew the pecans; and the cranberries came from Monika and Keith Mann’s organic bogs in Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts.) Compared to conventional competitors, these products really do taste distinctively better. Look for:
Tamari-Roasted Almonds—Some snack almonds can be so heavily processed or flavored with additives that they taste artificial. Not so with these babies. They actually taste like almonds, lightly salted with the flavor of tamari (for an extra umami kick). No other ingredients.
Roasted, Salted Pecans—Just pecans, sunflower oil and salt. Delicate and utterly tasty.
Dried, Sweetened Cranberries—Organic cane juice and cranberries. Spoiler alert: A happy ending; you’ll never go back to Ocean Spray.
They won 2007′s Best New Products Award at the New England Products Show, and we like Robin’s Chocolate Sauces for many reasons. Three of their six sauces are Fair Trade Certified, including the elegant Orange Spice and Tropical Dark (our personal favorites), made with 70 percent dark chocolate.
All of Robin’s small-batch sauces are made with organic cocoa, vanilla and cane sugar, using local dairy products. Serve straight from the jar, or better yet, simply remove the lid, warm the jar in the microwave, and drizzle the velvety sauces over ice cream, bread pudding or cheesecake.
Robin’s Chocolate Sauce partners with National Wildlife Federation and Sustainable Harvest International, helping to conserve tropical habitats for migratory songbirds, and promote sustainable cocoa-farming practices. Unlike Betty Crocker, Robin Jenkins is a real person, whose holiday gifts of chocolate sauce grew into a true family business, starting in 2004. Today her husband and two sons pitch in, using organic, shade grown and local or Fair Trade Certified ingredients whenever possible.
As Robin says, “These standards are crucial to maintaining a sustainable environment, protecting migratory birds and creating healthy communities—and your children and grandchildren will notice the sweet difference.” So stick that in your (or some else’s) sweet holiday stocking! If you don’t live in Maine, where most stores carry their products, buy them online:
These sweet little bites bring new meaning to the concept of 100 percent guilt-free indulgence: they’re entirely Fair Trade, all organic, and some are even vegan. (not to mention dark chocolate’s salubrious benefits.) Plus, a portion of Sweet Earth Chocolates’ proceeds aid West African farmers.
I’m especially fond of the company’s bite-size coconut cups, which are more delicate than typical coconut confections. The dark chocolate hits the tongue first, and the toasted coconut center slowly rises in flavor. They also make a wide variety of flavors and products for consumers and bulk buyers.
“Our company philosophy is to do no harm to the planet or the people who make a living from the planet,” says Tom Neuhaus, Sweet Earth Chocolates co-founder. “It’s important to us that all of our chocolate products be both organic and fair trade, not one or the other, because we believe this combination fosters economic and ecological sustainability.” For an inspiring story about how Neuhaus turned his West African chocolate experiences into both intense cocoa creations and nonprofit action, visit Sweet Earth Chocolates Blog and ProjectHopeAndFairness.com.