Organic and fair trade chocolate has a reputation for being somewhat less divine than its uncertified brethren, as T Magazine blogger Jill Santopietro noted earlier this month (her pre-taste-test take on responsible chocolate: "awful"). But chocolate made with an eye to its social and environmental impact needn't taste virtuous, as Sierra Club staffers recently found out. They selflessly tested 15 chocolate bars -- all certified organic or fair trade, or made by small-scale artisanal companies -- for an upcoming issue of Sierra Magazine. These three emerged as crave-worthy winners.
Madagascar premium dark chocolate by Amano Artisan Chocolate
Made with only cocoa beans, cocoa butter, cane sugar, and vanilla pods, this bar (minimum 70 percent cocoa) earned top marks for its tempting appearance, smooth texture, moderate sweetness, and pure cocoa flavor. This, our panelists agreed, is how chocolate should taste. amanochocolate.com
New Moon 74 percent bittersweet dark chocolate by Dagoba Organic Chocolate
Organic cocoa beans, evaporated cane juice, cocoa butter, and non-GMO soy lecithin (an emulsifier) make up this smooth bar, which earned the highest score for aroma. One panelist described it as "dark and satisfying," and many detected coffee and earthy flavors complementing the "solidly unadorned chocolate" taste. dagobachocolate.com
Art Bar exquisite Swiss dark chocolate with coconut by Ithaca Fine Chocolates
Certified both fair trade and organic, this bar (minimum 58 percent cocoa) scored better among panelists favoring semisweet or unsweetened chocolate than those with a stronger sweet tooth. The coconut was a turnoff for some ("Reminds me of a flavored coffee," one noted), but most liked the nutty flavor and preferred it to other fair-trade entries, which struck tasters as "a little grainy" and too fruity, "like Skittles." ithacafinechocolates.com
Share your tips: What is your favorite chocolate bar? Have you tried many organic, fair trade, or artisanal chocolates? How do they measure up?