When asked, Theo Chocolate was kind enough to send some of their organic chocolate for review. I specified interest in the dark chocolate for its health benefits and received their Orange, Coffee, and Cherry & Almond bars.
Cocoa contains antioxidant polyphenols known as flavanoids. Flavonoids are a particular grouping of polyphenols that exist in other nutritious foods, such as berries and tea. These antioxidants protect against “free radicals,” or “unstable, highly reactive forms of oxygen” that wreak havoc on the body and are associated with many ailments + aging. In addition to numerous other causes, free radicals result from pollution, smoking, and sun exposure (The Hershey Company, 2010).
Antioxidants neutralize these free radicals by pairing up with their out-of-control, unpaired electrons. The higher the cocoa content (ideally, 70%+), the more antioxidants. Dark chocolate fans, rejoice. (Milk has been found to counteract the cocoa’s antioxidant benefits).
Note: The common stuff found in drug-store candy aisles is generally just baaarely “dark” (i.e. 55%) and usually loaded with dairy (antioxidant-thwarting milk) and soy fillers, “confectioner’s glaze,” artificial flavors and colors, etc. Not exactly healthy, despite marketing claims.
Why Theo? For starters, take a look at these principles:
Adapted from a screen shot of Theo’s “Our Story” page.
In addition to the above, Theo is superior to other brands of organic dark chocolate for many reasons:
- Theo is soy-free. Most all other organic dark chocolates (Dagoba, Endangered Species, Green & Black’s) contain soy; usually, lecithin. To me, this cheapens them and reduces their purity.
- Theo is vegan. Many other organic dark chocolates contain some form of dairy (milk).
- Theo is Fair Trade Certified.
- Theo is charitable. Proceeds from the “Jane Goodall” line are donated to “benefit cocoa farmers, promote conservation in the tropical rainforest and directly contribute to the Jane Goodall Institute’s efforts to save chimpanzees, develop community-centered conservation efforts and direct youth education programs around the world.”
- Theo uses 50% recycled paper wrappers.
- Theo is gluten-free.
This bar is from the Classic Collection.
They say: “Dark Chocolate with Orange features rich 70% dark chocolate infused with the essence of fresh oranges.”
MPH says: This bar has a definite orange-zesty scent. If you were a fan of those tropical-looking chocolate oranges (you know, in the big gaudy orange wrapper with the break-off slices), you’ll love this. The orange taste isn’t at all in-your-face or overdone, but is definitely evident, which — together with the scent — makes a for pretty dreamy experience. The flavor is not bitter, but creamy and satisfying.
File photo. Credit: Theo
For once, serving size is extremely generous. Eating 1/2 (1.5oz.) of this large bar at once is just too much, especially saturated-fat-wise. (“Save some [richness] for lat-ah, Augustus!”)
The next bar is a Fantasy Flavor, a more traditionally-sized (2oz.) line –
They say: “Dark chocolate and a robust locally-roasted organic, Fair-Trade-Certified™ coffee from Caffé Vita combine to create a full-bodied flavor.”
MPH says: This is phenomenal. Truly a dark chocolate lover’s dream, this bar is smooth and silky. Coffee lovers will go crazy for its java aroma, full-bodied flavor, and dispersed ground coffee bits that lend a subtle crunchiness. Even to a non-coffee-drinker, this was wildly good.
Look for this whimsical wrapper. Credit: Theo
And, finally –
Though the Cherry & Almond bar was also sent, it was eaten by others in a hurry. Fear not; they left a positive report: yay to the bits of — surprise! — finely-chopped almonds throughout; minor nay to cherries not as plentiful as they might have been. It would likely please the retired Hershey’s-with-Almonds fan, who now clearly has much more refined and health-conscious taste. (Right?)
So, instead –
70% Dark Chocolate Mint bar
Just happened to have this extra Classic Collection bar laying around….
They say: “Dark Chocolate with Mint features rich 70% dark chocolate with a unique blend of spearmint and peppermint oils to create a surprisingly smooth bright version of this classic combo.”
MPH says: True to its word, this bar is fabulously minty. I sampled this before reading the above description and noted that the spearmint flavor shines through. To all the recovering Andes Mints (or, dare I say, Junior Mints) addicts, track this down. It is cool and refreshing, and the scent alone is intoxicating.
All in all, Theo Chocolate is excellent, with the dark bars especially great for vegans, the lactose intolerant, soy-allergic/avoidant, health-/eco-conscious, or anyone who just digs organic chocolate. Stick to the dark chocolate for the most antioxidants (and deliciousness — OK, minor bias).
While these are available online, I pick ’em up at Westerly Natural Market (AKA health food mecca) in New York, but have also seen them at Whole Foods and smaller natural grocers. Theo also makes caramels and other confections, including a partnership with Nicobella, producer of organic, vegan, soy-free, Fair Trade dark chocolate truffles infused with superfood goodness, which MPH has tried pre-blog and strongly endorses. To read all the health benefits, click here.
Crave more chocolate + coffee + cherry action?
Behold: Mother’s Day dessert, featuring a warm Vitalicious VitaBrownie topped with Living Harvest Tempt Coffee Biscotti non-dairy/soy-free ice cream (words can’t describe its awesomeness), and cherry sauce graciously sent by Krista’s Kravings. Though fortified, MPH cannot endorse Vitalicious items as “health” foods, but they certainly make immensely tasty, lesser-evil, waistline-friendly treats for special occasions. This was a mom-winner!
I feel like Willy Wonka. Farewell from chocolateville … *cue creepy “if you want to view paradise….”*
The Hershey Company. (2010). Chocolate products: nutritional information. Retrieved May 16, 2010, from http://www.hersheys.com/nutrition/polyphenols.asp.