Chocolate is a treat that I definitely can’t buy locally-grown here in Canada, but it’s not something I’m ready to give up completely. So once in a while I enjoy a little indulgence, and I like to try new ethical brands.
Meet Taza Mexican-Style Stone Ground Chocolate discs.
Why are they ethical? There are a lot of good-looking stamps on the back, but let’s see what they all mean:
Well, I’m sure it means something good, but at the moment, the USDA website is offline due to some political nonsense happening in the States.
Direct Trade Certified Cacao
Direct Trade started in the coffee industry as a reaction to overcome some of the restrictions of Fair Trade.
From the Direct Trade Certification website, which doesn’t address cocao, but I’m sure the gist is the same:
Counter Culture Direct Trade Certification is based on the guiding principles behind our coffee purchases and relationships with coffee growers and grower groups. We engage USDA-accredited Quality Certification Services (QCS) to verify Counter Culture’s compliance with four measures:
Personal & direct communication with coffee farmers.
Fair & sustainable prices paid to farmers.
Exceptional cup quality.
Supply chain transparency.
Personal, direct communication with coffee farmers builds trust and lays the groundwork for long-term, mutually supportive relationships that allow us to work together growers to improve cup quality; encourage ecologically responsible cultivation methods; assess social practices and working conditions; and learn more about the cultures and people who produce great coffee.
Sounds good to me.
Certified Gluten Free
None of the ingredients in this bar naturally have any gluten, so this seems a bit like unnecessary advertising buzzwords, except for the fact that it is certified. So. . . they bothered to have a third party verify the gluten-free-ness of their naturally gluten-free products. This doesn’t affect most of us, but for people who have celiac disease, and cannot even eat foods that have been on the same production line as gluten-containing products, then this stamp will save them a phone call to the company.
Dairy and Soy Free
This is unnecessary advertising buzzwords. It does not designate a certification. All it does is save my eyes a trip through the ingredients list, where I could clearly read for myself that it does not contain dairy or soy. I must admit, I do appreciate it, even though I could figure it out for myself. I read the ingredients anyway, but having a stamp like this on the logo indicates to me that I’m in the target market for this product – people concerned about health/sustainability who might be looking for dairy or soy free products.
This is a category of kosher foods. It signifies that the product contains neither dairy nor terrestrial meat products, but it is not a synonym for vegan. Pareve can include anything growing from the ground, eggs and fish. This is a selling point for me because Kosher is cleaner. I took an intro to Judaism course as an elective, and the professor told us that her husband had worked for a large cookie company – and at the end of the day they would shovel up the spilled dough and put it back into the factory line. YUCK! That would not fly with kosher. Anything with a kosher symbol means the factory is is inspected by a Kosher certifying agency to ensure that it is in accordance with the strict rules of kashrut.
But what about the flavour? These discs are in a class all their own, and not only for the shape. Instead of the typical creamy-smooth texture that you normally look for in a chocolate, Taza has a coarse texture. It is crumbly, and you can feel the slightly grainy sugar. It’s not bad, it’s just different, so don’t expect it to melt in your mouth like those little Lindt balls.
Overall, I like it. The Direct Trade is the biggest selling point for me, as are the simple ingredients, and the texture makes it feel very authentic. And when it comes down to it, authenticity is what the sustainable food movement is all about – real, authentic food.