By Benjamin Skipper
It's getting to be where I'm starting to enjoy consistent trends in my chocolate rather than searching solely for unique combinations. Chocolate with mint. Chocolate with coffee. Chocolate with berries. And now, thanks to a friend, I have become interested in chocolate with orange. Some things are just made to be paired with the dark stuff. My first taste was of Theo's, and now we have Endangered Species' 70% orange.
This is a part of ES' organic line, which uses organic ingredients in contrast to their larger range, and is mostly limited to only 1.4 ounce portions except for the 70% smooth variety, which is also available in the normal 3 ounce portion. While it may be disappointing to some to have so little chocolate in a wrapper, I like the idea. For someone like me, it really helps with sugar moderation. You can eat the entirety of the bar in one sitting and not feel guilty about it, unlike normal sized bars where it may require discipline to wrap the remaining half for later. Plus, the portion makes for a more than a good enough excuse not to share.
The orange is quite strong, so strong that it can be smelled through the wrapper. In fact, out of all the chocolates in my chocolate box, this is the only bar that has this aromatic power. The dimensions of the orange are citrusy and tangy, like the scent of juice. In the flavor profile the citrus dominates, though there are some bitter attributes contributed from the peel of the orange rather than the cocoa. Orange is the constant primary in the experience from start to finish, with some mild sugar notes from the chocolate itself, and the aftertaste brings forth the bitterness of the peel again.
I'm tempted to say that the balance is off in this bar, far too favoring the orange, but in the name of justice I'm starting to doubt my conclusion. I have an extremely dark palate -- I can eat upwards to 100% cacao -- so I'm wondering if my intense palate is making me less responsive to lighter chocolates, such as this which is in the 70% range. My taste memory of Theo is that its balance was perfect: Chocolate to the front, orange playing backup; just want I want in orange chocolate. My interpretation of this, however, is that the orange is forcing itself on stage and shoving off the cocoa in the process, leaving but a sugar note as leftover trace. It is in my best judgment to say the balance is off, but I'd like to make explicit the nature of my palate to at least make sure that these chocolates are judged fairly. Whatever the case, I do find that the ES version does satisfy an orange craving.
This bar is also different in form from ES usual products. Instead of a multitude of convex squares with an impression of the ES fruit tree symbol, these small bars come divided into three very big square sections with horizontal stripes, which I don't like all that much since I prefer companies that "sign" their chocolates. It has a rather dull shine, a click-like snap, an inwardly smooth gradient, and is a normal chocolate-brown tone with a spot or two of bright mahogany. There's a loud click to every bite, and in the mouth it's hard at first, but soon soft and yielding. Not much in the way of a good melt.
All in all I'm satisfied, but I'm uncomfortable with my interpretation of the balance, so I think I might purchase another bar to rethink my views, perhaps post another article if I do find I'm mistaken. In comparison to Theo, ES' version offers a much more potent and citrusy orange, so much so as to bring the bitterness of the peel too, but it seems to be at the expense of the chocolate. Theo may be weaker, but the chocolate is out in front at least, and the bars are cheaper too. On one hand, ES is more attractive, donates part of the proceeds to charity, and is stronger, and on the other Theo is more balanced and free of soy. Your choice.
For me, I'm pleased and will do another tasting of it. I recommend it.