Friday, August 05, 2011

Chocolate Review: Equal Exchange 67% Mint with Peppermint Pieces

By Benjamin Skipper

It's probably obvious that mint is one of my favorite flavors hands down, especially in chocolate. Done right, it can offer that wonderful experience of the brain feeling as if it were injected with a cooling gel, a perfect accompaniment to the refreshing and delicious nature of the herb class. I try to keep this style of chocolate on hand constantly, in piles if possible, and now it's time to assess more of what companies have to offer in this spectrum, the focus this time being on Equal Exchange's 67% dark mint with peppermint pieces.

Pleasing, but it has some vices holding it back. Each bite is thoroughly saturated with great mint intensity, dandy for my desires, but the balance too much favors the peppermint and leaves the cacao as something merely hinted at. The experience serves to add no additional complexity, only petering out the mint intensity as time passes and leaving the chocolate statically recessive, finishing with no other attribute. It's not at all crunchy as it promises to be; rather, it's entertainingly crispy given how fine the peppermint pieces are. The fineness of the bits also serves as a pleasant, rough contrast to the smooth melt, making for a two-dimension texture. The bar itself smells very sharply of mint, almost making the nose feel cold, though aroma-wise it reminds me more of spearmint than of peppermint.

The packaging is very well done with its simple color contrasts and tasteful minimalist decorations, but the confection itself looks lazy. It has but only lines going along the length on each square, which makes me wonder why they even bothered. Put the brand name on there or something; give us some eye candy. Otherwise, the bar has a strange blend of dull and shiny spots, but is at least cleanly manufactured and has a good snap.

Given how much I like mint the imbalance doesn't bother me that much, but Equal Exchange still doesn't seem to hold up to its competitors. Endangered Species' 72% mint has an equally pleasing mint experience, better balance, more intense chocolate, less sugar, and is probably cheaper. New Tree's 73% mint may be a little more expensive and harder to obtain, not to mention having a slightly less intense chocolate, but it has the complexity of bitter grassy notes and, most favorably, consistently delivers on that brain-cooling experience I mentioned above, probably due to the green tea extract. Equal Exchange's contribution is tasty, but I can't recommend it given its superior competitors; Endangered Species still tops the mint category in my book, so I still offer that as my top suggestion.

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