By Benjamin Skipper
When I originally went up to Texas to perform a stage, before I actually moved here, I thought I'd treat myself to some chocolate since my food bill was so low, as I did an awful lot of fasting. The Whole Foods I went to practically paralyzed my mind with the incredible amount of choices they had. The on-shelf options I had in Michigan paled in comparison to what I witnessed there, and with a limited budget it was beyond difficult to decide which would be the chosen few. I probably stood there for about twenty minutes, taking things in and out of my basket, and finally forced myself to walk away. One of those lucky few chocolates happened to be Vivani 70% cocoa orange, as I'm a particular fan of chocolate infused with this essence.
I dislike the packaging greatly, as on the cover is a portrait of "modern" artwork that displays smears on a canvas. Aside from not being proper artwork given the defiance of artistic method, the cover comes off as recessive and easy to look over since the smears are random nothingness. I probably only saw it because I was searching through the chocolate selections so meticulously. Any customer briefly glancing at the selection could easily glance over this one. I do hope Vivani changes it; why not an artist's rendition of oranges?
It'd be a shame if this bar gets passed over due to its artwork, as it's really good. The bar aesthetics are a little poor since the squares are decorated with a boring cross lined pattern, where lines at opposite angles converge to form a corner (a continuation of the modernism theme?); the shine is mild but glossy enough, and the back is covered with smears and shattered chocolate debris. The snap is audible but more like a moderately quiet click, and the inward gradient has outwardly jagged points. All is made up for with the rest of the treat. It has a tempting scent of milk and spices with an orange zest undertone, and the taste experience starts with a strong sweetened cocoa note that unfolds steadily into a combined cocoa-citrus middle and finishes very citrusy, all parts of equal intensity. This to me represents an extremely good balance, as the chocolate and orange take turns being experienced while at the same time being tasted together in the middle transitional phase. It's simple, but good. I also like the thickness of the bar, as it makes for a great mouthfeel, every bite firm yet soft and melting rapidly into an enjoyably thick paste. The pleasure of a viscous melt is just something you can't get with large chocolate bars formed thin.
I think I like this orange variety best over both Theo and Endangered Species' own offering. Theo has good balance while the Endangered Species one has a good citrus intensity, but I see Vivani as superior in its balance and intensity to both competitors combined, so I'd consider this my favorite orange infused chocolate. Additionally, as further competition to Theo's soy-free nutritional contents Vivani is also soy-free in its ingredients, except for the possibility of trace amounts being incorporated from the chocolate being made on the same equipment as soy.
I'm glad to have found a new favorite like this, though, like I said in my Hachez review, I am still open to a more intense experience, so I shall continue tasting orange infused chocolate even as I do have defined favorites; you can never have too many food values. (And wouldn't you know it, Hachez does make an orange variety.) At the present, Vivani has made me content with its offering, so I give it my definite thumbs up.