Thursday, April 15, 2010


All photographsRon Dunlap/Doglight Studios
Sometimes it's hard to do the right thing whether it's eating your vegetables as a kid or staying away from fried foods as an adult. But, Coco-Zen makes it easy for you to do the right thing: their chocolates areFair Trade Certified and use only organic ingredients. And as a reward for your virtue, these chocolates are also rich, luscious, flavorful and creamy.

I think it's important to mention (even though this is a chocolate review) that most of the cocoa we consume comes from mass candy businesses that have a devastating impact on the environment and the communities around them. They require heavy forestation, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. And these companies exploit the local communities, adopting unsafe working conditions, poor wages and sometimes even forced child labor. This is why, in a time where resources are rapidly depleting, that we need to remember that our actions affect the world around us. This is mantra of Coco-Zen - to Experience Oneness with Chocolate.

Coco-Zen's Truffles-To-Give arrive in an Indian Tin. This is a stack of tins is actually an Indian lunch box. (In fact, all Asians - Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, etc. - use themYou put rice in the bottom tin and the goodies to add in the top tins. Yum!) When you take the lid off, you become aware of two things. The first is that these truffles are enormous. Bigger than a golf ball although smaller than a baseball. The second is the aroma of chocolaty goodness just wafting out.

Each Coco-Zen tin reveals a new insanely tempting flavor: Chai Spice, Mint Bliss, Orange Blossom (with the nuts) and Dark Chocolates. Our selections were vegan, yet there was no discernable difference between them and any chocolate made with butter and cream. Each truffle had a rich and meaty ganache nicely balanced with the harder texture of the chocolate couverture.

We started our journey with the Coco-Zen Orange Blossom as the nuts on top appealed to everyone. This chocolate had a nice but not overpowering orange flavor and the crushed almonds added to the a wonderful texture.

We decided to follow with the simple Dark Chocolate - to cleanse our palette - as it were. For chocolate purists, this chocolate has your name on it. Rich, earthy and flavorful. You can enjoy all the nuances of chocolateness (if there was such a word).

For mint lovers, the Coco-Zen Mint Bliss is nothing short of chocolate mastery. I think it is hard to get the right balance of mint to chocolate I think because each flavor is quite strong. But Coco-Zen, gets it perfectly. This chocolate would not only serve as a wonderful finish to a meal, one of them could be the entire dessert.

My personal favorite was the Chai Spice (except for the Orange Blossom, Dark Chocolate and Mint Bliss). I love chai and have ever since I was small. It brings back memories of my childhood neighborhood, which was home to immigrants, trying to make their way into the American life--or their version of it. We had Italians, North Indians, Dutch, Germans and of course our Chinese family. What this really boiled down to was we had really good food pretty much all the time, including the chai tea one of the mother's made on the stove for us when we showed up on her porch with hungry faces. The delicately spiced but still rich flavor of the Chai Spice's ganache had the best elements of the chai I remember, wonderfully enrobed in dark chocolate that melts away perfectly.

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