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Vegan Chocolates Face Off!, Or, The One In Which We Eat Chocolate Ostensibly For Your Benefit

Two tasters, Dave and Grace, consider the chocolate they just ate.

Two tasters, Dave and Grace, consider the chocolate they just ate.

I invited a handful of friends over to my apartment to sample chocolate offerings from some local vegan-friendly companies and settle, once and for all, which ones should be filling your pantry.

It was nice to see so many different flavors and textures and styles represented–there’s definitely something for everyone. I also appreciate that a number of these companies are dedicated to producing candy that harms no one, including both animals and people–because no one is free when others are oppressed. And no one is happy without dessert.

The rules:
My five tasters were asked to rank each bite of chocolate they took on its appearance, taste, and texture using a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best). No one knew the brand names or what ingredients were in each piece, save for those that are potential allergens. While opinions varied widely on which chocolates were “the best,” I’m hopeful that the comments below will guide you in your quest for the perfect vegan chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth.

The companies:

Sweet and Sara is based out of Queens and produces their 100% vegan candies out of a dedicated vegan facility. The cocoa Sara uses is rainforest-alliance certified from Ecuador, and the chocolate (i.e. the dipping chocolate used in her s’mores) is certified organic from the Dominican Republic.

Rescue Chocolate is a Brooklyn-based, completely vegan chocolate company that donates 100% of its profits to animal rescue organizations. RC’s products are all certified Kosher. The chocolate is sourced from a number of different countries.

Divvies is an allergy-friendly bakery in South Salem, NY that uses no eggs or dairy in any of its products but does not specifically seek out vegan sources for sugar.

Fine and Raw is based out of Brooklyn and aims to turn chocolate into “a form of therapy,” Fine and Raw is a 100% vegan, 100% raw, 100% organic and certified fair-trade chocolatier.

Cocoa V is a Manhattan-based chocolatier run by the team who also brings you Blossom and V-Note. They are the very first 100% vegan, 100% organic, 100% fair-trade certified chocolate shop. Their products are also certified Kosher.

The results:

Sample #1: Sweet and Sara’s Rocky Road Bark
Description: Sara’s famous vegan marshmallows paired up with roasted almonds and smothered in rich, organic Belgian chocolate
Appearance: 6.5
Taste: 7
Texture: 7.5
Comments: We started off our tasting with Sara’s Rocky Road Bark. The tasters weren’t too wowed by the appearance, but the combination of marshmallow, almond, and chocolate textures were a hit. Gwen from Brooklyn thought that it was “a little too dark, but with the other ingredients, it works.” Most of the tasters agreed that the marshmallow lent some good texture but not much taste. Dave from Brooklyn noted that the marshmallow “makes everything sweeter,” which might have contributed to the bark tasting dark but not bitter. Ida from Queens found the bark to be a bit chalky for her liking. Overall, this was a fun candy with exciting textures–the perfect chocolate, maybe, for someone who doesn’t like chocolate all that much.

Sample #2: Rescue Chocolate’s Pick Me! Pepper
Description: Pick Me! Pepper is a sweet ’n spicy dark chocolate delight for thrill-seeking palates. It exhilarates the senses tasting in turn sweet, salty, rich, and hot.
Appearance: 6.5
Taste: 8
Texture: 7
Comments: Rescue Chocolate is a vegan fixture around these parts, but I’d never before sampled the Pick Me! Pepper. I brought it to the tasting and let these five palettes have at it. Grace from Manhattan was not impressed: “I usually like spicy chocolate,” she said, “but this one almost tastes like taco mix.” Gwen agreed that it was “salty and savory, but not very sweet.” Ida and Dave both liked the saltiness of the chocolate and said it was one of their favorites. Molly from Manhattan found the spice appealing, but thought that she wouldn’t be able to eat very much of it–which those of us who have been known to eat an entire Peanut Butter Pit Bull in one sitting thought might not be such a bad thing.

Sample #3: Divvies BingGo! Benjamint Crunch
Description: A delicious gourmet semi-sweet chocolate bar with organic peppermint crunched up candies.
Appearance: 7
Taste: 7
Texture: 8
Comments: I spotted the BingGo! bar at a market near my house but had never before heard of the company or its products; apparently they are an allergen-free food manufacturer in upstate New York. Our tasters really dug the crunchy texture of this particular bar, though Grace’s comment neatly summed up their opinion on the taste: “Where’s the chocolate?” There were so many crunchy peppermints in the bar that we really only tasted that element. Molly said, “The peppermint overwhelms the chocolate flavor. I don’t dislike it, but I don’t really taste the chocolate.” Dave notes that this chocolate might be good crumbled on top of a cupcake or cookie; if you’ll excuse me, I have some baking to do.

Sample #4: Fine And Raw Lucuma & Vanilla Chocolate Bar
Description: A 75% cacao textured style bar with notes of bread pudding, toffee apple and burnt caramel.
Appearance: 7.5
Taste: 8.5
Texture: 8.5
Comments: Another new-to-me company, I spotted a pile of Fine and Raw chocolate bars at Sustainable NYC and decided to give the Lucuma (a tropical fruit native to Peru) and Vanilla a whirl. The texture of this chocolate was a big hit with the tasters, with words like “smooth” and “soft” flying around the room with the very first bite. Gwen really liked this chocolate, noting that the sweet vanilla flavor comes “right at the end.” Though usually unimpressed by raw chocolate, Grace thought this one was delicious. Molly, however, didn’t think that the vanilla or lucuma flavors came through strongly enough. Altogether, a majority of the tasters said that this one was their favorite.

Sample #5: Assortment of Cocoa V chocolate bon bons
Description: We sampled the Creamy Peanut Butter, the Salted Caramel, the Coconut Caramel, and the Citrus Passion Fruit bon bons.
Appearance: 9.5
Taste: 8.5
Texture: 8.5
Comments: Cocoa V’s bon bons are very pretty to look at–lots of bright colors and interesting shapes–but does the taste measure up? Our tasting crew was inclined to say “yes.” Ida sampled several of the different bon bons and declared that there wasn’t a single one she didn’t like. The caramels were also a hit with our tasters, though some thought that the salted caramel was a little too salty or that it completely overwhelmed the chocolate flavor. Honestly, I was just happy to look at these chocolates, with their spots and swirls, but maybe that’s just the former art student in me.

9 Comments

  1. Comment by

    Andrea

    on #

    Thank you for sharing this. I often would like to try a chocolate without committing to an entire bar or box.

    I just had a flashback to our East Rock sampling. It was one of the first times I truly tasted and considered what I was eating.

  2. Comment by

    Mimi

    on #

    Sweet and Sara’s Rocky Road Bark is my favorite of all her products. The only reason I can think of that the tasters didn’t give it a higher rating is because they may be more of a chocolate chip lover; that is, they may prefer 58 – 60% cocoa solids as opposed to the higher cocoa content in Sara’s organic Belgian chocolate. I totally disagree that the bark is “for someone who doesn’t like chocolate all that much.” Oh contraire mon frere! In fact, someone who doesn’t like chocolate “all that much” probably wouldn’t like it.

  3. Comment by

    jenna

    on #

    Andrea!! I LOVED our chocolate tasting in New Haven. (This one in New York was a ton of fun, too, but we didn’t play Rock Band afterward, so minus ten points.) I sort of want to have tastings for EVERYTHING now. Can’t decide what ingredients go best on a salad? SALAD TASTING. Want to make a batch of cupcakes but aren’t sure which icing you’d prefer? CUPCAKE TASTING. The possibilities are endless. I guess I know my next ten SuperVegan articles, at least.

  4. Comment by

    Jason Das

    on #

    I just want to chime in and agree with Mimi here– the chocolate on S&S’s bark is excellent and extremely chocolatey. It’s great for us true chocolate fans, but maybe too much for those who prefer the diluted stuff.

  5. Comment by

    williumbillium

    on #

    Any reason for not including Mast Brothers?

  6. Comment by

    beanmail

    on #

    I agree with Mimi and Jason, I LOOOOVE chocolate and Sweet & Sara’s rocky road bark is one of my all time favorites. The dark, sweet chocolate is PACKED with gooey, flavorful marshmallows & crunchy almonds. YUM.

  7. Comment by

    jenna

    on #

    williumbillium, the short answer there is that I’ve never heard of Mast Brothers. I actually don’t eat a lot of chocolate myself, so I went with big names in the vegan world, or, in the case of a few of those samples, ones that I happened to stumble across while running errands.

  8. Comment by

    Heather

    on #

    If you did this again I would definitely recommend trying Lugusta’s Luscious!

  9. Comment by

    vegan zagats

    on #

    Has anyone else heard the news that Cocoa V is no longer going to do it’s full range of bon-bons and truffles? Instead, they are going to sell bars of chocolate and baked goods with a very limited bon-bon offerings. If you go in, you will find only a few flavors of left. My family and I are saddened by this. There are a number of vegan choco bars but no fresh-made truffles and bon-bons available everyday in the City. If anyone sees Pamela Blackwell, please ask her to get a new chocolatier so the truffles and bon-bons can flow free.

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