Thursday, January 27, 2011

FEARLESS Chocolates: Raw. Organic. Direct-Trade. Chocolatiers with a Global Conscience.

FEARLESS' Dark Midnight Bar
 There is nothing quite like the sensation of a chocolate bar dissolving on the tongue. The way the naturally bittersweet properties of the cacao and the bindings used to give form to the bar release, melting together as they yield to the body heat of the mouth. Some are slower to melt than others, but when it all combines in that unforgettable alchemy, that singular taste and velvety texture that we recognize as chocolate, the experience is transformative. It is no wonder that this substance that stimulates the palate so seductively has been the subject of the efforts of so many food artisans in their quest to perfect the chocolate experience.

The FEARLESS product is organic and perhaps to reinforce that point of view, their packaging is both thoughtfully green and awash with whimsy. The beguiling (and trademarked) missing “bite” is an intriguing physical representation of the company’s commitment to giving 1% of its annual profits to “change makers” recommended by its customers. A lovely attitude to go along with a high-quality (and seductively tasty) product.

The missing "bite"
 I should note that once upon a time dark chocolate was not my preference. Raised on Hershey Bars and over-sugared Easter candy, my palate was underdeveloped when it came to the finer flavors of the cacao bean. Fortunately for me, my tastes have evolved. The more I am exposed to the flavors hidden within chocolate in its more natural state, the more I like it. Dark chocolate is more complicated in taste, more unique in texture. (And it’s healthier!) Dark chocolate possesses a taste more reflective of the natural botanical mystery that caused the early Mezoamerican Indians to elevate chocolate from foodstuff to food of the gods those thousands of years ago. (Did I mention it’s healthier?)

The current trend in the food industry is to draw attention to the natural flavors our foodstuffs possess by processing them less and more strategically. Given that organic foods are often naturally imbued with unique flavors inherent to their original locale —  the minerals in the earth, other plant life, an ocean breeze — all combine to make them unique to that time and place, so the trend toward allowing theses properties to shine through post-preparation is a smart move.

FEARLESS sources their beans from the Bahia Region of Brazil near Salvador, a locale with a rich history in the farming of cacao sometimes called the “Cacao Coast.” The specific beans FEARLESS uses are the Paraparazinho Maranao, a varietal of Brazilian cacao bean indigenous to coastal Brazil. Coming to fruition in the lush rainforests of Bahia, the beans acquire flavors that possess (according to FEARLESS press packet) “earthy and chocolate-y base-notes accented with bright hints of apricot and pineapple.” These nuanced flavors are carefully preserved during FEARLESS chocolate making process, taking our palates on a global journey and allowing the consumer to imbibe the flavor profiles of exotic locales.

The cacao beans used are sourced Direct-Trade, from sustainably managed family farms, where the workers receive better than Fair-Trade wages. This was not always the case. In fact, the history of the locale of these beans is a fascinating one. What began centuries ago as a slave trade has reimagined itself as a source of employment and hope for the small indigenous farmers of Brazil who have cultivated the cacao bean for as long as they can remember, in an unbroken chain of people who have worked this land for centuries. In fact the beans of Bahia have a history so intriguing that the culture of the cacao is the subject of a film documentary currently being developed to showcase the story of this Brazilian chocolate source as seen through the eyes of mystical farmer Diego Badaro. Another subject of the film, Chocolatier Frederick Schilling, happens to be an advisor to FEARLESS Chocolates. It would appear that those dedicated to bringing Fair-Trade Chocolate to the world are willing to work together to accomplish their goals. Inspiring.
Before I get into the specifics of flavor, I should note that FEARLESS’ bars are beautifully crafted. The FEARLESS logo, a cheery little elephant, trots across each bar, his rotund little features stamped into a single square along the bottom. He looks as though he’s making his way across the bar with purpose. The remainder of the bar is covered in chubby little stars. The bars are delicate and thin, perhaps a result of the raw chocolate processes used by FEARLESS in their production. The company is wholeheartedly committed to keeping as much nutrient in the cacao as possible, so they use their own proprietary process to formulate their bars. I thought the size was just perfect for allowing the various flavors of the ingredients in each bar to come through efficiently, as each bite melted on my tongue.

70% Cacao - Super Seeds Hemp Chia Flax (Dark Chocolate):
Other than chocolate, the primary ingredients for this bar are hemp, chia and flax. The flax seeds give a nice crunch to the mouthfeel, adding an earthy, almost grassy taste on the palate. The nose of the bar is a rich, chocolate punch, but one can definitely smell the hemp pushing its way to the forefront. Hemp is after all, a fairly assertive flavor. FEARLESS bars are sweetened with the unassuming sweetness of Rapadura (unrefined cane sugar), a natural sweetener that enhances rather than competes with the lush dark flavor of the chocolate. Excellent.

70% Cacao - Sweet & Hot Hibiscus Ginger (Dark Chocolate):
The bar is also sweetened with Rapadura. Rapadura is the Brazilian name for the raw cane sugar that is processed by first extracting the pure juice from the sugar cane. Once extracted with the use of a press, the fluid is then evaporated over low heats, never allowing the product to cook.  Stirred with paddles to aid in the evaporation the final mixture is pushed through a seive to produce a grainy raw sugar. Since the sugar is never separated from the molasses, this product has more nutrients, vitamins and minerals than other cane sugars. Rapadura lends its warm molasses taste to beautifully enhance the exuberance of the rich cacao, and is just sweet enough, without being cloying.

The nose of this bar is less earthy, a bite yields a slightly lighter, more chocolatey taste, and it is perhaps a little sweeter to the tastebuds than the Hemp/Flax bar. First the mouth experiences the energy of the ginger tucked gently into the heart of the chocolate, its heat naturally warming the mouth. The ginger is followed by a sweet subtle cacao. Just as the sensation of that combination fades, the light floral finish of the Hibiscus makes itself known, the breath exhaling its smoky flower.

 70% Cacao - Matcha Green Tea / Peppermint (Dark Chocolate):
The nose of this bar is cool and minty, the green tea coming through in a hint of leafy verdant goodness. The prevalent sense is tea, and this bar is quite bitter, but in a good way, as though the chocolate were an athlete aware of his strength and flexing his muscle. I found I grew accustomed to the strength of the tea flavoring in the eating and it got better with each bite. The sweetness in this bar definitely comes as an after note to the leafy tea, the mint is quite subtle except in the initial nose. This bar may be the creamiest of the three. It is also rich with antioxidants, the candy bar version of a friend with benefits.

 75% Cacao - Dark As Midnight (Dark Chocolate):
This bar is perhaps the simplest and yet remains surprisingly complex. With a touch more cacao than the others, the sugar again takes a back seat to the chocolate, which stands alone, its commanding presence demanding attention. There is an amazing complexity to the flavor of an artisan chocolate. As the chocolate bar deconstructs on the palate, the essences of a variety of flavors present themselves as if in shadow, spices carried on a breeze from Brazil, unfolding and revealing themselves slowly. The palate senses that which does and does not seem essentially chocolate, though clearly it is all the properties the cacao has carried in its seeds from its homeland. It is no wonder that chocolate is the stuff of legend.

Whimsical Packaging
 After experiencing their wares firsthand, (and it was an experience) I believe the folks at FEARLESS Chocolates are well on their way to establishing themselves as another of the many premiere chocolatiers in the Bay Area’s ever growing panoply of artists are distinguishing themselves as worthy of note in the field of cacao preparation.

All that, and healthy too? My husband is delighted that he has a new excuse to be eating more heart healthy chocolate. I plan on tucking a nice stash of the mint chocolate bars on his nightstand for medicinal purposes. Of course!

Check them out for yourself at  - bars can be purchased on line at

And if you are as fascinated as I am with the growing world of global Fair Trade Organic Cacao, the Chocolate Documentary site bears checking out as well.  
Bon Appetit!