I can be a food snob. Well, some things about food are a given, right? A cake made with eggs, flour, sugar and butter is going to taste better than powder from a box of cake mix. Pasta sauce made from scratch is going to taste better than corn syrup-laden jarred sauce. Chocolate bars made with sugar are going to taste better than those made with sugar substitute.
While editing an article a couple of weeks ago about New Jersey chocolatiers, I tasted Coco Polo chocolate, made with a sweetener called stevia. It's a plant, just like sugar cane, and has been used as a sweetener overseas for years.
I was treated to a box of bars in six varieties, all with a pure 70% cacao base: elderberry, cocoa nibs, tart cherry, whole almond, ginger and straight up 70%.
The bars are glossy and break with a snap, which bespeaks careful attention while tempering. Without any distracting additives or heavy doses of sugar, the flavors come through cleanly and honestly. Plus, stevia is not a chemical, and c1onsequently doesn't have the weirdo aftertaste you've come to expect from saccharine or aspartame. It's just…invisible.
A heads up to those of you who like your treats really sweet: the experience is not about sweetness. It's about wonderful quality and distinctive character (sorry, there's the food snob again). If that's what you're impressed by, this candy will be refreshing for you.
Every now and again it's good to have your biases shaken up, especially when your reward tastes as good as this.