I love chocolate. Especially high-quality dark chocolate. (Don’t even talk to me about white chocolate. That isn’t chocolate.) However, there are three things that make me sad about chocolate.

  1. Chocolate doesn’t count as a vegetable (even though it is full of phytonutrients).
  2. Much of the glut of mass-produced chocolate out there replaces some or all of the pricy cocoa butter with vegetable oils and polyglycerol polyricinoleate (PGPR)
  3. Child labor, trafficking and slavery are rampant in the Ivory Coast of Africa and other areas of Africa, Asia and Latin American where most cacao beans are grown. (Learn more about “Chocolate’s Child Slaves” on the CNN Freedom Project website.
Because it feels wrong to enjoy something as decadent as good chocolate when child slavery lies at the other end of that particular food chain, I am choosy about my chocolate. My most frequent go-to is Theo Chocolate, because it’s delicious, it’s local, it’s organic and it’s fair trade (which means the people who harvest the cacao beans are paid fair wages and there is no child labor).

Back in February, I went on a tour of the Theo Chocolate factory in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle (aka, the center of the universe). I learned a few important things about tasting chocolate, including:

  1. Let dark chocolate melt in your mouth. One reason some people don’t like dark chocolate (crazy!) is that it contains more tannins, which can taste bitter. When you chew the chocolate, the tannins are released abruptly. When you let it melt in your mouth, you get less bitterness, more complex flavor.
  2. When you are eating chocolate that contains fruit or nuts, you want to chew it so that the flavor of the chocolate and it’s add-ins combine in your mouth. 

Also, did you know that chocolate doesn’t have as much caffeine as you think? The reason it can be stimulating is because the polyphenols in chocolate act as vasodilators (i.e., they dilate your blood vessels, in your brain and elsewhere). In fact, our tour guide says he’ll have a little dark chocolate in the morning, instead of coffee, before he works out to get an gentle energy boost.

Follow the chocolate pipeline!