I've always said that I'll drink any coffee black—if it's excellent coffee. High quality and no additives means nothing to dampen the flavor or cheat the palate; every little nuance is revealed. So, too, goes your first few slow nibbles of a 100% chocolate bar. This raw, sultry bar from Antidote is like your first hoity-toity wine, or that really fancy black coffee. Crunchy nibs add texture to the impeccably smooth bar. But honestly? Everything is about that deep dark unctuousness and layers of flavors. True fans, this is your chocolate.
The trope of women and chocolate is overplayed, but couldn't be more wonderful than in this company Antidote and this woman named Red. She needed an antidote to her "poisonous" mood one day and, spurred on by a friend, began to ponder that notion literally. What heals the spirit and brightens the palate with warrior strength? Cacao is what. Bolstered by additions like spices and herbs for mood and pleasure, these bars are meant to be food in addition to an indulgence.
In 2009 when this all began, Red Thalhammer figured there must be other people in need of a chocolate antidote as well. She set to work creating a new kind of chocolate, one to be sustaining for the body and sustainable for the producers. One that used formulas to temper the tantrums, soothe the sulks. Her chocolate had another twist - the smoothness of traditionally roasted and tempered beans and the health benefits of raw ground cacao - no one was making a 50/50 bar, so that's exactly what Red did for most of her flavor lineup. The 100% bars (including this one) are, by choice, completely raw rather than 50/50, so when you eat this crunchy cacao wonder you are getting so many amazing nutrients... Read on!
Red also had a long history with design—a whole career before she became a chocolate maker—and has honed her eye for gorgeous visuals. You'll see that in every bar of her chocolate in the packaging's colors and the descriptions. She intends for each bar to last several eating “sessions”, so you'll be able to look at the box and smile, all the more.
See Red speak about her “Health through Pleasure” vision for the best Antidote she can make:
Open the lovely packaging and see the convex bump of each section, reinforcing the notion that these buttons are pills to both cope with and enjoy life. Turn over the bar and see the rough bumpy nibs, strewn about in as random textural intrigue.
Each bite of this bar will remind you that, like coffee, truly excellent chocolate is far from bitter. Complex flavors will unfold as a piece melts on your tongue - these can include cinnamon, berries, even flowers. Crunching down on a nib punctuates the taste yet does not make the underlying chocolate at all bitter. Meanwhile, your brain is smartly anticipating the gentle lift from cacao's micronutrients.
I've had many 100% bars before; they vary widely in both texture and eating enjoyment. There are bars smooth like glass, and others that are rough and nearly gritty. Some taste of flowers and wine, others are dominated by roasted chocolate over everything else. But Antidote! This 100% bar has struck some magical balance between the gritty and glassy textures and the – sorry, I can't help it – RAWness of unheated cacao.
You might say to yourself, “one piece”, and you, being moderate and sensible, might stop after one piece. If you do not, I assure you there is nothing the matter. It is only that you are eating wonderful chocolate.
Want to slowly get used to the taste and benefits of 100% chocolate? Try this: take one of those squares and dip the edge in a little bit of raw honey before taking a bite. Whoa. That's some amazing combination of raw, sweet, and healthy.
This bar is one of two in the Antidote lineup that are not a 50/50 blend of roasted and raw – this bar is 100% raw, stone-ground like all the rest, but keeps all of the goodness that only raw cacao contains.
The Antidote Nibs bar has just two ingredients: cacao and cacao nibs. The cacao is raw, ground slow and cool to not lose any of the delicate antioxidants that roasting can damage. The nibs are strewn over the back of the bar, keeping their crunch.
Guess what amazing things are in cacao? A whole bunch. Here's a brief list:
ANTIOXIDANTS – shields free radicals to protect against aging. Cocoa has by far the highest concentration of antioxidants of any food in the world. Raw cocoa has an antioxidant value that is four times that of the Acai berry, which is known for being extremely high.
MAGNESIUM – for heart, brain power, strong bones
IRON – critical mineral for nutrition
CHROMIUM – to balance blood sugar
MANGANESE – an essential trace mineral
ZINC – for immune support
COPPER – for healthy blood
VITAMIN C – contains antioxidants, especially in raw cocoa
ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS – especially in raw cocoa
PHENYLETHYLAMINE PEA – for focus and alertness
ANANDAMIDE – the bliss chemical
TRYPTOPHAN – regulates the appetite, for better sleep, helps with relaxation
SEROTONIN – mood enhancing, our feel-good hormone
FIBER – for a good digestive system
First, just to clarify, “raw” chocolate has actually been fermented, which is a very good thing nutritionally. Fermentation makes foods a lot more digestible, activating compounds that you want to be eating, and neutralizing those you don’t. So all so-called raw chocolate is actually fermented. No, it doesn’t have a funky taste like kimchi or sauerkraut, but you can definitely taste a tangy tannic quality in good dark chocolate, not dissimilar from wine.
The benefits of raw chocolate (compared to cooked) include: much higher levels of antioxidants (oligomeric procynanidins, resveratrol and the polyphenols: catechin and epicatechin) as well as the preservation of vitamin C, phenethylamine (PEA, the feel-good neurotransmitter responsible for the feeling of love), Omega 6 fatty acids (which when heated become rancid and cause inflammation), tryptophan (a commonly deficient amino acid in those who consume a diet of mostly cooked food) and serotonin (a neurotransmitter that makes us feel goooood.)
Sugar has gotten a bad rap over the years for its effect on our blood sugar, hormonal system, and the overall inflammatory effects it can have within the body. While small amounts of unprocessed or lightly processed sugars are totally fine for most people, sometimes you really just want ONLY the “good stuff”. In this case, that means the good stuff that comes from RAW cacao and whole dried fruit. That's it.
For starters, it's Red herself. She is a force to be reckoned with in the world of sustainable health foods. Her rigorous testing before putting Antidote on the market speaks to her tenacity, and the physical techniques used in production ensure a great bar every time.
Here is what she says about why Antidote is unique:
Stone-grinding is used by only a few bean-to-bar manufacturers in the world. Why? It is slow and difficult, for starters. Batch sizes must be kept manageable, and the whole process must be monitored rather than the “set it and forget it” model of large chocolate factories – even when those factories are making wonderful, sustainable and ethical chocolate.
Antidote uses an ancient method known as stone-grinding in the production of their chocolate. Originally used for turning olives into luscious and delicious olive oil, stone-grinding applies pressure with powerful, perfectly smooth granite wheels. Although "old world" in its approach, it is revolutionary in terms of preserving and activating nutrients and flavor. This natural preservation is accomplished by maintaining a consistently low temperature throughout the entire process.