Panakeia's uplifting lavender and red alaea salt dance on your tongue while promoting stamina and vitality. This bar starts with sustainably sourced “arriba nacional” beans from Ecuador gently transformed into cacao nibs, then stone ground and cast into gorgeous bars with a scattering of French lavender flowers and Hawaiian red sea salt. Panacea was the Greek goddess of cures and well-being; this bar can soothe your worries and set your mind to health with calming lavender and invigorating salt from the sea – the origin of all life.
Antidote started with a text message between Red Thalhammer and a friend. She apologized for being “poisonous” that day. Her friend's response? “Don't worry. I will make an Antidote for that.” Her brain reeled from the possibilities – what could an antidote contain for her blue mood? Her friend might have been thinking of anything, but honestly, she just wanted chocolate. It was 2009 and Red figured there were 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.
When learning about chocolate production and reading voraciously, she considered options for the chocolate that would become Antidote. Red was torn. She knew that raw chocolate – never heated beyond 120 degrees - has health benefits of its own, but roasted cacao holds its flavor longer and most people prefer the taste. She created two kinds of chocolate bars for her Antidote brand: her lightly sweetened bars would mix raw and roasted cacao, but her 100% bars – unsweetened and pitched at the connoisseur – would be completely raw. The antioxidants would be intact, and the flavor a whole different animal than the typically acidic roasted bars.
Hundreds of experiments and about nine months later – varying everything from cacao sources to tempering and blending methods – Red had her “baby”, her ideal product, using Ecuadorian “arriba nacional” beans. To keep costs reasonable, she began production onsite in Ecuador in 2010. Within months she had dozens of nearby stores eager to sell this fabulous indulgence, and press clips galore that only further spread the word about the perfect Antidote to daily life.
Red also had a long history with design 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 dates, strewn about in strips of chewy sweetness.
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. Moments of sweetness from the date pieces punctuate the taste yet do not make the underlying chocolate unbearably bitter - if anything the sweetness just amplifies everything good about what's melting in your mouth; all the while 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 rough, nearly gritty bars. 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.
This bar, the Aztec god Xochipilli, 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 Xochipilli bar has just two ingredients: cacao and dates. The cacao is raw, ground slow and cool to not lose any of the delicate antioxidants that roasting can damage. The dates are inlaid almost as decoration as well as flavor. Some bites you will enjoy the cacao all on its own, others you'll receive a chewy date piece whose sweetness opens up the chocolate palate just a tiny bit more.
Dates are the bounty of date palm trees, originating in the Middle East. Each fruit is a rare and precious source of sweetness and highly treasured throughout the world. As a whole food, they contain a spectrum of nutrients such as B-vitamins, copper, magnesium, manganese, iron, potassium, Vitamins K and A, and a healthy dose of fiber. Antioxidants such as carotenoids and phenolics add to their healthy side-effects, as do the flavenoids luteolin, quercetin and apigenin.
You could think of dates as a chewy and delicious vitamin “pill”, though I often find it hard to stop at just one. In this Antidote bar, that's no worry – the dried dates are there to complement the chocolate's flavor rather than overpower it with sugar.
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.