I Paid: $4 per 1.8-ounce bar (prices may vary by region)
Aequare Fine Chocolates’ single-origin-concept candy bars are made from Ecuadoran chocolate and cost $4 for a small bar … a price a surprisingly large number of people are willing to pay, according to consumer trend reports.
That said, the “single origin” label on the bars is a bit mysterious. Some chocolate companies use the term to refer to beans harvested from a single plantation. Others use it to mean that their beans are from a single region or, in the loosest interpretation, a single country. In any case, saying something’s “single origin” is no guarantee of quality but does speak to an interest on the part of the producer to market to people who want to know where their food is from.
According to Aequare, the company’s bars are single origin in that the beans can be sourced to the Los Ríos region of Ecuador; the 70 percent bars are made from beans that come from two farms within 15 miles of each other, run by the same farmer.
But Aequare’s 55 percent bars are actually a blend of Ecuadoran Arriba and CCN-51 chocolate, the latter of which is often perceived as lesser quality.
Jeff Stern, the brand’s chef-owner, says he “cannot be dictating specs to the grower for the blends I might want because I don’t have that kind of purchasing power to dictate formulas.”
Regardless of origin concerns, the bars taste delicious. The 55% Single Origin Bar has a wonderful but not overdone sweetness, with a touch of honeylike flavor at the back—I think it would appeal to unreformed Hershey’s-lovers and chocolate snobs alike. The 70% Single Origin Bar has a nutty warmth without any dryness or other unpleasantly austere sensations (bitterness, chalkiness) that sometimes crop up at higher percentages.
The lemongrass-flavored bar offers only a slight hint of citrus until the end, at which point there’s a clean and clear bolt of lemongrass. And the mandarin orange variety, easily a train wreck in the making, is a bit goofy but ultimately pleasing, like a gourmet version of the Christmas whack-an-orange, firm but not aggressive in its citric aftertaste. Pulling off a straight-up high-intensity chocolate bar is an achievement, but doing it with added flavors is quite an accomplishment.