Valentine’s Day Chocolate Gift Guide, #5

My husband and I were having some cozy pillow-talk the other evening. We realized that the strongest “glue” that has held us together through trials and tribulations lo these 15 or so years was our shared sense of values, what we’re passionate about (besides each other!). Back in my single days, this revelation would have surprised me—a common worldview took a backseat to rock star looks and a good sense of humor. But now, I can see how important it is to have someone beside me who gets as worked up as I do about issues like corporate corruption, animal abuse and discrimination.

That’s why my husband gave me his full support when I told him a couple of years ago that I’d decided to put our dollars where our hearts are by making a simple modification to my shopping choices. I identified 3 items where we could make a difference. 1) Coffee; 2) Tea; 3) Chocolate. Most folks are aware that Fair Trade/Shade Grown/Organic coffee is a socially-minded choice (hey, even Starbucks and Trader Joe’s are on that bandwagon!). But when I first made this pledge, I could only find two national brands of Fair Trade tea: Choice and my personal favorite, Zhena’s Gypsy Tea. Happily, these early pioneers have spawned emulators, and today there are additional options available. Finding Fair Trade/Organic chocolate, however, proved more daunting.

articles_altChocolate is Big Business—do you know there are “bean brokers” that negotiate for the bags of cocoa before it even hits the docks in the U.S.? My research revealed that humble cocoa farmers in Ghana or Mexico are among the most exploited agricultural workers in the world. With the latest craze of dark chocolate as a healthy food (beats brussel sprouts in 4 out of 5 taste tests), the demand has skyrocketed for quality cocoa. In fact, Americans eat on average 12 pounds of the stuff per person a year (me, double that!).

Thank goodness I discovered Dagoba. Fair Trade, Organic and award-winning, Dagoba’s unique “chocolate alchemy” combines flavors in innovative, tantalizing ways. Dagoba chocolate tastes genuine—that is, biting into a small piece, the first taste is chocolate, rather than sugar. Its authentic musky flavor sings of forests and unspoiled wilderness, invariably lifting my spirits. I’ve come to prefer my chocolate dark & spicy, and Dagoba’s Xocolatl, accented with cocoa nibs and chile peppers, satisfies my cravings. My husband isn’t as adventurous and fancies less intense varietals, such as New Moon, the best of bittersweet.

Another wonderful Dagoba product is their cocoa powder, which I use in all my baking. You can sweeten it to taste, and it makes an awesome Hot Cocoa—a perfect excuse to bring out the whipped cream… which leads me to Valentine’s Day.

articles_altThis coming February 14, we’ll toast our togetherness in front of a roaring fire with cups of steaming Hot Dagoba Chocolate. For me, it’s the most romantic chocolate because it symbolizes our mutual commitment to the planet, joie de vivre and each other. And that’s a very sweet thing!

P.S. My personal chocolate-kisses also go to “Endangered Species Chocolate” who donates 10% of their proceeds to benefit threatened animals and habitats. Their “Dark Chocolate Deep Forest Mint” makes a divine after-dinner treat.

At Here Comes The Guide, we’re not just experts on all things wedding: we’re also extremely knowledgeable chocolate connoisseurs. We’ve been tireless chocolate taste-testers for years—eating, judging, then trying just a little bit more to be absolutely sure of our decision. With Valentine’s Day coming up, we thought it was time to impart some of our expertise to you for all your gift-giving needs. And if you need an extra box to give you a little moral support during the wedding planning process, we completely encourage that.