If you choose your chocolate wisely, it can be all pleasure—no guilt. An antioxidant bomb, dark chocolate can lower your blood pressure, increase your blood flow, lower your cholesterol and give your skin a sexy boost of H2O. And, of course, it’s considered an aphrodisiac, too (just sayin’).
This Valentine’s Day, show those you care about a little extra love with these top quality chocolates, produced with better-for-you ingredients like organic cacao and natural sweeteners:
Great Neck, New York-based NibMor sweetens their chocolate with agave, one of the terms they define in the nifty online Nib-tionary. In addition to full-sized bars, they offer a Daily Dose—a hit of chocolate that satisfies in under an ounce. Or, if you prefer to sip your sweets, try NibMor’s rich drinking chocolate (I recommend going hot and spicy with the 6-Spice).
New York “Chocolate Girl” Vanessa Barg started making chocolate as a holistic health counselor; when demand for her healthy sweets surged, Gnosis became a full-time gig. These handmade, raw, organic chocolates come in a range of forms, including bars, truffles and cocoas. Classicists will enjoy Smooth and Dark, while more adventurous chocolatiers can try the Immune Boost Bar (agave-sweetened, spicy, and filled with pecans and persimmons) or the Aphrodisia Bar (palm sugar-sweetened bar with figs, raspberries, horny goat weed and maca root).
The SoCalers at Righteously Raw take pride in using only “high frequency” or “high vibration” foods, meaning naturally sourced foods unblemished by chemicals and processing. The low glycemic bars include a “righteous” Caramel Bar with lucuma and dates, and a decadent Rose Bar blends dark raspberry, sweet beet, maqui berry and rose hips powder.
Lagusta’s Luscious handcrafts “heartbreakingly delicious,” vegan, organic chocolate. The small, New Paltz, NY shop knows its sources, from a one-acre Maui vanilla bean farm, to Farmer Jessica growing candy-striped beets down the street. One of Lagusta’s innovative collections is Bluestocking Bonbons, named for feminist luminaries, like the chili, vanilla cinnamon-infused Vandana Shiva. The Intense Anatomical Hearts beat with black salt, dried cherries, cacao nibs and coffee, and for simpler tastes, the less intense Bonbon-Filled Chocolate Heart will do the trick.
On a mission to “save the world through silliness and chocolate!”, this Brooklyn-based artisan makes raw bars and bonbons with Ecuadorian heirloom Raw Cacao, blue agave nectar, and a dash of coconut oil and Himalayan Sea Salt. Simple, beautiful packaging holds bars with big flavors, like Mesquite and Scotch Truffle.
The antidote to mundane milk chocolate, Ecuador-born-and-wrapped Antidote chocolate comes in smart flavor combinations like Almond + Fennel, Lavender + Red Salt, Banana + Cayenne and Ginger + Gooseberry. Founder Red Thalhammer, an Austrian native, operates out of Queens, New York where she designed the goddess-inspired packaging. The raw bars contain a minimal amount of organic cane sugar and a dose of nutrient-rich moringa, an essential plant in Ayurvedic medicine.
These Brooklyn brothers make their organic chocolate in small batches, from bean to beautifully-wrapped bar (and other goodies like bark). Sample their wares in their Williamsburg tasting room and shop, or take their Chocolate Factory tour. Mast keeps things extra sustainable by bringing their Dominican beans home by schooner, and the company plans to transport all of its cacao by wind power within a few years. Purists will enjoy the Single Estate bar; for more complex flavors, try the Stumptown Coffee bar, Black Truffle or Vanilla & Smoke.
Images courtesy of the featured companies, with the exception of the Mast Brothers image, which is by Flickr user Lee McCoy.