Chocolate "Flavor Landscapes"
Over the last few years, fine chocolatiers have been adding nontraditional spices and herbs to create chocolate sensations that pamper the cultivated palate. One of the leaders in the organic food industry is Ashland, Oregon-based Dagoba, a company that specializes in award-winning artisan chocolate products.
Dagoba uses the finest organic aromatic cocoa beans from Latin America and the Caribbean, shade-grown and harvested with environmental sustainability in mind. The company is perhaps best known for its tantalizing chocolate bars, which are nothing like the typical offerings you'll find on a natural foods candy display.
Popular flavors include:
- Dark Chocolate Lime, a "playful and refreshing" blend of citrus and chocolate, laced with lime and macadamia nuts
- Xocolati, dark chocolate mixed with chiles, cacao nibs, maca and nutmeg -- inspired by an old recipe from Aztec royalty
- Chai, a milk chocolate infused with a "secret blend" of chai spices and bits of crystallized ginger
- Milagros, a mildly flavored Peruvian chocolate with hints of clove and mace, accompanied by notes of coconut, banana and orchid
Just released this summer is Dagoba's exotic line of organic truffles and seasonal treats, beautifully packaged for holiday gift-giving. Truffles are packed in 4- and 9-piece boxes, featuring innovative flavor-infused selections like Raspberry-Ginger, Goji Berry and Chai. The company's goal: to open "new flavor landscapes that mesmerize and delight all five senses."
"Following our dedication to expand the boundaries of quality, innovation and sustainable practices, we have always had a strong desire to create organic confections that satisfy the most discriminating palates and awaken food lovers to new flavor possibilities," says Founding Alchemist Frederick Shilling. "We look forward to sharing the rewards that have come to bear fruit."
Dagoba also offers a full line of hot chocolates -- from unsweetened to Xocolati (infused with chiles and cinnamon). The company's Hot Chocolate Authentic was named "Best Organic Hot Chocolate" by the American Culinary Institute.
You can find Dagoba chocolate products at most natural and whole foods stores. The company's online store is also open 24/7.
A Breath of Fresh Tea
Green tea is rich in antioxidants, which have proved to enhance cardiovascular health, contribute to weight loss and reduce cancer risks. For green tea aficionados, there's a new "delivery system" in town: Organic Green Tea Mints from Los Angeles-based Sencha Naturals.
Sencha's breath mints are created with organically grown, certified fair-trade green tea, which has been developed by tea masters, herbalists and connoisseurs. Each "loose leaf mint" does more than mask bad breath: It inhibits oral bacteria with green tea and herbal extracts.
The company purchases its special green teas from certified fair-trade tea estates, which practice 100% organic farming methods, with no child labor. The tea is then used to create these unique mints, which are available in three distinctive flavors, with no sugar or artificial additives:
- Original (exotic green tea blend, with mint)
- Delicate Pear (fresh pear extracts blended with green tea for sweet overtones)
- Lively Lemongrass (tea mixed with lemongrass from East and West India, with zesty notes of citrus and fresh ginger)
According to a company spokesperson, Sencha Green Tea Mints offer the antioxidant equivalent of one average-sized cup of green tea.
If you cannot find Sencha Green Tea Mints at your local natural foods store (including Whole Foods Market), you can order them online from Tea Treasures.