I have an awful confession to make. Come closer - I don't want to say this too loud. I don't like raw chocolate.
I always found it a bit greasy, and a bit weird tasting. The flavour was close enough to remind you of 'normal' chocolate, but far enough away that you were left pining for the original.
Well, that's what I used to think. I've tried a few raw chocolate brands intermittently over the many years that I've been vegan, but I've never been impressed enough for any of them to warrant a repeat buy.
Well, that was then, and this is now, and things are different. Things are different, because I've discovered two vegan raw chocolate brands that I am pretty much in love with. They make my heart pound, my face smile, and my brain wonder how long it is til the next time I can see them.
The first is Pana Chocolate, an Aussie raw chocolate maker whose Twitter feed is always full of droolsome images. It's raw, organic, and refined-sugar and soy free if any of those are your thing. For me, I'm not fussy - I just want chocolate that tastes good. And Pana Chocolate does just that. It's everything good chocolate should be - rich, smooth, luxurious.
(And the packaging's super-cute - the first bite is with the eyes, and all that.)
I've only tried the 60 percent raw cacao, but there's a whole shedload of other varieties out there - mint, nuts, rose, orange, sour cherry and vanilla, cinnamon to name most of them - and given time, I'll be working my way through one and all.
The other raw chocolate brand that's got me all a-quiver is Loving Earth. Like Pana Chocolate, Loving Earth is raw, vegan, organic and has all sorts of fun flavours: mint, mandarin, raspberry, and more good stuff besides. They're equally smart about the packaging - though Loving Earth has gone for form as well as function, and made it compostable. Nice touch.
Happily, it also comes in two sizes: 80g chunky blocks for sharing (yeah, let's pretend we'll share it) and little dainty 30g one-portion packs that you can eat without feeling like you've had a chocolate blowout. (If you want a blowout, those bigger packs will see you right).
While the caramel version that I tried had a little bit of the greasiness that I guess is down to the low melting point of coconut oil, the taste was unique - not like any other vegan chocolate I can think of. Based on the tastiness - and cuteness - of this caramel heart, I'm intrigued to see if the rest of the range are as good.
The downside? Neither are cheap - over £3 for the Pana, £4 for the bigger Loving Earth. The other downside is that they're both Aussie brands, so there's some food miles involved that mean that, much as I love both brands, they'll be only an occasional treat. Still, occasional or not, they're one sweet reward.