As the semester sets in and I puzzle over the rules of thesis preparation, the first chocolate bars from my recent trip to Sugar Sugar begin to surface. Chocolate crumbs dwell in the corners of my mouth. And there is no better example of excitement than the look on my face when I get to open up two bars from Sweeteeth, a hip southern chocolate operation made by hipster(s) for hipsters. And other chocolate enthusiasts.
Sweeteeth is fresh outta North Charleston, South Carolina, and is the brainchild of John Eric Battles (chocolate guru, maestro, virtuoso) and Christina Vandiver (economic strategist, entrepreneurial wizard). While having never spoken with either of these individuals, or read anything detailing their claims to be virtuosos or wizards, I’ve been won over by their products from afar for sometime, and have been looking forward to my chance to claiming a piece of this hip history in the making.
Battles uses single-origin chocolate from the Republic of Colombia for all of his creations, which include several unique varieties of chocolate bars as well as interesting truffles. I purchased the two bars available to me at Joni’s shop on the day of my visit: the A’Chocolypse (Popping Ginger), and the Sea if for Caramel (Salted Caramel) bars. They made it home safely, although the caramel bar developed a dangerous ooze factor – which once contained, became a non-threat.
I love the themed use of creatures on the wrapping paper of these bars. Various extinct things on the Popping Ginger bar – what if a massive chocolate apocolypse is what killed the dinosaurs? – and the expected sea beasts on the (sea) Salted Caramel bar.
The A’Chocolypse bar is comprised of 70% dark chocolate, candied ginger, and popping sugar (whatever that is… I was hoping for Pop Rocks. Nope). The ginger and sugar are laid on the bar in generous proportion, but as the ginger is thoroughly candied, the aroma is mostly one of chocolate.
The chocolate itself does not taste terribly complex, but my particular bar has an initial flavor that I can only think to describe as “old” chocolate. While this flavor disappears with the melding of surface sugar and ginger, it leaves me wondering if the chocolate is, in fact, old. With no expiration date to be found, I can only guess.
This ginger hater didn’t have a problem with the spicy addition to the bar. Having consumed an over-the-top-but-delicious ginger beer this past weekend, I have been in training to enjoy this chocolate for at least 72 hours. When one of the large pieces of candied ginger is broken open, its spicy-sweet nature permeates the eating experience. However, the taste is not overwhelmingly ginger. I believe the sugar mellows out the chocolate’s flavors, as well as those of the ginger.
Where the A’Chocolypse left me wondering if the chocolate had been sitting around for a short while before being shipped to Sugar Sugar (the time it took the animals on the packaging to become extinct?), or if this particular batch of Colombian cacao is simply less than stellar, the Sea is for Caramel wowed me. This caramel-filled bar is truly terrific, as in, you need to try it. Now.
Growing up, I loved Caramello candy bars – the oozy caramel, the biting down on each liquid square of joy. This bar takes the Caramello to a new, hand-crafted level; I never want to descend back to that candy bar’s lower echelon again.
Sea is for Caramel combines 62% dark chocolate (of the same Colombian origin) with sugar, heavy cream, glucose, butter, vanilla bean, and sea salt (fleur de sel for you frilly French types). While I’m not used to seeing some of these ingredients in my chocolate bars, I’m also not very used to eating the best salted caramel I have ever tasted… inside of a rather delicious chocolate exterior. These are impressive claims that I am making, yes. But having tasted many versions of caramel – and having created several sha-tasty versions of my own – I know just how excellent this caramel is.
The chocolate tastes much better in this bar. It tastes darker than the 70% of the A’Chocolypse, but perhaps this is due to the burnt nature of the caramel; in addition, the sea salt sprinkled on the bar acts to accentuate the overall dark feeling of the chocolate and of the caramel. The chocolate layer surrounding the filling is quite thick. As the caramel is capable of oozing out of the bar no problem, I appreciate the thickness of the chocolate walls in attempting to staunch the flow. Also, and more importantly, I like the chocolate’s thickness because it serves as a reminder that this is a chocolate bar (with an excellent filling to accentuate the chocolate), rather than merely a candy bar using the chocolate as a vessel for holding some processed innards.
My only near-complaint is that all three segments of the bar are connected, meaning that once you bite in, the caramel is set in motion (m-ocean?). While not a problem, really, it does make sharing difficult; eating the bar in multiple sittings also means you’ll be doing a fair bit of wrapper licking. Again, not really a problem.
My favorite extinct beast was this stink-eyed wooly mammoth / snuffleupagus, lurking, yet alluring, under the outer packaging.
While unimpressed with the chocolate in the A’Chocolypse, I found the concept and ingredients to be rather fetching. I would like to try this bar again, along with about 35 of the Sea is for Caramel bar. There are several other Sweeteeth bars left to try, that promise to be as inspired as those featured here. Props to Battles for coming this far since 2008, when his company began. I look forward to seeing what he comes up with (for my body’s mouth) in the assuredly-sweet future.