The Story of MIdnight

Ruminations from our Sarah, our Operations Goddess, as she recently dropped in on our top-secret production facility nestled deep in America’s heartland…

The chocolate starts melting early. It takes over an hour to gently melt 800lbs of 75% Cacao for today’s run of Fearless Chocolate Dark as Midnight bars. From the melter, chocolate is transferred to the tempering machine that takes the chocolate up to its peak temperature of 118F and then through a precise correlation of Time, Agitation and Temperature to accomplish the perfect molecular structure for a smooth, sleek finished bar. It was explained to me that as the chocolate cools from it’s peak temperature, it explodes into crystalline molecules like pop-corn until it’s all transformed. Then a subtle warm spike is the moment of truth when all of those crystals meld together to give us the smoothness we so treasure in a chocolate bar. All of this happens in a space-age, computer-controlled unit behind dark glass. The glistening chocolate flows from this monolith into the nozzles that deposit it dollop by precious dollop into the Fearless molds. Stars and Bite and Elephant are perfectly filled by the molds doing a jitterbug down the conveyor belt, giving each bar just the final perfecting dose of agitation to render them sleek and shiny.

The conveyor takes each mold around a corner and gently sends them at a snail’s pace down the long cooling tunnel. It takes 40 minutes for each row of 4 molds to make their way down the 50 odd feet of the tunnel, but when they arrive at the other end into the waiting hands of chocolatiers (blue-handed in vinyl gloves, ballooning hairnets around their heads, it’s impossible not to think of Oompa Loompas) the bars are completely cooled and ready to be popped out of their molds onto trays and stacked on rolling racks 6 ft tall.

A quick pass through the metal detector for an added measure of quality control (no one can even enter the processing floor without first taking off all jewelry/accessories and wearing hair coverings and white coats) and the bars are ready for wrapping. Each tray of 16 pieces is emptied bar by bar onto the wrapping machine conveyor, slipped into a shiny wrap of brightly colored flying elephants, date and batch coded, sealed and cartoned for transport to the packing tables. There each chocolate bar is hand-placed into a Fearless box, latched shut, and placed with 10 of it’s comrades in a handy-dandy display box. At last these Midnight bars are all decked out and ready to meet you!

OM NOM NOM NOM……

Posted by & filed under Chocolate, Delicious Design, production.

FEARLESS EVENT: GET YOUR DANCE ON!

FEARLESS will be reppin’ hard at this amazing event, providing succulent snacks to feed all those savage beasts in attendance looking to be soothed.

Event link: https://www.facebook.com/events/274676752631526

Held at Laughing Lotus Yoga (www.nyc.laughinglotus.com), Get Your Dance On is a high vibe dance party that welcomes absolutely everyone. Born in NYC, it is a combination festival, street fair, house party, tea lounge, and temple.

With special guest DJ DREZ all the way from Los Angeles, prepare for a night of your fave music, vibes, and peoples.

+ DREZ in the Dance Hall (complete with 8 points of sound)
+ Da’Riddim INya Drum Ensemble
+ Didge Project Chill Space
+ Complimentary super chocolate + cacao treats, coconut water, and more TBA

Celebrate summer, life, and your beautiful self with mighty beats & major community at the best party in town.

We love you. Come dance with us!

 

Posted by & filed under Chocolate, Demos, live events, tasting.

A Sweet Deal

By Heather Palmer
Guest Amazing Word Seamstress

While preparing myself for this post, I realize that sucking on chocolate before delving into the “sugar” issue might be a tad hypocritical.  Since my guilt requires justification before action occurs (ahem, putting down the chocolate), I knew solid research must stamp approval of my habit. Only knowledgeable consumption and confidence in choices leads to pleasure. Sugar is no exception.

“Sugar” as most people know it, is table sugar, and if you’re into “natural” sugar, you’re familiar with honey, agave, stevia, maple syrup, palm fruit sugar, and the slew of “sweeteners” that we never call sugar. This article focuses on natural sweeteners because with the increase in healthy consumption and mindful eating, most people are not informed or misinformed by marketing schemes and half-baked science.

When I say “most people,” I pretty much mean me.

PS—I AM NOT A SCIENTIST. If you really want to know about natural sweeteners, talk to a doctor, hopefully one interested in holistic eating.

Onward then.

In chocolate specifically, agave has dominated the alternative sweetener market. Agave is a part of the succulent yucca plant family and grows in Central America, South America, and Mexico. The average plant is 5-8 ft tall and 7-12 feet in diameter (so it’s big). When most people think of this majestic plant, they think purity, and in fact, for a long time its sap was used directly for medicinal purposes. But with the onslaught of health food movement demands, agave takes a dirty turn. (citation for following information: Dr. Mercola for the Huffington Post).

I’ll give you the facts mean and fast:

  •  Agave’s sap is not the same “blue agave” that you buy. The sap must go through massive amounts of genetic modification—which includes depleting the plant of its enzymes (BIG raw food bell goes off)—similar to the process in which corn is modified into high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). 
  • It’s not a live food
  • The fructose level of agave is anywhere between 50-97%, depending on the type of processing. HFCS’s fructose averages 50%, so even at agave’s best, it’s not beating HFCS’s fructose levels.
  • Increases the body’s insulin resistance, which is much more dangerous than preventing the body from rising insulin levels, thus making the fact that agave is “low glycemic” not only wrong information, but misleading and harmful. 

Huh? I thought agave was good for me? I thought it was a safe and an even healthy alterative to sugar?

The truth is that turning agave sap into “nectar” involves rigorous chemical processing, including additives such as: activated charcoal, cationic acid, ionic resins, sulfuric and hydrofluoric acid, clarimex, inulin enzymes, fructozyme. The result is fructose levels that average over 80%.

But what’s wrong with fructose? It’s in fruit? True, but fruit comes with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals that, when processed, agave nectar is stripped of, leaving the nectar with what scientists call “free” fructose molecules. These molecules are digested in the liver, and the body reacts to them they same way it reacts to alcohol. The fructose is released into the bloodstream, and causes the insulin resistance I mentioned earlier.

In case you’re not diabetic, or don’t know the effect of insulin resistance (like I didn’t), I’ll explain. When fructose is released into the blood, the insulin levels rise—this is normal and healthy in moderate levels, but possibly/likely dangerous for a diabetic person. Although this part is what people try to avoid by eating low glycemic foods, this is actually less a problem than what can happen after the insulin levels rise. The danger with fructose is that it increases a person’s risk of insulin resistance, which means the insulin levels do not decrease. This is extremely dangerous to both healthy and diabetic persons, the latter of which are who, ironically, the agave field markets.

As more people find out about the adverse effects of agave, they turn to other sweeteners such as stevia, raw honey, maple syrup, etc. Most, if not all of these, are derived from fructose (stevia is an exception and comes from sucrose, but that has its own problems this article does not have room to address). It is not the sweetener, per say, that is the problem. It’s fructose. No one person should have more than 25 grams a day. And fruit counts! Despite the advantages of fiber and minerals, that’s how toxic fructose is, which makes avoiding agave vital.

Don’t put down your chocolate yet! Serious chocolate makers understand consumer and health concerns and actively research alternative sugars, like the one FEARLESS uses, rapadura.

Rapadura is the only sugar besides jaggery that requires no refining. Nothing must be taken out of the plant and then put back in, nothing is heated to extreme degrees, no chemicals are added, and no one tampers with the final product. The production of rapadura involves squeezing, drying, and grinding the plant. Done.

This is the “sweetener” (sugar), that goes in FEARLESS bars. The true fear of sugar is not sugar itself: it’s the type and the quantity. Not even fructose is bad if eaten moderately and in its raw, natural form. In the same way, raw, dark chocolate, with unrefined sugar, is a wonderful indulgence in a clean, pure diet.

Now that’s pretty sweet.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

“Why is there an elephant on the bar?”

A statement from our FEARLESS leader, Mr. Jordan Schuster:

People often ask us “Why is there an elephant on the bar?” The answer is not easy to put in words, but that is also, in part, our elephant’s purpose.

As a chocolate maker I am often struck by the profound effects of food. Chocolate is of course special in the kingdom of foods often crowning the end of a wonderful meal, or perhaps rewarding the end of a day. Chocolate is often the jewel of celebration and I believe this is so because of its indelible effect upon our senses. And not just the exquisite tastes and unmatchable textures, but also the broad pharmacology of the chocolate seems to activate our biology in ways that other foods cannot.

Chocolate can certainly be intellectualized in the same tradition as wine and other fine foods. We can talk about bean genetics and terroir, processing methodology and origin. Its a wonderful conversation which we enjoy very much at Fearless. However, for me I am more sincerely struck by the pre-verbal magic of the cacao. I am struck by the liminal moment of tasting this jewel and the ensuing ballet upon my senses. I enjoy watching the same sensations ripple across the faces of those sharing our chocolate, and I marvel.

I like to claim that the enchantment of chocolate is ‘pre-verbal’ because I want the moment to be purely enjoyed without the lens of mature thought. Yes, I want you to be that kid again, devouring ravenously, or fervently savoring the mesmerizing nuances in each bite. Good food does that. The politics of good food are earnestly evident in their simple goodness, it cant be argued with. In the complex world I live in, I have developed such reverence for these simple and peaceful moments.

And back to elephants ;) here is a wonderful story of the bond between a man and the wild elephants he cared for, please read it, as it is simply heartwarming. I love this story. It reminds me of the moment I realized that I love chocolate the way I love elephants…..with an affinity that needs no words. Most of us have not experience anything near the level of proximity to elephants as the man in this story, yet its undeniable the sense of brotherhood/sisterhood we feel with them. We love to marvel at their unfathomable majesty, their power, and their compassion. Within an elephant is potential. Indomitable creatures capable of extreme violence but more passionately demonstrative of love, family, kindness, gentleness. As we observe elephants we cant help but observe ourselves. Their size emblemizes the enormity of our egos. Their presence is unmitigated. And yet the depths of their sweetness seems unfathomable. Courageous creatures, Fearless through and through, elephants inspire.

Clearly I can find no shortage of words to describe why I LOVE elephants, but do I really need any words to explain this to you? I dont think so. I think you understand in the same way that I do. Its a feeling. A sense of kindred spirit. A sense of connectedness that exists far deeper in who YOU are than words can ever touch. Elephants mere existence somehow teaches us who we are.

Chocolate for me is the same. Its a food that is a friend that is a teacher that reminds me to experience THIS very moment and all others with sweet, delectable reverence!

For this reason and many others we chose an elephant as the totemic figure on our Fearless Chocolate bars. The elephant is you and the elephant is your potential. The chocolate will remind you that your true wealth is what your natural experience of all things, even those that taste less wonderful than chocolate.

Thank you, dear elephants, for enjoying FEARLESS CHOCOLATE and for reading this article below, it is one you will not soon forget…

Wild Elephants Gather Inexplicably, Mourn Death of “Elephant Whisperer”

Posted by & filed under Chocolate, FEARLESS.

A Most Epic Voice Mail, Part 1

We are grateful to receive an magnificent amount of customer feedback. It’s hard work to build up enough chutzpah to put yourself out there, so we love it when someone responds to said chutzpah with matched chutzpah of their own.

An amazing voice mail was left for us over a weekend a few months back. Actually, it was three voice mails, as the caller kept getting cut off. Determined to be heard, he called back to finish his stream of consciousness.

FEARLESS Chocolate called back, and asked him to make a video to accompany the story he left us. Here is part one:

Stay tuned for the continuing saga of the World’s Largest Living Container of Chocolate.

Posted by & filed under FEARLESS, Video.

Direct Trade vs. Fair Trade: Can You Trace Your Chocolate?

The Dominican Republic, Peru, Brazil, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Mexico, Bolivia, Honduras…

Since you’ve found the FEARLESS blog, I’ll wager you know what these countries have in common. But do you know what the following countries have in common?

France, Germany, U.S., Belgium, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, England, Australia.

These are the countries that make and consume 90% of the world’s chocolate.

If the former countries grow the chocolate, and the latter ones make and eat it, have you ever considered, as a chocolate consumer yourself (and you know you are), the process in which chocolate gets from country A to country B.

Simply: Can You Trace Your Chocolate?

Do you absolutely know where your chocolate comes from and how ethical, environmental, direct or indirect the trading process?

Cacao Hands

Life by the handful

Buyers and makers of chocolate take various approaches to the purchase of beans. Some recent and popular words like Fair Trade, Direct Trade, Bean-to-Bar, Microbatch, and Handcrafted have circulated, and anyone who has a serious interest in frequent chocolate consumption should be familiar with these words.

You’ve probably heard of Fair Trade (FT) by now. FT is when buyers pay a “fair price” to producers or growers. The “fair price” is evaluated by a third party organization (the FT organization) that considers cost of production, cost of work input, cost of producer/grower’s living conditions, etc, then, if the plantation meets the standards, the third party stamps the plantation with a  seal of approval. In chocolate, this seal informs the consumer the chocolate has met the standards of the FT organization. Those growers that choose (or can afford) to buy a FT organization’s certification become a part of a cooperative, so when beans are bought, a large percent (between 50-80%) goes to the cooperative, and a small percent (between 30-50%) goes to the growers. The growers do make decisions about the projects and actions that the cooperative makes, but they almost never receive full payment of the paid price.

Despite the positive direction of FT, it has downsides. Most growers are too poor to pay for a FT certification, and if they can afford it, they do not receive direct payment for their beans. For the consumer, FT might mean a limited bean variety, since FT certified growers exist in only 11 origins. In addition, many large corporations buy a percentage of their beans as FT to “trick” the consumer into thinking they’re a “green” company.

For the reasons above, many chocolate makers prefer Direct Trade. DT requires a chocolate maker, usually a single person or small group of people making the chocolate, to develop a face-to-face relationship with the grower. The DT buyer almost always pays higher then FT prices to the grower, and the grower gets 100% of the payment. Some chocolate makers even pay above the FT price and start schools or profit sharing. In direct trading, the buyer has complete control of the bean quality and production. The major downside to DT is that the consumer and the grower must trust the integrity of the buyer, that the buyer pays and practices what he claims.

Circle of life

Cacao Pods on the ground

Due to direct trade buying, bean to bar chocolate making has come to dominate the future of chocolate. In bean to bar, the chocolate maker has complete control of the chocolate from the moment it’s plucked from the tree to the consumer’s purchase of the bar. This includes the way and type of beans plucked, the treatment of the growers, the shipment of the beans to the buyer, and the chocolate making.

Inside the bean-to-bar, direct trade chocolate making world, there are finer terms that some chocolate makers use, like microbatch and handcrafted. Microbatch simply means a smaller amount of chocolate is made per batch. Hand crafted is a marketing term, because in reality, no chocolate can be made without a machine (unless literally four hundred people do the work of one machine, which is, obviously, ridiculous). In bean to bar chocolate making, much of the chocolate is hand-crafted, but a machine separates the shell from the bean (winnowing) and blends the sugar and the chocolate liquor (conching). Realistically, handcrafted means the chocolate maker oversees in-house chocolate on an intricate level.

With the terms clarified, I asked Jordon Michael Schuster, one of the founders of FEARLESS chocolate, how FEARLESS trades and produces their chocolate.

Schuster is a direct trader. He works with three family-owned farms in Brazil, called the Badaro Farms, and visits the farms on a yearly basis (he returns this September) to oversee and make large-scale decisions. He is also in weekly contact with the farms.

FEARLESS is a microbatch chocolate maker in that it makes a ton of chocolate a week. Schuster tells me this is their maximum batch size, and within this production “We [FEARLESS CHOCOLATE] have well elaborated bean selecting criteria based upon 1. bean genetics 2. bean appearance 3. moisture content 4. micro-analysis (for bacterial contamination). All the selected beans are dried and hand-sorted.”

Thus, we have unloaded a minute beginning to the industry of chocolate, giving you confidence in your chocolate purchases. So challenge yourself by testing your buyer! Ask the tough questions: you have a right to know!

  • Where’s my chocolate from?
  • How is it traded?
  • Do you deal directly with the buyer or use third party traders?
  • Is it made in micro batches?
  • And is my chocolate made bean-to-bar, from the fermenting to the conching to the molding?

 

Don’t settle for the middle man chocolate makers with their inferior beans. Claim your chocolate snobbery!

Consume FEARLESSLY!

 

By Heather Palmer

Written on September 12th, 2011

Heather Palmer has an MFA in Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her book works include the online-serialized novella Charlie’s Train (the2ndhand), the chapbook Mere Tragedies (Girls With Insurance) and the novella Complements: of Us (Spork Press). Her forthcoming poetry book, Starfish Over Oyster, will be published with Love Symbol Press in early 2012. She has blogged for FEARLESS chocolate, edited at Monkeybicycle Magazine and Dzanc Books, and now teaches grammar at Harold Washington College of Chicago. Read more about her at “Fine Salt”, her blog: http://frsh.in/palmer

Posted by & filed under Chocolate, Direct Trade.

Eat Mail for June: Cherry Expresso Bomb-Bons & The Dark Chocolate Pick-Me-Up

Inspired by a productively crazy month of late nights, early mornings, satisfying work and dark chocolate, we humbly present this June’s Eat Mail Extravaganza: Cherry Expresso Bomb-Bons and The Dark Chocolate Pick-Me-Up, eaturing fresh roasted coffee beans from Oakland’s favorite local java purveyor, The Bicycle Coffee Company!

Your mission, should you choose to ingest it, is to disarm a carefully-roasted coffee bean wrapped in a dried tart cherry, jacketed in dark chocolate, and dusted with cayenne cocoa…with your mouth! The Cherry Expresso Bomb-Bon packs a pleasant crunchy punch, tart up front with a delicious spicy fallout.

The Dark Chocolate Pick-Me-Up bar is perfect for rocket-jumping past the afternoon hurdle of drowsiness. We’ve infused our signature 75% Dark as Midnight with a healthy dose of Bicycle Coffee’s freshly ground Medium Roast. You’ll wish this silky-smooth and surprisingly sweet bar was a bottomless cup, so be sure to enjoy one tasty square at a time.

Bicycle Coffee is all about delivering great-tasting coffee by bicycle. Roasting organic, fair-trade, hand-picked, and shade grown Arabica beans, they deliver freshly roasted bags of coffee to offices, grocery stores, and cafes in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. Bicycle Coffee uses a custom-built, small batch roaster allows them to roast our coffee exactly how they like it. Keeping their nose to the coffe grindstone, their beans change seasonally, but always offer medium, dark, and decaf roasts. We used a mix of the Nicaraguan medium roast and the Mexican dark roast from Chiapas.

We biked over to pick up the beans ourselves just minutes after they roasted them right before we made this batch of delicious chocolate. Believe you me (er, us), it’s very amazing.

FOR MORE INFO ABOUT OR TO SIGN UP FOR EAT-MAIL, CLICK HERE TO GO TO WWW.FEARLESSCHOCOLATE.COM

Posted by & filed under EAT MAIL.