Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's is an import food company based in Pasedena, California. They have locations on the West coast of the U.S.; I believe they have stores in Washington, Oregon, and California, now. They import food items from around the world, put Trader Joe's brand labels on them, and sell them in their stores. If you have access to a Trader Joe's store, check it out. There are always some interesting items there, including chocolate.

Their chocolate bars are definitely something to behold. They are imported from France. They are made for the European market, in St. Etienne, near Lyon. Because of that, they are 500 gram bars, which is very large for a chocolate bar. Very large. 500 grams is over a pound, which explains the "Pound Plus" in the title. The bar measures just over 11 inches long by 3 inches wide and about .75 inches thick, and is easily the largest chocolate bar I've ever seen. And on top of that, Trader Joe's Pound Plus bars are very inexpensive. I don't happen to have the price handy, but you can easily spend three or four times as much per pound for comparable chocolate from the more well known name brands.


Trader Joe's Bittersweet chocolate isn't bad. It has quite a good strong flavor, which makes this a chocolate you won't eat very fast. The chocolate flavor comes out quite rapidly as you eat it. It also has a slightly smoky flavor and a bit of a nutty quality as well.

Overall, however, this is a chocolate for people who are more into the flavor than the feel of chocolate. It is a fairly dry chocolate, however, and has a bit of a chalky feel to it. In that respect, it reminds me a lot of Manishewitz, but is not as dry. It doesn't have the crisp snap that I associate with really great chocolate, even when it is cold. (As I review this, it's 81 degrees Farenheit in my house, so room temperature chocolate isn't going to have a crisp snap no matter what. But I tried some straight from the refrigerator and it still wasn't all that crisp.)

The ingredient list nice and simple: Cocoa Mass, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Vegetable Lecithin, Natural Vanilla. The wrapper lists the bar as being 61% cocoa solids, which is quite good compared to most other chocolate bars. It's interesting to see vegetable lecithin in the ingredients instead of the usual soy lecithin; that may account for the some of the dryness, but that is pure speculation on my part. I'd be interested to know if anyone has any real information on what the gastronomic difference between vegetable and soy lecithin is.


After reviewing Trader Joe's Bittersweet, I have to say I was disappointed with Trader Joe's Milk chocolate. I haven't disliked a chocolate this much since the American version of Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate. Mostly that's because this chocolate is very very sweet, and not very chocolaty at all.

The first sensation I got from this chocolate was that distinctive aroma that milk chocolates have, followed by sweetness, then by a milky sweetness as it began to melt, then finally by some hint of chocolate struggling to be recognized amid the sugar and milk flavors. The fact that they used milk powder instead of plain milk or cream shows up as a somewhat rough texture, as well. This is a smoother chocolate than Trader Joe's Bittersweet, but not by a whole lot.

The ingredient list is: Sugar, Milk, Powder [sic], Cocoa Liquor, Cocoa Butter, Vegetable Lecithin, Natural Vanilla. I suspect they meant "Milk Powder" and that extra comma is an accident. Anyway, the wrapper lists this bar as only 28% cocoa solids, and well, it shows. Anyway, given the size of these chocolate bars, I can't really recommend this chocolate as anything other than a bargain basement chocolate. I can't honestly imagine why you'd want a half kilo of this stuff, unless you just really like milk chocolate.