Saturday, October 01, 2011

Zimt Artisan Chocolates

Vanilla Caramel Zimt
Can you say Zimt?  Does it matter?  Not really, as long as you can eat it!  And you can, because this brand new line of high-quality chocolate bars is raw, vegan, fair-trade, and organic.

I had the greatest pleasure to sample some Zimt flavors, including "Vanilla Caramel", "Kaffee", "Meine Minze" (mint), "Chocolate Coconut Crisp", and "Orange Nib".

My favorite was the Vanilla Caramel (right), followed by the Meine, or mint.  I'm a sucker for the chocolate/caramel combo, and this caramel tasted lush yet pure, with a pronounced vanilla seed note that was brilliant.  I enjoyed moments of pure chocolate caramel happiness.

Mint chocolates are not usually my favorite, and that's because they usually taste like some version of chocolate toothpaste, with a medicinal minty centre or flavor.  Not Zimt.  The mint flavor was muted in a soft ganache interior, just giving a whisp of mint in a deep chocolatey bite.  And, while I'm not a coffee drinker, I can just about guarantee that any coffee lover would think that the "Kaffee" bar is like their fondest dream of chocolate and coffee come true!  I've tasted other 'espresso' bean chocolate bars, and this is far different.  It's is truly like a little cup of coffee in each chocolate square - you might be able to skip your morning coffee altogether and have a square of chocolate - or heck, have one of each!

What I loved about Zimt - apart from the first-class ingredients and biodegradable packaging (step up, product manufacturers, it's time to package the biodegradable way!) - was that I never felt like I ate a sugary piece of chocolate - not once.  I love my dark chocolate, but even some very dark chocolates still feel like you are dousing your palate (and body) with a hit of sugar.  Zimt chocolates are actually diabetic friendly!  You will notice that they aren't as sweet as some other dark chocolate bars.  But they are sweet enough - and satisfy the chocolate longing!  There was no 'sugar-sickly' feeling after eating these chocolates - just pure cacao bliss.

Our daughters also like dark chocolate (and unlike many kids, they haven't tasted milk chocolate, so chocolate to them IS dark chocolate).  I was, ahem, kind enough to share some of the Vanilla Caramel bar with them (okay, they begged me for about a day, and I caved, dang it).  They oooh'ed and ahhh'ed, and asked for more.  Excuse me, I already shared one piece, children!  Even their young ketchup-loving palates enjoyed the less-sweet, deep chocolate flavor.  But, enough sampling for them... the rest was mine, all mine!

Zimt is founded by Vancouverite Emma Smith.  She is busy getting her new chocolates in stores now, and I thought it would be great to learn more from the young expert herself about Zimt:

D:  You might be living every girl's dream, making chocolate for a living.  How did this all start?
E: Just a year ago, I would have never even come close to imagining this! I was a full-time business student at UBC, working part-time and wanted to keep going with the company I had been with, actually. But I’ve always had an entrepreneurial, experimental side. I figured that since my post-graduate plans were not quite working out as envisioned, I would need to be a bit more flexible. Being young and fairly free of any huge commitments (like making sure I could feed the family), I reckoned that now would be a good time of life to start my own company and hire myself! Thinking up a business concept was next- and believe me, I went through quite the list- I wanted something unique, something special that I could offer others. But it also had to be sustainable, ethical, and, to really be something everyone loves, preferably delicious. There wasn’t really much in the way of raw chocolate in Vancouver- and I thought that there should be.  Nearly everyone loves chocolate and Vancouver is notorious for appreciating a healthy lifestyle, so combining these two aspects seemed quite logical. Reading Week came, and with it, the start of months (and months...) of all of the recipe testing... I had never made raw or any other kind of chocolate before- it was a steep and delicious learning curve! As much as my family, friends and I loved all that “taste-testing”, I am really happy that I am able to share Zimt with a wider audience. 

D:  What is the origin of the name Zimt?
E: There are a couple of stories behind this. Zimt means “cinnamon” in German, which is my first language. I wanted to incorporate a bit of my culture into my work, but I didn’t want the word to be eight-feet long and full of characters that most English speakers would not be familiar with. Germany has a rather strong chocolate-enthused culture as well. “Zimt”, I think, is quite pretty on paper, and is recognizable. It’s a neat name! Also, cinnamon has been touted as potentially being beneficial for those with blood sugar stability issues, such as diabetes. The sweeteners I use for Zimt chocolate include coconut sugar and coconut nectar, which are products that were formulated by a brother and sister team for their parents who have diabetes.

D:  Zimt is unlike any other chocolate I've seen on the market.  It's fair-trade, organic, vegan, and raw.  How do you source these ingredients, and how did you pull this all together?!
E: During my last term of university, I was working on Zimt pretty much constantly (well, when I wasn’t at work or in class.  Actually, I worked on it a lot during class.)- that took care of some of the sourcing. To be honest, though, I am constantly needing to source new materials. Being involved in the vegan and raw community for years has been helpful for this. Building trusting relationships and knowing that those who harvested the ingredients were treated well, paid well, and worked in safe, healthy conditions is essential. The farms and communities I get my ingredients from hold the same standards I hold- we’re all working towards a common goal: a better world for everyone, people and animals alike. 
And pulling this all together... Dreena, you’re too nice! Zimt still has a very long way to go. I’m just trying to take it one step at a time.  And I keep reminding myself of the many successful entrepreneurs out there who started from humble beginnings- you’ve got to just keep going, if it is what you really want. I also think that believing in what you offer is vital- and I believe in everything Zimt stands for- ethics and quality.  Starting things is relatively easy- the real test comes in maintaining and growing a business. Having a good support network of family and friends, who not only accept but encourage what many feel would be a ridiculous dream, help pull me together- and I need that for Zimt.

kaffee dark chocolate with roasted fair trade espresso
D: What is your favorite flavor?  Can you choose?!
E: It is a bit tricky to choose, and thank goodness for that! I really enjoy the Ganache line (mint, orange, and chocolate), but the Chocolate Coconut Fudge is excellent as well... Then again, I do love the Peppermint Nib- it is very refreshing and I like the contrast- the crunch of the nibs and the smooth chocolate. I think that my favourite flavour at the moment would have to be the Kaffee- it is almost sophisticated. I don’t drink coffee myself, but, I could definitely have a cup of Kaffee bar in the morning! (And sometimes I do...) I’ve got about a million different flavour ideas and cannot wait to keep experimenting and bringing people new treats- who knows what my next favourite will be! 

D:  Currently, Zimt can be found at Karmavore, Greens Natural and Organic Market and a few other select shops.  Can customers order directly from you?
E: Not quite yet, but I am hoping in time for the Christmas season. Finding the proper eco-friendly shipping materials took a little bit of time- I am rather picky when it comes to that sort of thing. I figure, why just be concerned about the product itself? Sure, the chocolate is a lot more delicious than the packaging, but everything should be of environmentally friendly standards.  Anyway, customers can find me at events around town, including this Sunday’s Taste of Health, held by Earthsave Canada and at the Yoga Conference in Vancouver, from November 4th until the 6th.  And, you can keep up with product news and developments on my Zimt fb page.

D: Anything else you'd like to share about Zimt?
E: One culinary connection I have for Zimt, is, oddly enough, that of the mustard seed.  Mustard seeds are tiny- like a quinoa seed. In the right conditions, though, a mustard seed can grow into a massive tree. And, massive trees, including cacao trees, can provide homes for birds, shade on a hot day, strength to the earth, and lots of clean, refreshing air. Those incredible cacao trees provide incredible cacao beans, and when harvested in responsible, fair conditions, a great source of income for farmers.  I can pass along the goodness to others, by providing them with a healthy product, and showing how tasty chocolate can be without using any animals. Zimt is also starting out small. I want to thank everyone, especially my mom, grandmother, auntie, and friends for helping me make sure that Zimt has the proper conditions to grow big, and bring a lot of health, happiness, and tastiness to everyone. Enjoy!

D: And, when did you say you'd be dropping by more samples?  Kidding.  But, I DID have to share.  ;)


Babette said...

I like how that vegan chocolate is fair-trade... I wonder why so few of them are not fair-trade. said...

Oh yum, that caramel chocolate looks delicious.

Anonymous said...

I tried to add some to my last Karmavore order but they were out - can't wait to try some!

emma@zimt said...

Hi Everyone! Thank you for all the kind words!

Babette: I know- this puzzles me as well. I think that some folks are quite focused on either one or the other- good for people OR good for animals. But they are so connected- they really ought to be considered together! And your sushi photos look delicious! Next time I am in the UK, we are going!

Born to be Vegan: The caramels scampered off the shelves fairly quickly... Seems like you are in the Lower Mainland- send me an e-mail and I will make sure you get some vanilla caramel bars!

cibo matto said...

i am so excited about zimt! (and for emma!) <3

Lisa Viger said...

Oh. Yeah. Zimt chocolates look amazing.

zimt said...

cibo: Thank you, Nat!!!! You're the best!!!

Lisa: =D Thank you. I really want you to try some to know that they taste amazing, too!!!

Anonymous said...

We need fresh produce to live, so in a pinch we will accept the occasional vegetable, piece of fruit, nut or grain grown far away under unknown conditions.

Chocolate is not food in the same sense; it's play, not sustenance. It's a luxury, not a necessity. Many people love it and feel that they need it; many recognise it as a guilty pleasure. We want to assuage that guilt somehow. We want to know that it's good for us and at the very least that it is NOT truly bad for someone, or something, else.

The only way to know that is through honesty and transparency in labelling. And it is just not honest, transparent, fair or ethical (or in the case of 'organic', not even legal) to market, promote or sell something using any of those words without some form of third-party verification.

Beyond quality, the biggest difference between Zimt and the local competitor that I prefer is that Zimt is not committed enough to even ONE of its claims to have it certified by a third party. Certification is not perfect: It's costly, labour-intensive, and for some newer certification regimes like Fair Trade, it's also ethically muddy. Still, it is the only way that consumers have to really know that the products they support financially and feed to the people they love are what they claim to be.

Zimt should pause from thinking their business the first of anything and focus instead on proving-- one by one-- the claims that they make BEFORE trying to turn a profit from them. Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but its only sustainable (and ethical) if it's authentic. Otherwise it's just a cheap and cynical rip-off.