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Home / Doug's Chocolate Republic  /   Review:  Endangered Species Dark Chocolate Espresso

     
Endangered Species Dark Chocolate Espresso 
Posted: 20 October 2014    8.0 
Endangered Species Dark Chocolate Espresso from USA By premium chocolate standards, Endangered Species is an ancient company. It was never one of my favorites, but it delivers. Other coffee bars, like Heidi's, are too sweet and deserve a place in your trash bin. Endangered Species' 72% bittersweet chocolate is rightly balanced for the amount of roasted coffee contained within. I'd happily buy this espresso bar again if I saw it, but if it were a more typical bar I was in the market for (a milk chocolate, a standard dark bar), I'd probably seek out the next big thing.    
Avg price/gram: USD 0.034   Cocoa %: 72  Size: 85g   
       


By premium chocolate standards, Endangered Species is an ancient company.  I remember seeing their bars on the shelves of Whole Foods in the early 2000's and it looks like they're still going strong.    

A little history goes a long way with Endangered Species.  Today, this is certainly not your typical all-natural chocolate manufacturing company.  Endangered Species was originally founded by Jon Stocking in 1993 in Talent, Oregon, population 6,200.  According to Talent's own web site, Talent is "a great place to live and raise a family.  The quality of life offered here is second to none" and obviously prefect for starting sustainable chocolate operations.         

For over a decade, Endangered Species remained an endangered species, a small boutique operator with an environmental mission. Stocking had tried to put himself through culinary school in the 1980's and eventually trained in Europe.  While working on a fishing boat, he was aghast that the nets trapped not just the fish sought, but also sharks, turtles, swordfish, and dolphins.  Stocking wanted to help the planet.  When he started Endangered Species, he committed to donating 10% of the company's net profits to environmental groups helping protect endangered animals.  Stocking drew a picture of some endangered animal on every wrapper and explained the cause on the wrapper.        

This all changed in 2004.  Exact details remain murky, depending upon which side you believe.  The Chocolate Republic is savvy enough to follow the money trail and surmise what really went down.  Endangered Species was doing decent business for its size, about $5m in revenues, but longed to grow bigger. Along come some philanthropists from Indianapolis, Wayne Zink and Randy Deer, promising Stocking they adore his vision.  With their business resources, they can push Endanger Species chocolates into the Midwest and East Coast markets and make everyone involved megabillionaires while they save the world's endangered species and make the planet a grew place to live on.  Stocking's tongue was left hanging out like a panting dog and he sold 51% of his operation to Zink's and Deer's DZ Enterprises.              

Handshakes were offered, contracts were signed, and you can probably predict what happens next.  No, Endangered Species did not start adding hydrogenated oils and artificial flavors to their chocolates.  That would have killed the brand.  They started marginalizing Stocking from the company he founded.  Bye bye, Talent.   In 2005, the company's manufacturing was moved to Indianapolis. Stocking was supposed to stay on for five years as President.  He claims -- and filed a lawsuit for $18m that year saying as much -- that he was fired three months later.  By 2006, this suit was settled for an undisclosed sum we can assume was less than $18m.  I would wager Zink and Deer probably violated their agreement with Stocking on purpose so that they could oust him from operations completely for the cost of a later settlement.  It doesn't look blike uying Stocking out completely was an option initially. Tellingly, if Zink could prove that terminating Stocking was fair, he could buy out Stocking's 49% shares for book value. Therefore, this was probably Zink and Deer's intention right from the start.

Endangered Species was always a reliable pick in the early 2000's for a tasty all-natural chocolate bar, and even with Deer and Zink at the helm from Indiana, they still buy their cacao beans from either organic or sustainable farms in Ecuador or the Ivory Coast.  In 2012, they said they intended to make all their chocolates non-GMO.  In 2014, Endangered Species launched a new line of dairy free, creme-filled bars.           

But Endangered was never one of my favorites.  I rarely picked it up.  Sinking my teeth into this Dark Chocolate Espresso bar, my first Endangered Species bar in probably a decade, was like trying the brand for the first time.           

It delivers.  Other coffee bars, like Heidi's, are too sweet and deserve a proper place in your trash bin. Endangered Species' 72% bittersweet chocolate is rightly balanced for the amount of roasted coffee contained within.  The bar didn't remain an edible bar for long.      

Even though ownership has shifted and Endangered Species is now owned by businessmen instead of a die-hard conservationist, Endangered Species' core values remain intact. It's not Fair Trade cacao anymore; it's Rainforest Alliance Certified. And a chocolate bar that in prior days in Oregon may have been labeled as vegan now says "produced on equipment that also processes product containing milk."  These are not huge talking points.        

I'd happily buy this espresso bar again if I saw it, but if it were a more typical bar I was in the market for (a milk chocolate, a standard dark bar), I'd probably seek out the next big thing. Endangered Species Chocolate remains reliable, not orgasmic.

If you liked reading this, consider savoring these reviews:
 Lotte Ghana Air from Korea -- 29% cocoa solids
 Dove Milk Chocolate from China -- 29% cocoa solids
 The Complete Chocolate Republic Index


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