While watching an episode of Channel 4's Food Unwrapped series, I noticed Kate Quilton headed to the Moo Free factory to see what went into making dairy-free chocolate. Spoiler alert - Moo Free uses rice powder instead of milk, which, unlike strong flavoured ingredients such as soya, adds a sweet, delicate caramel flavour to the bar.
That reminded me of a bar I'd been saving for just a moment like this. I picked up a Moo Free Organic Sour Cherry Cocoa Bar in an order I place at Treat Me Good, and now it's time to find out what this vegan chocolate bar tastes like.
When I browsed the Treat Me Good website, it was partly the flavour and partly the colourful packaging that encouraged me to smash the 'add to cart' button. Cherry and chocolate is one of life's greatest combinations, and the beautiful pink and burgundy box sold it to me.
The front of the packaging carries the Moo Free branding, the Organic Sour Cherry product name and a cheeky strap-line of "for dairy dodging choccy chompers." At the bottom, beneath the illustration of a snake and woodpecker surrounded by cherries, are the words 'dairy-free', 'gluten-free', and 'vegan'. Their website carries a heart-warming tale of teamwork by Winston the Woodpecker and Samantha the Snake.
On the reverse sits an introduction to Moo Free. The Devon-based family business trades on its ethical values and employs several autistic people in its business. It uses organic, single-origin cocoa mass from the Dominican Republic in its bars. Their website elaborates further, explaining the Hispoaniola cocoa beans are grown on Trinitario cocoa trees in and amongst citrus, avocado, and banana trees in the San Franciso De Macois area of the country.
The ingredients and allergen information follows this introduction.
Moo Free Organic Sour Cherry Cocoa Bar ingredients:
Organic cocoa (45%) (organic cocoa butter, single-origin organic cocoa mass), organic raw cane sugar, organic rice powder (organic dried rice syrup, organic rice starch, organic rice flour), organic freeze-dried cherry (1%), emulsifier (organic sunflower lecithin), cherry oil (0.15%) (natural flavouring, coconut oil).
Several graphics sit above the contact and social media details, with icons signifying the product is dairy-free, gluten-free, soya-free, palm oil-free, vegan, and organic. This bar is produced in a factory that handles hazelnuts.
The nutritional information sits at the base. This bar is made up of 39% sugars, so is less sweet than many mass-produced chocolate bars.
Whether by design of accident, I cannot find any mention of the word 'chocolate' on the packaging. "Choc" is the closest match. This bar's formal name is "Organic Cocoa Bar with Cherry," which again omits the word 'chocolate'. The ingredients list contains cocoa mass, cocoa butter, and sugar. It omits milk in favour of rice powder, and that may well be the rationale for the omission here, as this bar is mimicking milk chocolate rather than trying to call itself a dark chocolate. Moo Free does, at least, call this a "truly scrumilicious chocolate bar" on its website.
Moo Free Organic Sour Cherry Cocoa Bar Review
The box opens at the top, and contains a handy tab to reseal the carton, so you can dip in and out at will. Inside, the 80g cocoa bar is sealed inside a plastic wrapper. It would have been nice to see a recyclable foil wrapper to allow the bar to be resealed inside its resealable recyclable cardboard outer.
The bar itself takes its form from a custom mould, with 17 small square segments decorated with motifs of butterflies and flowers. One large segment (equivalent to four smaller segments) carries the Moo Free brand name. The finish is good, with a lovely glossy sheen, spoilt only by minor air bubble imperfections at the corners of the segments and on the motifs when you look close. A crisp snap reveals flecks of dried sour cherry pieces inside.
Before we get to tasting, let's talk about the aroma. This may well be a dairy-free chocolate bar but it uses a characterful cocoa, so there are notes of smoke, tobacco, and leather at the forefront. There's sweeter notes that sit behind, but no discernable hint of cherry as far as I can tell.
The chocolate takes a while to melt, revealing a sweet flavour. There's hints of creaminess, although it's somewhat hollow (and totally understandable for a dairy-free chocolate). There's toffee notes in the mix too, along with gentle banana and pineapple notes.
As for the cherry flavour, there's a subtle strand that runs throughout the melt, while its the tart, chewy flecks of cherry that deliver bursts of intense sourness and additional cherry flavour.
Overall, I'd love to see a slightly stronger cherry taste but love that the characterful cocoa is the real star of the show here. It's not all about the cherry flavour, but rather its about a harmony between a flavourful cocoa and a tart fruit.
There's no bitterness to the chocolate, and so, this bar doesn't behave like a traditional dark chocolate bar. As for where this sits in the chocolate bar world, it mimics the creaminess of a milk chocolate quite well (although it's not quite perfect) but the cocoa flavour and bitterness is not overwhelming as you might expect in a dark chocolate bar. It straddles the fine line between the two, and may well fool some dark milk chocolate lovers into thinking there's dairy in the recipe.
Moo Free Organic Sour Cherry Cocoa Bar Review
RRP: £2.19 | Moo Free | Shop now
Vegan or not, dairy intolerant or not, this cherry bar is for everyone to enjoy. The cherry flavour is clear (although I'd like to see a touch more), but still allows the fun and flavourful characteristics of the cocoa to clearly come through. It's a tasty bar that didn't last long, and I look forward to working my way through the rest of the range.
Where to Buy Online
You can buy the 80g Organic Sour Cherry bar direct on the Moo Free website here (£2.19 each; £23.65 for 12). You can also find it at Treat Me Good (£2.35), Nature's Healthbox (£8.79 for 4), Party Delights (£2.99), Alternative Store (£2.19), or on Amazon°.
Last Easter, Moo Free released a 215g Sour Cherry Easter Egg, with illustrations of Winston the Woodpecker and Samantha the Snake once again decorating the pink and burgundy packaging .
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Do you have a favourite variety of Moo Free chocolate that I ought to test next? Let me know in the comments below.