Over the past few months, Aussie brand Pana Chocolate has cropped up on my radar. I spotted a delicious-sounding pineapple and ginger bar on my travels so had to give it a go.
"Raw". "Organic". "Handmade". These three words shine proudly (literally) on the front of the box. I'm very much into all things raw and organic at the moment, and am fascinated by the surge of popularity in vegan chocolate, so this sounded ripe for review.
The thick, textured cardboard box had a sort-of rustic quality to it. The front was decorated with sketches of ginger roots and pineapple pieces, with silver-foiled print adding a classy touch.
The reverse of the box lists the ingredients and nutritional information.
Pana Chocolate Ginger and Pineapple Ingredients:
Cacao (min. 55%; cacao butter, cacao powder), coconut nectar, pineapple (14%), coconut oil, carob, ginger essential oil (<1%), Ceylon cinnamon, Icelandic sea salt.
I love the short and sweet ingredients list. You'll notice there's no dairy, no soy, no artificial preservatives, and no refined sugars. The box also confirms the chocolate is organic, vegan-friendly, and gluten-free. I also spotted text explaining that the box is printed with vegetable inks, which is pretty cool.
Inside, my parcel of chocolate was wrapped inside jazzy yellow and white metallised paper. It was clear this was hand wrapped by the way the paper was folded.
In a 45g box, I received six segments cocooned inside, three embossed with hearts and the other three spelling out the message "love your insides". Pana reckons two squares (15g) is a sensible portion, so you can try to eke this box out over three servings - but you might fail!
I'm a fan of the mould used, as each cube of chocolate appears very chunky, fooling your brain into believing a mere 7½g portion is a lot more generous than it actually is in reality. If you're actively trying to cut down on the amount of chocolate you consume for dietary reasons, snacking on a cube at a time will feel indulgent.
Opening the box and unveiling the chocolate, you'll be blown away by the pungency of the ginger in this bar. Rather than opting for a weak powder, Pana picked a robust essential oil. It smells like fresh-cut ginger root (so miles apart from the powdered or crystallised stuff) but it is overly dominant. So much so, all I could detect in the aroma was ginger. No chocolate. No pineapple. Not even any sweetness. Just the fiery aroma of ginger.
The snap of the chocolate is weak, although the sheer volume of pineapple pieces crammed into this bar is partly to blame. It's not microscopic fragments of pineapple either - Pana makes sure you know there's pineapple in the bar with generous chunks of the fruit liberally mixed into the bar. This makes me very happy.
The texture of the bar is very soft and grainy, almost as if it wants to crumble apart in your hands. As the chocolate melts in your mouth, there's a distinct underlying dryness and bitterness courtesy of the 55% cacao, but there's no discernable flavour. Instead, the ginger overpowers proceedings.
I think the pineapple is used partially for sweetness and partially for a chewy texture, but its flavour is lost entirely to the ginger.
The ginger itself is actually quite gentle. Despite the fiery aroma, it was actually a lovely, fresh flavour with the gentlest of warmth. It's a very clear taste and one fans of ginger and chocolate will adore (although I suspect such fanatics would prefer more heat).
Into the aftertaste, there's a dry bitterness from the cacao but again it was the ginger that dominated, leaving a lingering warming flavour long afterwards.
Overall, this bar is a mixed bag for me. I love the simple list of ingredients, the generous quantity of chewy pineapple, and the nature of the ginger used. But I wish the chocolate sang louder, and that the pineapple imparted at least a little flavour. The ginger essential oil hijacked the show, seemingly forgetting this was supposed to be a group effort. I'd call this a "ginger chocolate bar with chewy pieces" rather than a "pineapple and ginger" bar.
If you love the combination of ginger and chocolate and feel disappointed by other brands that use weaker grades of ginger, pick up a bar of Pana Chocolate. The lack of chocolate tones might disappoint slightly as might the lack of fieriness, but the vibrant, fresh flavour of the ginger will make you smile. If you don't like ginger that much, or prefer a more subtle flavour, you'd best opt for a different flavour from the range.
I'd like to try a more delicate flavour from the Pana range to compare to this bar - I should have picked up the Coconut & Goji bar when it was bundled free with a magazine not so long ago. Their 60% and 80% bars sound perfect for comparison to better understand and appreciate the flavour of the chocolate, although the rose bar has piqued my interest most.
Have you tried any of Pana Chocolate's bars? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.
Disclosure: I purchased my 45g Pana Chocolate Ginger and Pineapple bar at Whole Foods Market in London for £2.99. I was not asked for a review. My opinions are my own.