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You mightn't think the backstory of a chocolate bar too fascinating. That is until you come across Askinosie Chocolate. The fledgling, Missouri-based company was founded by Shawn Askinosie, a criminal defense lawyer for nearly twenty years, who started making chocolate in his law office kitchen less than three years ago. After studying cocoa post harvest techniques in the Amazon and apprenticing under a master chocolate maker in Ecuador, Askinosie became committed to working directly with farmers in order to ensure the highest quality chocolate possible. All of Askinosie Chocolate bars are made in small batches, pressed from their own cocoa butter, using traceable single origin beans.

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Besides the direct relationship with cocoa farmers (which includes paying above fair trade prices and profit sharing), Askinosie has taken numerous steps toward building a socially responsible, ecologically sound business. While the Springfield chocolate factory was renovated following green guidelines, the packaging is comprised of natural, home compost safe materials and even features an image of each bean varietal's lead farmer.

As for the quality of the chocolate? I've been sampling the Soconusco and San Jose Del Tambo (each $7.50 through the Askinosie site) and find that both, while noticeably different, are wonderfully balanced, smooth and buttery and free of the overpowering sweetness found in many gourmet bars on the market.It's a versatile chocolate—the kind you could enjoy with an afternoon espresso just as well as an evening I.P.A.

We think the Chalk-late Box ($39.50) is a clever little packaging solution as well, making for a great gift with a built-in card.

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