John & Kira’s – Chocolate with a Backstory

John & Kira's - Chocolate with a Backstory

Do you consider chocolate to be one of the essential food groups? I know I do. I’m not talking about mass-market, overly-sweet imitations here, mind you; I mean real chocolate, made by people who care about what they’re doing, with genuine, good-quality ingredients. And if the chocolate comes with a little social consciousness, so much the better. This is precisely the type of product you will find at John & Kira’s.

Each Spanish chocolate fig is filled by hand with a silky dark 64% Valrhona whiskey ganache then dipped in a thin layer of dark 64% chocolate. The Calabacita variety of fig is grown by a family owned company in "Los Llanillos" in the village of Almoharin located in the Extremadura region of Spain.

Each Spanish chocolate fig is filled by hand with a silky dark 64% Valrhona whiskey ganache then dipped in a thin layer of dark 64% chocolate. The Calabacita variety of fig is grown by a family owned company in "Los Llanillos" in the village of Almoharin located in the Extremadura region of Spain.

Take a look at their flavors. The ginger for their chocolates comes directly from a small biodynamic farm in Molokai. Their coffee is from a cooperative in the highlands of Mexico employing environmentally-friendly shade-grown methods. But John & Kira’s most ambitious project to date involves urban gardens. If you’re not familiar with these, urban gardens are just what they sound like: oases of agriculture in inner cities. These gardens strive to reconnect people to the source of their food, an increasingly important issue.

John at L'Ecole du Chocolat at Valrhona in Tain L'Hermitage, France, where he went to study the art of chocolate-making.

John at L'Ecole du Chocolat at Valrhona in Tain L'Hermitage, France, where he went to study the art of chocolate-making.

Along the way, they build a sense of community in places that have usually lost that concept. Nutrition education is provided for kids (and their parents) who were probably never taught even basic information along those lines. In a nutshell, these urban gardens and their caretakers are attempting to make life healthier and better for their communities. That sounds exactly like a project I want to support, and it was the foundation of the Urban Garden Bars offered by John & Kira’s.

Rosemary Orange Urban Garden Bar.

Rosemary Orange Urban Garden Bar.

The Mighty Mint Bar (my favorite, shown at the top) uses fresh mint leaves from four urban gardens in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., while the Tangy Orange + Garden Rosemary Bar includes fresh rosemary from those gardens. Five percent of all sales from these bars goes directly back to the urban gardens that supplied these fresh herbs, too. John and Kira (the real people behind these real chocolates) are interested in expanding their work with urban gardens; if you are in charge of an urban garden and are interested in growing ingredients for new flavors of chocolate bars like these, I urge you to contact them.

John & Kira's buttery toffees are hand-mixed in small batches and made with real butter and sugar. They come in almond, hazelnut & pistachio flavors.

John & Kira's buttery toffees are hand-mixed in small batches and made with real butter and sugar. They come in almond, hazelnut & pistachio flavors.

The website has a fascinating section where you can read about the “people behind the flavors.” You will learn that the fresh mint used in the Garden Mint chocolates were picked by student gardeners at Drew Elementary and UC High School in Philadelphia, and that the shade-grown coffee used in the Mut Vitz Coffee Whiskey chocolates was grown by a cooperative comprised of some 600 families from 26 communities in the self-proclaimed autonomous region of San Juan de La Libertad, located in the Highlands of Chiapas.

John & Kira's Chocolate Cherries consist of dark red tart cherry and rich, dark 62% ganache.

John & Kira's Chocolate Cherries consist of dark red tart cherry and rich, dark 62% ganache.

John & Kira's exquisite salted caramel is touched with fragrant basswood honey from the family owned Draper's Apiaries to create irresistibly cute Honey Caramel Chocolate Bees. Each one of the nine bees is carefully painted by hand.

John & Kira's exquisite salted caramel is touched with fragrant basswood honey from the family owned Draper's Apiaries to create irresistibly cute Honey Caramel Chocolate Bees. Each one of the nine bees is carefully painted by hand.

But neither man nor woman can live on chocolate bars alone. I’d also like to suggest the beautiful Chocolate Cherries you’ll find here (and these are not the cherry cordials you might be expecting, but an elegant mix of ganache, cherry, and brandy), as well as the fanciful and delicious Caramel Chocolate Bees. It goes without saying that online ordering is available here; check the website for complete information.

About author
Stephanie Zonis was born with a spoon in her mouth — a tasting spoon, that is. She began cooking (especially baking) at a very early age, and for a short time even ran a highly illegal baking business from her long-suffering parents’ house when she was in high school. After acquiring a Master’s Degree in Foods, she eventually discovered the Internet in 1997. She’s been writing about food and developing recipes, especially where chocolate is involved, ever since. During those few moments when she’s not cooking or writing or thinking about food, Stephanie enjoys reading, walking, political discussions, and volunteering at a local no-kill cat sanctuary. She has been a member of a medieval re-creation group for longer than she’ll admit and loves absurdist humor.
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