By this time last weekend, I had gnawed my way through a couple of bars of chocolate within 24 hours; but these were not any chocolate bars……..these were chocolate bars lovingly hand-made by my dear friend Asma, who I met for the first time at one of my Birmingham Wellness Meetups just under 12 months ago. Last weekend saw Asma launch her new chocolate confectionary brand, Maza Chocolate, at the Good Food Show and I was honoured and excited to go along and support her.

I don’t know many people, particularly women, who do not love chocolate, so already she’s on to a good thing business wise, right? Added to that, she’s created a chocolate bar that will tick the boxes of many health and wellness enthusiasts, and has distinguished herself from many other chocolate brands by hand-producing her chocolate from bean to bar using traditional methods (therefore for all the ‘raw’ foodies, Maza is not raw - I don’t get the whole raw movement anyway) which true chocolate enthusiasts and connoisseurs will (and did at the Show) appreciate. The beans are from Madagascar, Columbia and the Dominican Republic.

Maza Chocolate – the name Maza being derived from the Persian word ‘indulgent’ – is 70% dark chocolate.  I’ll be honest, I love myself a good nibble of milk chocolate from time to time, especially that extra sweet indulgence they call pralines, but we know that it’s perhaps better to opt for chocolate which contains a higher percentage of cocoa solids, such as 70% or above, because of its higher flavonol content (there is an accumulating body of evidence to show that the flavonol component of dark chocolate may have potential benefits for heart health).

Maza can be a chocolate treat for vegans too because it’s dairy free; yes no milk or milk derivatives, and in fact the bars contain no more than 5 ingredients, and they’re all ingredients you recognise and can pronounce! There are 3 varieties: plain; almond butter and coconut. The almond butter is definitely my favourite; the combination of the cacao, crushed almonds (not essences) and sea salt really tickles my palate (in a good way!) and takes the edge off that bitterness that can often put people, like me, off dark chocolate.

The other interesting and unique ingredient in Maza chocolate is the Palmyra nectar, which is used as an alternative to table sugar and is the crystallised nectar collected from the flower of the Palmyra palm, grown in Sri Lanka and India; I’m not sure whether it is the Palmyra that gives the chocolate its smooth, slightly creamy and luxurious feel in the mouth. Admittedly, I had never heard of Palmyra before and I’m looking forward to researching more about it, especially it’s nutritional value which early reports suggest is relatively superior to other sugar alternatives. It’s important to note that Palmyra is not a non-caloric sweetener and is still a sugar so my advice would be the same as for all dark chocolate lovers: indulge in 'moderation'.

As a final word, can I just take a minute to draw your attention to the beautiful and sophisticated packaging of Maza. So chic and so classy, just like my friend Asma, who’s a solicitor following her passion for good food -  Go Girl!

Disclaimer: My friend is the owner of Maza chocolate and I did take a few bars (with her consent of course) from the exhibition stand for this post, and to eat on the train ride home, but all views are my own.