LÄRABAR Jŏcolat Bars
TEST SERIES BY LARRY KIRSCHNER
INITIAL REPORT - December 23, 2007
LONG TERM REPORT - April 22, 2008
5' 9" (1.75 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
I've been an intermittent camper/paddler since my teens, but now that my kids
are avid Boy Scouts, I've caught the backpacking bug. I typically do a few weekend
hikes per year, although now that my sons are older, I have had the pleasure
of 2 weeks backpacking at the Philmont Scout
Ranch in Cimmarron, New Mexico and 2 weeks of canoeing in the Canadian wilderness.
I like to travel "in comfort", so I often
pack a little heavier than needed, but I'm trying to cut down. With all of my
investment into this trip, I expect my wife and I will continue to trek long after the kids are gone…
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
December 23, 2007
Manufacturer: : Humm Foods, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: www.larabar.com
MSRP: US $32.00 (per box of 16)
Listed Weight: 1.7 oz (48 g) per bar
Measured Weight: 1.5 oz (42 g) per bar on analog scale
Dimensions: 3 x 1.4 x 0.7 in (8 x 3.4 x 1.8 cm)
The LÄRABARs come packed as a box of 16 bars of a single flavor, and there are four different flavors: chocolate, chocolate coffee, chocolate mint, and and chocolate orange. The different flavors share their main features, although each has a distinct taste, which I will address under the heading of "Trying it out"
First of all, LÄRABAR strongly emphasizes the fact that their products are organic and fair trade certified. These bars are suitable for any type of diet (aside from those allergic to cocoa), as they are vegan and kosher, and contain no soy, dairy, or gluten products. They also have no added sugar.
What they do contain is large amounts of dates, which provides much of the bulk of the bars, as well as many of the nutritional characteristics. In addition to the dates, each bar contains almonds, cocoa, and organic flavors. The cocoa is comprised both of cocoa power and "organic cocoa mass", which is apparently ground up cocoa beans. Although 90% of the ingredients are raw, the cocoa beans are roasted before being ground.
What does this combination produce? First of all, these bars are high in fiber, and I can attest to the fact eating 1 bar per day is sufficient to keep me regular. The fruit, along with the nuts and cocoa, also provides (according to the product literature) significant quantities of antioxidants, omega-6 fatty acids, 13 essential vitamins and minerals, and phytonutrients. All of this is provided for a modest 190 calories per bar. The bars also provide modest amounts of caffeine, in the range of 5-7 mg/bar. The exception is the chocolate coffee flavor, which has 32 mg/ bar (about as much as half a cup of coffee)
In terms of storage and carrying on the trail, the Jocolat bars are made to tolerate extremes of both hot and cold, although they may become softer or harder depending on ambient temperature. It is worth noting that the bars have a shelf life of about 1 year, so they are not made to last "forever".
TRYING IT OUT
To date, I have sampled each of the four varieties of LÄRABAR Jŏcolats for the test. These were eaten at work or at home instead of lunch. They all have the same consistency, which is well-formed but slightly mushy. There are large chunks of almonds in the bars, which give them a nice texture. The first bar I tried was the chocolate-coffee flavor, and about 10 minutes after I had eaten it, I felt a sort of rush, which I initially thought may have been due to the caffeine. However, I have had the same feeling with all of the flavors, so I think it may actually be due to the fruit sugar, but I'm not sure. For me, I feel it like an energy rush, and it seems to last for an hour or so. There seems to be a long-lasting effect as well, as I usually don't feel like eating anything for at least 4-5 hours after I eat a LÄRABAR.
Now to the flavors (and I will discuss them in the order that I tried them):
Chocolate coffee: I will confess that I am not a coffee drinker, so I found the taste of this flavor very bitter. It has a very heavy chocolate taste coupled with the coffee, which I found not unpleasant. This is the type of flavor which I could get used to and like a lot more after having a few, or I might burn out on the bitterness. I will see as I make my way through the box of 16 bars.
Chocolate Mint: The mint flavor is not strong, but it comes as a good complement to the cocoa flavor that is present in the bar. I liked this flavor.
Chocolate Orange: This flavor is rather unusual. It reminds me a lot of the chocolate-covered orange peels that my parents used to eat when I was a kid. It also has a taste somewhat similar to the liquor Grand Marnier (although my wife commented that it smelled like cough syrup). I don't really care for either of those tastes myself, and I'm not a big fan of this either (at least not yet). I would rank this one below the coffee flavor as a preference at this time, but I will also see if my taste changes as I eat a few of them.
Chocolate: The plain chocolate flavor does NOT taste much like a chocolate bar, as it is much less sweet than that. It has a taste similar to a carob bar, which are also usually made without added sugar. I found the flavor good, and I would certainly not mind having one of these on the trail.
For the Field test, I will taking some LÄRABARs with me on my various hiking and camping trips over the next few months. For day hikes, I expect to use this as my main source of food to see if I still get that rush of energy on the trail, and how long it lasts. I also want to see if my taste preferences change after having a couple more of them, or even if eating while I am actually on the trail changes my perception of the taste of any of the bars.
This concludes my Initial Report on the LÄRABAR Jŏcolat Bars. Please check back in 3 months for my Final Report on this item.
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April 22, 2008
I have taken LÄRABAR Jŏcolats with me on all of my hiking and camping trips over the
past few months, which have included a cold-weather (0 F, -18 C) weekend campout in Findlay, OH,
day hikes in February and March, and another weekend trip in the Akron, OH area in mid-April.
In addition to this, I have taken LÄRABARs with me for energy during sporting events
and have also used them as a quick snack and/or lunch while on the go during my regular work day.
Over this time, I have eaten approximately 10 of each of the four types of LÄRABAR Jŏcolat bars,
and I think I have
had enough of them to file my Long-Term Report.
First off, I would like to comment on the taste of the Jŏcolats. I wrote in my IR about my early
impressions of each type of bar. Having had the chance now to eat a whole bunch of them, I am
actually more appreciative of all of the flavors than in my IR. I have even come to appreciate
the orange flavor, which I never thought I would actually like. When eating these bars,
it is important to remember that they have no sugar in them, so that they do not
taste the same as a regular chocolate bar or energy bar. When I had my initial taste of the Larabar flavors,
it was in the setting of my "usual" diet, which contains a "usual" amount of sugary
foods. However, I have found that when I am on the trail, all of my food has much less sugar, so that
the bars do not seem so different in flavor. In fact, when I am out, I prefer
non-sugary food. Under these conditions, I developed much more of an appreciation
for the re subtle flavorings used in these bars. I still think
that I like the mint best followed by chocolate, but I have no problems eating the coffee and orange
flavors, and sometimes actually have developed a craving for one or the other!
In terms of the consistency of the bars, it takes a little getting used to, but it
is not unpleasant. It is also worth noting that I have had the bars out in very cold weather (down to 0 F/-18 C)
and they do not have an appreciable change in consistency. The same is true when the weather
is hot out. I actually left my bag with 2 bars in it in my car on a day when it reached about
80 F (27 C) outside, and was much warmer in the car. Even in these temperatures, the LÄRABARs
had only a minimal change in consistency, being just a little bit softer than usual.
One thing that adds to the consistency are the large chunks of
almonds, and I really like the big, crunchy ones, and even wish there were a few more in there.
The next topic worth discussing regarding the Jŏcolat bars is their function as energy
bars. I noted in my IR getting a "buzz" after eating the first one or two. I am happy
to say that this went away quickly, so maybe I was just excited about them.
Nevertheless, I have found that the Larabars provided a good boost of energy when
I was starting to run out of gas. About 15-20 minutes after a LÄRABAR, I could definitely
notice feeling better, and one bar could sustain me for at least 3-4 hours under normal conditions. As noted
above, each bar only has 190 calories, so they don't last forever, but they definitely
provided me with a good pick-me-up at the end of the day to get me back home.
Overall, I definitely think that the LÄRABAR Jŏcolat is a good product for the trail. It provides a
good energy boost. It is compact and does not crumble when thrown under other gear in a pack and
tolerates high and low temperatures without much effect. I still have a few bars left, which I will
continue to take with me on future trips. Once I run out, there is a good chance I will
get them again for extended hikes.
Things I liked about the Larabar Jocolats:
Things I disliked about the Larabars
- I actually liked the variety of flavors (and might suggest to LÄRABAR to market a "variety pack")
- Tolerate temperature variation extremely well
- Good energy boost at only modest calories
- Suitable for any diet, including vegetarian/vegan and Kosher. As an added bonus, I note that they can be considered Kosher
for Passover, as they have no grain products!
- Love the big, crunchy almonds in them
- Texture takes a little getting used to, as does sugar-free taste
- Other than that, no real dislikes
This concludes my report on the LÄRABAR Jŏcolat Bars. My thanks once again to
LÄRABAR for providing these bars for testing, and to BackpackGearTest.org
for allowing me to participate in the evaluation process.
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Read more gear reviews by Larry Kirschner