Those who have been following this blog for a while know how much I love everything sweet. Especially chocolate. When I went vegan (almost 10 years ago!) Ritter Sport had a couple of vegan options in Germany. Their semisweet chocolate (50% was vegan) and so were their marzipan and peppermint bars. When they changed the ingredients of the peppermint bar and unveganised it by adding butterfat, I wrote an angry blog post.

A while later I switched to organic, fair-trade chocolate anyway. Over the years you can find a huge variety of chocolates at German health food stores. Plain dark chocolates, others made with rice syrup, white chocolates and lots of varieties made with nuts and fruits, too. With all these to choose from I have to admit that I haven’t eaten a single piece of Ritter Sport chocolate in a couple of years.

This year in August the company introduced two new bars, which for the first time are labeled as vegan. They contacted me and asked me if I wanted to review them in exchange for a package filled with their new chocolates. And how could I say no to that?

The new bars are similar to two varieties they already had on the market: one with roasted almonds and one with roasted hazelnuts. For their vegan version they switched out the annoying butterfat with hazelnut mass. Also they made the bars just a bit more vegan by adding popped amaranth and popped quinoa. At least that is what I thought at first. These days every proper vegan products needs to have either amaranth or quinoa. It’s a bit annoying, but in these chocolate bars the popped grains are pretty great. Together with the nuts they add a lot of crunch and texture. I give Ritter Sport a huge thumbs up for the amount of roasted nuts and popped grains they crammed into these bars. Whoever came up with the recipe for this chocolate isn’t a stingy person.

Ritter Sport vegane Schokolade

As for the chocolate taste I think it is great that these bars have so much additional stuff going on. The roasted nuts are fantastic, they add so much flavour and texture. The popped cereal is really nice, too. But unfortunately  I have to admit that I didn’t care too much for the chocolate itself. It is hard to describe but I didn’t find it very balanced. I thought the chocolate flavour itself was a little bit too sweet and too bitter at the same time, if that makes any sense. One of my coworkers described the chocolate as tasting a bit like raw chocolate. And that hit the nail on the head I think. (No offense if you love raw chocolate. But it’s just not my cup of tea.) I personally would have wished for a milder, more mellow chocolate. Especially because they added hazelnut mass, I would have expected the chocolate to taste a little bit more like gianduia. A hint of milk chocolate would have been great, too.  There are already a lot of regular vegan semi-sweet chocolate on the market.  I had to choose I probably wouldn’t necessarily go for the Ritter Sport bar. My husband on the other hand and a couple of coworkers really liked the chocolate. The almond amaranth bar in the purple packaging was the most popular one.

Ritter Sport vegane Schokolade

Ritter Sport chocolate bars are not labeled fairtrade. I usually buy fair-trade chocolate and I love to know where the processed cocoa comes from. I know that fairtrade labels can be problematic though. Especially since the practice of mass balancing makes it possible to mix fairtrade and non-fairtrade produce. Many fairtrade chocolate bars have an additional note printed on their packaging informing the consumer that the chocolate was produced by using mass balance. Which simply means that you have no idea to what extend the product was made using fair trade cocoa beans.

According to a German article from 2013 Ritter Sport buys most of their cocoa at the stock market. Half of this cocoa is grown in Ivory Coast. For these two new bars on the other hand the cocoa is harvested in Nicaragua. There they have their own plantation and claim to “pay above the minimum wage in Nicaragua guarantee fair and safe working conditions“. The chocolate for these bars is not from that plantation though, because the first harvest their will probably be next year. At the end of the article the company mentions that they have been supporting small farmers in Nicaragua for several years now and they have some additional information on their website.

So far these new bars aren’t listed on their English version of the website and I don’t know when or if they will be available outside of Germany. Here you can find them at grocery stores or at Ritter Sport’s own online store.

review: will's vegan shoes |

You wanna know what’s really difficult about a vegan lifestyle? Finding decent vegan shoes, is my answer. I want a shoe that looks good, is affordable, doesn’t fall apart after two weeks, and is ethically made. Until recently it was very difficult for me to find footwear which did fit all those criteria. Sure, there are lots of companies selling vegan shoes. But usually those are too expensive for me or I don’t like the model. Or both. In the past I had to make a lot of compromises when it came to shoes. Often these compromises were bad. (I bought shoes that were vegan but not ethically produced, for example.) Last year when I spent another evening searching the internet for new shoe models, I stumbled across Will’s Vegan Shoes, a UK based company, that sells both shoes and accessories, such as belts and wallets. I hardly could believe my eyes when I browsed their website because not only did I like the majority of their models, they also weren’t too expensive for me. Another great thing is that they ship worldwide and you can return and exchange their shoes for free. The main materials used for these shoes are breathable and water resistant microfibres.

When my shoes arrived they came in white shoe boxes, wrapped in colourful wrapping tissue. The first model I unwrapped were these black Chelsea boots which I’ve been wearing quite a lot since I got them. Their shape and cut is great, I do love that they are not as slim shaped some other Chelsea boots I tried before. Still, their fit is a bit narrow for my wide feet when worn with thick socks or extra insoles. (But I don’t see a fault with the shoes, I have had this problem before and I could have ordered a larger size to compare.) Thankfully the winter has been mild so far and I’ve been using regular socks without getting cold feet. (And to be honest, during really cold weather I have hiking shoes that will definitely keep me warm.)

review: will's vegan shoes |

Last winter I found some great knee lenght boots that I had to return after only a couple of months. They started to break apart. (I bought them from a large retail company, I am pretty sure they were not ethically produced and considering their poor quality, they turned out way too expensive.) I was disappointed and sure I could never replace them. But I was wrong. And I cannot tell you how happy I am about this. These brown boots shown above are exactly what I was looking for! When it comes to shape and cut, they are very similar to my Chelsea boots. But instead of side gussets, they have a zipper and an adjustable strap at the the calves. Even though I have the same thick sock problem with them they do fit my calves, which is not a given. Often I cannot squeeze my legs into knee lenght boots. So I am really exited about these shoes.

The third pair I got were black heeled shoes, also shown above. I hardly wear heeled shoes and if I do, I won’t last long. If you see someone hobbling and jumping on the sidewalk, that’s usually me wearing heels. But not in these shoes. They are very comfortable and have an extra soft and quite thick insole that feels like a cushion. The heel itself is quite broad and supportive. I also think the large zipper on the side is a nice detail.

My review is a bit late (I wanted to actually try these shoes out and wear them a couple of times) and both the heeled shoes and the knee length boots are sold out right now in most sizes, but the company has many new models in stock, which you should check out! I am very pleased with the look and the quality of my choices and they have a good price. (I think paying about 90 – 100 € for a pair of vegan shoes made in the EU is pretty fair.) I had intended to keep two out of three pair. But in the end I kept them all because I think they will last a while. I don’t like to buy new stuff each season, I rather have good quality items that last more than one summer, and I think these shoes fit the bill, but I’ll keep you updated.

Since I had them shipped to Germany from the UK, I paid 11.48 € for shipping (the fee seems to be dependent on how much your order weighs)  but got a 3.82 € discount, because shipping for the first item was free. (I subscribed to their newsletter and got a voucher.) I purchased all of these shoes with my own money and was not paid or compensated by Will’s Vegan Shoes in any way to write this review. I wrote it because I like their products and think this company is worth supporting.

Update April 2016: So far the shoes survived two winters and they are still good!