Would you pay $13 for a chocolate bar?

At $13 for 3.5 ounces, it had better be darn good chocolate. That's how much Original Beans Inc. of San Francisco is charging for its premium chocolate.

Maybe it's justifiable on Valentine's Day, but for everyday consumption it looks too high for my budget.

As a life-long chocolate fan (I'm drinking hot chocolate while writing this), I'm willing to pay a little more than usual for a great piece of chocolate, although there's nothing wrong with a Hershey's bar. But $13? In these economic times, that seems especially out of line, although a story in the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out that it's a pleasure and a luxury that some people are willing to pay for, much like the $12 martini.

To make the deal a little more palatable, for each purchase Original Beans will plant a tree in the rain forest where the bar's ingredients originated. Buyers can trace where the cacao beans in their individual bar were grown using a lot number on a certificate printed on the inside of the wrapper, and refering to the company's Web site at originalbeans.com. The company has contracts with farmers in Bolivia, Ecuador and the Congo.

Premium chocolate usually starts selling at about 50 cents an ounce, and Original Beans can raise that price bar by a ton by making chocolates with 42% to 70% cacao.

Unfortunately, at least for chocolate lovers, Original Beans became available just this week in only two stores in San Francisco: Fog City News in the Financial District and Noe Valley's Chocolate Covered. It is also in a few select stores in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Santa Fe, N.M. The rest of the world will have to wait for $13 chocolate.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at www.aaroncrowe.net

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