Complete Chocolate Lover’s Guide for the San Francisco Bay Area

Cohinda Tiger Bar

Best bars of 2022

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Not drinking establishments, but there was a lot of fermentation in the entries

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The 2022 Top Chocolate Bar competition was not as big as last year’s, but it still had plenty of top quality entries. Some bars were just gorgeous, a lot were tasty, and I was impressed that one competitor whose previous entries didn’t make my cutoff landed a bar on my above-average list.

SFBA entries

Two local chocolatiers submitted entries this year. One entry was a variation on classic orange chocolate and the other used a rare local ingredient.

Kokak Chocolates

Veteran competitor, Kokak Chocolates, SF, makes lovely inventive bars that I always look forward to. Their entry this time held true to that assessment, but I had a minor quibble with it.

Kokak Nuts about Cherries bar
Kokak’s Nuts about Cherries bar

Kokak’s Nuts about Cherries was an attractive dark chocolate bar covered with dried cherries, candied orange peel, and pistachios. The fruits were soft, and orange was the first and strongest flavor. In fact the orange and somewhat bitter dark chocolate dominated the piece. The pistachios seemed to be there for the crunch.

I could only taste the pistachios and cherries in pieces without the orange peel. I liked the bar’s flavor, but it was a crunchy orange chocolate to me. The weakest flavors were the cherry and pistachio, which was the opposite of what I expected based on the name. I would reduce or remove the orange peel. Or change the name because it was tasty as is. I gave it an above average rating.

Kokak Chocolates’ Nuts About Cherries Dark Chocolate Bar did great in the competition, winning Silver for Best Ingredient Combinations, Best Texture, Best Flavored Chocolate Bar, and Best Chocolate Bar; Bronze for Best Taste and Best Bar Design & Art (non packaging); and an Honorable Mention for Best Dark Chocolate Bar. It received 4 stars.

You can buy Kokak chocolates online and at their Castro district factory store, which also sells coffee, tea, chocolate drinks, baked goods, and more.

The Oakland Chocolate Company

The other local chocolatier and veteran competitor, The Oakland Chocolate Company, Oakland, submitted a bar that used their usual Jamaican cacao and the unusual local bay nut.

Oakland Chocolate Company Bay Nut Bar
The Oakland Chocolate Company’s Bay Nut Bar

Their Bay Nut Bar was a 70% cacao bar decorated with sea salt, locally grown bay nuts, and candied orange zest. Bay nuts are an interesting choice — they are the seeds of the California bay laurel tree and I think you have to hand gather them yourself; I don’t think they are commercially available. (The former Firefly, now Ora Cacao, were the first to use them in their now discontinued bars.)

Whole nuts were carefully placed on the small bar so you could easily get one per bite. The bar was hard and had a good snap. The nuts were hard too, which was a little disconcerting. Maybe they should have been chopped and scattered for a better experience. The bar had a coffee flavor from the nuts, which was nice, but there was a soapy aftertaste that I didn’t like.

The Oakland Chocolate Company’s Bay Nut Bar won an Honorable Mention for Best Chocolate Bar. It received 3.5 stars.

The Oakland Chocolate Company chocolates are available online and in some local shops. You can also arrange pickup at their kitchen. Visit their website or Facebook page for details.

Excellent

There were 8 entries this time that I gave my highest rating. If any of these sounds enticing, I encourage you to try them yourself.

Coco Jolie

Coco Jolie, Englewood, NJ, who submitted 2 beautiful delicious bars in last year’s competition, returned with 2 more stunners. Coco Jolie is the definition of gift-able chocolate: Beautiful, unique, and delicious. I gave both bars my highest rating.

Mojito Magic bar
Coco Jolie’s Mojito Magic bar

The Mojito Magic with 65% cacao from Esmeraldas, Ecuador was eye catching with molded concentric rings painted light to dark green and accented by gold swooshes. It was a hefty filled bar with a thin dark chocolate shell.

It smelled of lime and chocolate, and tasted immediately of mint, then chocolate, and finally lime with a little burn. The filling was an interesting texture: a little sticky like caramel but also soft and melty like ganache. The bar had a good aftertaste of minty chocolate.

In addition to good dark chocolate, high quality ingredients including unrefined cane sugar, lime purée, peppermint oil, and rum made for a delicious vegan bar. The only minus is it was messy. The thin shell shattered when breaking off a piece, and the filling oozed out onto my fingers. It’s a big bar but hard to share (seems like the only way to manage it is to bite it). Best bet is to buy one for everybody!

Coco Jolie’s Mojito Bar won Silver for Most Unique and Best Bar Design & Art (non packaging); Bronze for Best Ingredient Combinations and Best Chocolate Bar; and an Honorable Mention for Best Flavored Chocolate Bar. It received 4 stars.

Hazelnut Espresso bar
Coco Jolie’s Hazelnut Espresso bar

Coco Jolie’s other entry, the Hazelnut Latte with 75% cacao from Tanzania had a more subdued appearance but was just as tasty. Subtle dark luster dust covered the isometric-cubes molded surface. Finely chopped hazelnuts and sugar crystals were sprinkled over the backside.

Like the Mojito Magic, it was a filled bar but the shell was thicker while the filling was thinner and more solid, so not as messy. The description was roasted hazelnuts and espresso, and it smelled like hazelnut, chocolate, and espresso. It had an immediate hazelnut flavor then espresso with a little oat undertone, which made sense because it was a vegan bar made with coconut cream and oat milk. Even with the chopped nuts, it was a smooth bar, with a good espresso chocolate aftertaste.

Coco Jolie Hazelnut Latte Bar won Bronze for Best Ingredient Combinations and Best Flavored Chocolate Bar; and Honorable Mentions for Best Taste, Best Bar Design & Art (non packaging), and Best Chocolate Bar. It received 4 stars.

Coco Jolie bars, bonbons, and other chocolate treats are available online and at their shop in Englewood, NJ.

Codinha Chocolate

OMG bar
Cutaway of Codinha’s OMG bar

New competitor, Codinha Chocolate, Los Angeles, submitted 2 excellent bars, one of which I think is the ultimate candy bar and the other was just cool.

The OMG Bar is a long square log containing layers of rice crispy, sea salt caramel, and hazelnut praline enrobed in milk chocolate. All of the parts were delicious on their own, but it’s the combination of textures — crunchy, chewy, smooth — and flavors — milk chocolate, caramel, and hazelnut — that make it addictive. This is what candy bars should be like; this bar is so satisfying, it’s the ultimate candy bar.

In addition to the bar being high quality, the packaging was attractive: a turquoise colored slide-out box. I was surprised that there was no inner wrapper: The bar was just placed inside the cardboard box. After tasting this bar, I get it — it’s not going to stick around long enough for freshness  to be an issue. I gave it my highest rating.

Codinha Chocolate’s OMG Bar won Gold for Best Ingredient Combinations, Best Taste, Best Texture, and Best Chocolate Bar; and Bronze for Most Unique, Best Milk Chocolate Bar, and Best Flavored Chocolate Bar. It received 4.5 stars.

Tiger Bar
Cutaway of Codinha’s Tiger Bar

Codinha’s other entry, the Tiger Bar, was so cool looking: A thick, palm-sized, gold painted oval bar with a tiger molded on top. Inside the milk chocolate shell was a double punch of passion fruit: a passion fruit caramel and a passion fruit mango flavored rice crispy(?) crunch layer sandwiching a layer of vanilla marshmallow. I could smell the passion fruit when the bar was just sitting on the table before we cut into it.

The inside was as pretty as the outside with the dark caramel layer on top of the white marshmallow and yellow crunch layers. It had a strong passion fruit flavor that lingered. I liked the soft chewy marshmallow texture and small crunch from the bottom layer. With so much passion fruit, it had a slightly perfumy taste, but it was still an excellent bar.

Codinha Chocolate’s Tiger Bar won Gold for Most Unique and Best Bar Design & Art (non packaging); Silver for Best Flavored Chocolate Bar; Bronze for Best Ingredient Combinations and Best Chocolate Bar; and Honorable Mentions for Best Taste and Best Texture. It received 4 stars.

You can buy Codinha Chocolate online and at special events around LA.

Tandem Chocolates

Veteran competitor, Tandem Chocolates, Reno, NV, submitted a much more modest bar, but it was still good enough to earn my highest rating.

Tandem’s ChocoCoco Bar was simply decorated: a tall rectangular dark chocolate bar splattered with white dots. Inside the dark shell was a dark ganache layer under a white coconut layer. It smelled mostly chocolate and slightly coconut. It tasted the same too: Mostly a good chocolate flavor with some coconut.

cutaway of Tandem’s Chococo bar
Cutaway of Tandem’s Chococo bar

The textures were nice, a light smooth ganache contrasting with the chewy coconut texture. The ganache was so light it disappeared quickly, leaving a delicious chocolate aftertaste. A modest, but elegant bar, it was like an upgrade to classic Mounds bars: better ingredients and the light texture ganache gave it a better taste and improved the chocolate to coconut ratio.

Tandem Chocolates’ ChocoCoco Bar won Silver for Best Texture. It received 4 stars.

Tandem Chocolates are available online and at their store. Visit their website for more info.

Stella’s Confectionery

Veteran competitor, Stella’s Confectionery, Milwaukee, WI, who usually wows us with bars liberally studded with visible inclusions, did a 180 this time and submitted 2 visually subdued bars. The Hazelnut Crisp and Cookie Butter & Milk bars were simple squares of milk chocolate with Stella’s logo embossed on top. The backsides were plain. But no worries; they were still delicious. I gave both bars my highest rating.

Stella’s Hazelnut Crisp
Stella’s Hazelnut Crisp

The Hazelnut Crisp bar was the fancier of the 2 bars with a gold luster dust accent on chocolate square looking like wispy gold clouds in a chocolate sky. The bar was aptly named as Stella had added crispy puffed rice to hazelnut praline in milk chocolate for extra crunch. It had a good hazelnut smell and good chocolate hazelnut flavor with a fractured crunch, which was fun.

Stella’s Confectionery Hazelnut Crisp bar won Silver for Best Milk Chocolate Bar; Bronze for Best Texture and Best Chocolate Bar; and Honorable Mentions for Best Taste and Best Flavored Chocolate Bar. It received 4 stars.

Stella’s Cookie Butter & Milk
Stella’s Cookie Butter & Milk

The Cookie Butter & Milk bar added Speculoos cookie butter to the hazelnut praline in milk chocolate. Like the Hazelnut Crisp bar, it smelled like hazelnut and tasted of hazelnut chocolate first and foremost, then cinnamon and cookie. The cookie gave it a nice crunch.

Stella’s Confectionery Cookie Butter & Milk bar won an Honorable Mention for Best Milk Chocolate Bar. It received 4 stars.

You can order Stella’s chocolate bars and other treats online, and find them at a few stores across the country. Check their website for locations.

Panache Chocolatier

Veteran competitor, Panache ChocolatierLeawood, KS, submitted 2 entries, one a tweak on a bar they submitted last year and the other a totally new idea from them.

Panache Spiced Peanut bar
Panache’s Spiced Caramel Peanut Bar

The Spiced Caramel Peanut Bar was an updated version of last year’s Salt & Pepper Caramel Peanut Bar, which I liked for its salted peanut/dark chocolate combo and the added spark of ground pepper. This time Panache used Columbian and Belgian dark chocolate to cover caramel and spiced peanuts. The bar was drizzled with dark chocolate and sprinkled with crushed peanuts so it smelled like peanuts first. The bar was full of good tasting chewy caramel and lots of peanuts. The couverture was a good tasting chocolate and the bar had the nice perk of a little heat from the spices. It was an excellent candy bar, like a riff on Snickers bars.

Panache Chocolatier’s Spiced Caramel Peanut Bar won Silver for Best Flavored Chocolate Bar; Bronze for Best Ingredient Combinations; and Honorable Mentions for Best Taste, Best Texture, and Best Chocolate Bar. It received 4 stars.

(Panache’s Belgian Chocolate Cookie Bar was another Speculoos themed bar  — along with hazelnut, this seemed to be the year’s trendy flavor. It was a milk chocolate bar filled with spiced cookie butter and topped with crushed Belgian cookies. It was messy — those cookie crumbs! — and too sweet for me. It tasted like cinnamon graham crackers and milk chocolate, so it was a nostalgic taste but not special enough to get my highest ratings. It won Honorable Mention for Best Flavored Chocolate Bar and received 3.5 stars.)

Panache Chocolatier’s website is still under construction, so you have to call or visit them in person if you want to order something.

Above average

Along with the bars that earned my highest rating, there were others I rated just one rung below.

Treat Dreams

Treat Dreams Toffee Crunch bar
Treat Dreams’ Toffee Crunch Bar

Our fav vegan chocolatier, Treat Dreams, Sydney, AU, submitted 3 entries this time, a dark, a “milk,” and a white chocolate bar. The first 2 I rated above average and the third was a worthy competitor.

The Toffee Crunch had toffee pieces and sea salt in dark chocolate. The toffee mainly provided texture, not flavor, and made the bar very crunchy with a crystallized sugar texture. The chocolate was a little bitter but not unexpected for a dark. Salt came last and spread along with the dark chocolate flavor. A nice well made bar using quality ingredients.

Treat Dreams’ Toffee Crunch Bar won Honorable Mentions for Best Texture and Best Dark Chocolate Bar. It received 3.5 stars.

Feeling Snacky’s backside
Feeling Snacky’s backside

The Feeling Snacky had pretzel pieces and caramel popcorn scattered throughout the milk chocolate bar. I’m not a fan of pretzels, but they were pretty understated in this bar, providing a little hit of salt first before the caramel popcorn and chocolate flavors took over. I though it was an excellent vegan milk chocolate.

Treat Dreams’ Feeling Snacky Bar won an Honorable Mention for Most Unique. It received 3.5 stars.

The third bar, the Ispahan, contained lychee, raspberry, rose and toasted almonds in white chocolate. It was an attractive pink color and tasted mostly of raspberries and crunchy almonds. I didn’t taste the rose in it, so yea! But it was too sweet for me, so I only rated it average.

Treat Dreams’ Ispahan Bar won Gold for Most Unique. It received 3 stars.

A 100% vegan chocolatier, Treat Dreams makes vegan bars and filled molded chocolates. They do not currently ship outside Australia, but there is one retailer who does sell their chocolate worldwide (limited offerings). Check the Treat Dreams FAQ page for the link.

Moser Roth Privat Chocolatiers

Moser Roth open pack
Moser Roth open pack shows the individually wrapped snack size bars

Veteran TasteTV competitor, Moser Roth Privat Chocolatiers, the German chocolate maker that supplies Aldi supermarkets with good value chocolate bars, submitted a bar they have entered before. And it tasted the same as I remember.

The Milk Extra Creamy bar is actually 5 bars of the same flavor. Moser Roth manufactures snack sized bars that it lines up 5 at a time in one big pack — kind of like the two kids in a trench coat meme. It looks like it’s one big bar, but opening it reveals 5 smaller foil covered bars.

The chocolate is good milk chocolate with a smooth texture. It’s a milky tasting milk chocolate and not too sweet — as opposed to a lot of American milk chocolate which has a higher sugar to milk solids ratio. If you like classic German milk chocolate, this bar is a good deal.

Moser Roth’s Milk Chocolate Bar won Gold for Best Milk Chocolate Bar. It received 3 stars.

You can find Moser Roth bars at Aldi supermarkets and on Amazon.

Aldi Choceur

The other Aldi brand we see in these competitions, Choceur, is a Polish candy maker. We tried their Creamy Milk chocolate bar in last year’s bar competition. For supermarket chocolate, it was pretty good: smooth, sweet, and extremely balanced, if not a little bland. (For the record, I prefer the Aldi Moser Roth milk chocolate.) This time they submitted 2 filled bars, one I liked; the other I didn’t like its inclusion.

Choceur Coconut Macaroon bar
Choceur’s Coconut Macaroon bar

The one I liked, the Coconut Macaroon filled Belgian Milk Chocolate bar, smelled coconutty and had an immediate coconut flavor. The filling had a little coconut texture, and it was covered in a good smooth milk chocolate. The bar was sweeter than the Moser Roth bar but tasted milky and coconut enough that I still rated it above average.

Choceur’s Coconut Macaroon filled Belgian Milk Chocolate Bar won Silver for Best Milk Chocolate Bar. It received 3 stars.

(Their other entry, the Burnt Caramel Sea Salt filled Belgian Milk Chocolate bar was made similarly, and it had a good chocolate to caramel ratio and the same milk chocolate, but I didn’t like the burnt caramel flavor.)

You can find the Choceur line at Aldi supermarkets and on Amazon.

Ratza Chocolate

Ratza Chocolate, Tarpon Springs, FL, submitted 3 bars in last year’s comp, but I didn’t care for them. They were on the bitter side and the inclusions didn’t do it for me. They submitted 3 different bars this time, only one with inclusions, with improved results.

Ratza bar unwrapped
Ratza bar unwrapped

The one with inclusions didn’t make my cut, I didn’t have a problem with the taste of the inclusions this time — dried pineapple and coconut — but the chocolate wasn’t tasty. It was more bitter than I expected for a 65% and savory which clashed with the pineapple. It also had a powdery drying sensation.

It did very well in the competition though, winning Gold for Best Flavored Chocolate Bar; Bronze for Best Ingredient Combinations; and Honorable Mentions for Best Dark Chocolate Bar and Best Chocolate Bar. It received 3 stars.

Ratza Bolivia bar
Ratza’s Bolivian cacao bar

I think the big problem I’ve had with their chocolate is the cacao they use. Most of their bars use cacao from Moho Valley in Belize, and those bars were all bitter with that drying sensation. I gave their Just Dark 80% cacao an average rating, even though it used beans from the same place, because you expect an 80% chocolate to be bitter. It was a savory chocolate but it had some fruit undertones, and I thought it was good for an 80%.

Ratza Chocolate’s Just Dark Belize won Gold for Best Dark Chocolate Bar; and an Honorable Mention for Best Chocolate Bar. It received 4 stars.

I liked the third bar they submitted best, and I think it was because they used different beans. The Bolivia Wild Harvest Tranquilidad 80% smelled more chocolatey with licorice and fig overtones  initially, then berries before turning savory. It wasn’t bitter (and it was 80%!) and had a smoother texture than the other 2. I rated it above average.

Ratza Chocolate’s Bolivia Wild Harvest Tranquilidad 80% Dark won Silver for Best Dark Chocolate Bar; and Honorable Mentions for Best Taste and Best Chocolate Bar. It received 4 stars.

You can buy Ratza Chocolate online and at some shops around FL. Check their website for locations.

Choco Punto By Mabel

Another bean to bar maker, Choco Punto By Mabel, Dominican Republic, makes bars using local cacao. A first time competitor, they submitted 3 higher percentage bars (including a 100%) in the vegan competition, but I didn’t like any of them. They submitted 2 in this comp, and I liked one of them. I’m not sure how long they have been making chocolate, but I was encouraged that they managed to make an above average bar this time around.

Choco Punto 62% bar
Choco Punto’s 62% bar

We started this tasting with the lower percentage bar. Choco Punto’s 55% cacao bar had a soft snap  and slightly grainy texture. It started out tasting fermented but got weirder, with a chemical overtone that I compared to the taste of water from a garden hose. That’s not the bar I’m recommending.

The 62% had a harder snap and tasted much better than the 55%. It was mostly nutty, a little fermented, with licorice and floral overtones. It was unique and the best bar of all the ones they submitted.

Choco Punto’s 62% Dominican Republic won Bronze for Best Dark Chocolate Bar. Both the 62% and 55% received 3 stars.

Choco Punto has an online store, but it looks like they only ship within the Dominican Republic.

Mid-range

Finally there were a few bars I thought were good enough to share, even if I didn’t give them my highest ratings.

Beth’s Chocolate

Return competitor, Beth’s Chocolate, Newton, MA, submitted a pretty, peppery dark chocolate bar that had a lot going for it but ultimately the pepper was too much.

Beth’s Salt n Pepper bar
Beth’s Salt ‘n’ Pepper bar

Beth’s Salt ‘n’ Pepper Bar put single origin Madagascar chocolate in a pretty shifting hexagons 3-d mold, then added pink, black, and red pepper, and fleur de sel. The bar had a good snap, but it took a long time to melt and the whole peppercorns were unpleasant rolling around in my mouth. Biting them proved to not be a good idea: The bar became too peppery. The chocolate was good, it just didn’t need so much pepper, so I rated it average.

(I would suggest Beth’s Chocolate look into what flying noir did with a whole peppercorn in a truffle in their poetry & prose collection this year. It was soft, so it still had a peppery taste, but it wasn’t an unpleasant texture and the heat came on slowly.)

Beth’s Chocolate Salt ‘n’ Pepper Bar won Honorable Mentions for Best Flavored Chocolate Bar and Best Chocolate Bar. It received 3.5 stars.

You can order Beth’s Chocolate bars, barks, bonbons, and hot chocolate online (although not during summer months). She also offers chocolate making classes. Visit the website for more info.

Delysia Chocolatier

Competition veteran, Delysia ChocolatierAustin, TX, submitted 3 barks: Campfire Spiced Muffin, Champurrado, and Caffeinated Brown Butter Toffee. They also entered the Campfire Spiced Muffin in the white chocolate comp this year where it made my cutoff. The Champurrado was entered in the vegan comp, and while it used the same ingredients as their Atole truffle which I rated highly, it didn’t translate well into a bark and didn’t make my cutoff.

Delysia’s Caffeinated Brown Butter Toffee Bark
Delysia’s Caffeinated Brown Butter Toffee Bark

The new bark in this competition, the Caffeinated Brown Butter Toffee Bark, used gold chocolate with coffee beans, coconut, cinnamon, and toffee bits. Cinnamon was the strongest taste. It had a small crunch from ground coffee but not a coffee taste until the end. The texture changed at the end too with the shredded coconut coming through. My only complaint is that the bark was too sweet for a higher rating.

Delysia Chocolatier’s Caffeinated Brown Butter Toffee Bark won Gold for Best Flavored Chocolate Bar; Silver for Best Taste; and an Honorable Mention for Best Chocolate Bar. It received 4 stars.

Delysia chocolates are currently only available online and for curbside pickup at their shop in Austin, while the shop is closed due to COVID.

Oro de Cacao AG

Veteran competitor, Dieter Meier, a Swiss chocolate maker, submitted 3 single origin bars from his Oro de Cacao AG line. Dieter Meier makes raw chocolate using a cold extraction process that helps counter the downsides of raw chocolate. I do find his chocolate better than most raw chocolate I’ve had — it tastes better and has a smooth texture like traditional roasted chocolate — but I still prefer the flavor of roasted chocolate.

Oro de Cacao line
Oro de Cacao lineup

Of the 3 entries, I thought 2 were alright in spite of some downsides. The 60% milk chocolate from Ghana had a dusty, non chocolate smell. Like all Oro de Cacao bars, it was thin with a good snap. The flavor was nutty, savory, and not very chocolatey tasting, and I experienced a drying sensation in my mouth as it melted.

The other Oro de Cacao bar I liked was the 80% dark chocolate from the Dominican Republic. Like the 60%, it was a snappy bar but had a more chocolatey taste (although it still had savory and nutty overtones). It wasn’t very bitter for an 80% but it was extremely drying.

The Oro de Cacao AG 60% Milk Chocolate Single Origin Ghana won Silver for Best Milk Chocolate Bar. It received 3 stars.

The Oro de Cacao AG 78% Dark Chocolate Single Origin Peru won Bronze for Best Dark Chocolate Bar. It received 3 stars.

The Oro de Cacao AG 80% Dark Chocolate Single Origin Dominican Republic won an Honorable Mention for Best Dark Chocolate Bar. It received 3 stars.

Unfortunately, Dieter Meier chocolate is not available in the U.S., only in Switzerland.

Peter Who?

Peter Who? slogan

Peter Who?is a new Swiss bean to bar chocolate maker, who submitted their first and so far only bar to this competition and the vegan chocolate comp. Trying the Vegan Salted Caramel bar again for this competition, it didn’t seem as bitter as my first encounter with it, but that didn’t change my rating of it.

Peter Who? Vegan Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate won Bronze for Best Flavored Chocolate Bar; and Honorable Mentions for Best Dark Chocolate Bar and Best Chocolate Bar. It received 4 stars.

Peter Who? bars are only available online, and right now they have a special where you can get a substantial discount on their 4 or 6 bar packs.

Visit the 2022 Chocolate Bar Awards page to see the full list of winners. I didn’t receive all the entries in the chocolate bar competition, so there are probably more worthy bars in that list than I covered here.

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Published June 27, 2022

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