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July 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

Walgreen’s Australian Licorice (Chocolate Covered)

Walgreen's Chocolate Covered LicoriceSometimes house brands can be a little mystifying, but this one really caught my eye. Walgreen’s Candy Classics Australian Traditional Black Licorice Smothered in Real Milk Chocolate.

The matte beige & powder blue wrapper does give it that classic look, though the mylar/plastic packaging made it feel modern (as did the presence of a web address on the back of the package).

It also comes in a raspberry licorice version, which I also bought but was disappointed to find it crumbled to bits (so I’m not reviewing it now).

Walgreen's Chocolate Covered Licorice

The bar is attractive and looks like it could easily be an unsalted pretzel rod covered in milk chocolate.

It smells nice, a bit like anise and chocolate cake.

The bite is soft, the chocolate barely flakes, which is a great relief after the red licorice catastrophe.

The licorice at the center is quite soft and has a strong molasses flavor - the chew is almost jelly like, but has the satisfying rib-sticking of a wheat-based confection. The anise and licorice notes are rather mild and more of a generic spice cookie feel. The chocolate is sweet, not terribly chocolatey but seems to seal in all the flavors well.

It’s nice to see an Aussie licorice being sold at American candy prices. It was a nice change up from Twizzlers, Good & Plenty or Crows, which are really the only plain licorice products sold in single serve packages any longer.

My big hesitations are why they put artificial colors in a chocolate covered item. But my guess is that this licorice is available bald.

Aussie readers, do you recognize this bar? (I was thinking it was RJs but those aren’t real chocolate.)

I’m eager to try the raspberry again and see what else Walgreen’s is going to put in their Candy Classics brand.

Note: The calories made no sense on this package. 220 calories for 1.4 ounces is insane for a chocolate covered licorice. It says 2.5 grams of fat, 22 grams of carbs and 2 grams of protein (that makes 120 calories or so) ... I can’t figure where the rest of the calories are coming from. The ingredients are Sugar, Treacle, Wheat Flour, Molasses, Chocolate, Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, Licorice Extract and then a bunch of less than 2% things.

Related Candies

  1. Trader Joe’s Chocolate Covered Gingersnaps
  2. Kookaburra Choc Coated Liquorice
  3. Darrell Lea Licorice & Ginger
  4. Kookaburra Licorice
  5. Panda Bars
Name: Traditional Black Liquorice Smothered in Real Milk Chocolate
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Walgreen's
Place Purchased: Walgreen's (Echo Park)
Price: $.69
Size: 1.4 ounces
Calories per ounce: bizarre
Categories: Chocolate, Licorice, Australia, Walgreen's

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:28 pm     Comments (24)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Starbucks Caramel Macchiato (Discontinued)

Starbucks Caramel Macchiato TrufflesStarbucks Chocolate is a study in short attention spans.

It was launched barely more than a year ago with little promotion to support it, no website (just a page on the Starbucks site) and a baffling retail plan where it was sold everywhere except Starbucks.

The line included coffee & tea infused chocolate bars, tasting squares and truffles. The packaging echoed Starbucks strong image, was all natural and made no direct mention of Hershey’s as the manufacturer. For Christmas special flavors were created that echoed the seasonal coffee drinks. However, the new brand was a tad on the expensive side and entered the mass-manufactured upscale chocolate market just terms like staycation entered the vernacular.

So last week as Hershey’s announced huge second quarter profits, it also formally announced that they were discontinuing the Starbucks Chocolate line.

CNN Money summed it up pretty well:

But that new line was badly timed because the economy started slowing soon after. Consumers slashed spending last year and early this year, turning away from most extravagances, including pricey chocolate. “The timing of the launch of the Starbucks proposition, frankly, we just missed the window,” said Hershey Chief Executive David West during a Thursday conference call. “Our partner obviously had some other business challenges and the consumer at that price point wasn’t sustainable.”

Added to that happy news about their profits (which were the result of cutting manufacturing costs by closing factories in the US, moving to a Mexican facility, raising prices and using cheaper ingredients), Hershey’s also formalized the discontinuation of Cacao Reserve, Hershey’s own branded high end chocolate line. (Hershey’s also closed Joseph Schmidt, a chocolatier line based out of San Francisco earlier this year and moved all production for Scharffen Berger to Illinois.)

Starbuck's MacchiatoWith this news, I grabbed the last Starbucks product in their line that I hadn’t reviewed yet (and as illustrations for this little death knell post).

The Caramel Macchiato Truffles come in a nicely packaged pair at the ghastly price of $1.39 at the drug store. Honestly, if this sort of truffle pair was available at an actual Starbucks to accompany my plain coffee, I might have gone for it more regularly. With the “startling news” that coffee drinks contain huge amounts of calories which cause cancer, a simple cup of coffee with cream and two truffles would actually be a smaller indulgence than an actual Caramel Macchiato.

I’ve never had a Macchiato (I’ve never actually had anything fancier than a latte or mocha in all my years), so I can’t comment on how well it mimics the frothy creation described thusly by Starbucks:

A signature Starbucks(r) beverage. A creamy mix of vanilla and freshly steamed milk marked with intense Starbucks(r) espresso, topped with velvety foam and our own proprietary buttery caramel sauce.

The milk chocolate shell is nicely molded. It holds a fudgy, smooth cream that tastes a bit like a mocha cheesecake. Sweet, a little tangy with a light coffee taste and maybe, just maybe a hint of toffee (caramel).

It was pretty sweet but with coffee it works ... though the actual coffee overpowers the not-much-coffee-taste.

In the end, I don’t think it was bad timing that sunk this line. I think it was bad merchandising - it should have been available at actual Starbucks. And a year is far too little to decide the success of a new line of chocolate. My view is that Hershey’s is uninterested in building brand loyalty through quality.

The only thing that makes sense about this is the statement on the side of the box:

Starbucks is committed to purchasing cocoa and coffee that are grown and traded in an ethical, transparent and sustainable manner.

To learn more about our cocoa-purchasing practices, please visit us at www.starbucks.com/cocoa

Watching Cadbury & Mars move more and more towards ethically traded and sustainably grown & harvested cacao, I’m not seeing much for Hershey’s except from their Daboga arm. I can see where this Starbucks line is just a liability for profits. Hershey’s has shown itself to be more concerned with profits (and high profits, not just tidy ones) than the quality of its products and place within the economies it locates itself.

Related Candies

  1. Hershey’s announces closing of Joseph Schmidt & Scharffen Berger Bay Area Facilities
  2. Starbucks Chocolate: Eggnog Latte Truffles
  3. Rising Cost of Candy - A Brief Study of Hershey Prices
  4. Starbucks Truffles
  5. Starbucks Chocolate
Name: Starbucks Caramel Macchiato Truffles
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Starbucks (and Hershey's)
Place Purchased: Walgreen's (Echo Park)
Price: $1.29
Size: .84 ounces
Calories per ounce: 150
Categories: Chocolate, Coffee, United States, Hershey's, All Natural, Kosher, Discontinued

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:43 am     Comments (5)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hershey’s Special Dark with Almonds

Hershey's Special Dark with AlmondsHershey’s has been pushing its Special Dark line, promoting the products as a Natural Source of Antioxidants | Flavanol Antioxidants.

The new Hershey’s Special Dark with Almonds joins Hershey’s standard Special Dark bar as the companion with nuts.

Hershey’s dark chocolate isn’t daringly dark, it’s just 45% cacao content, which these days isn’t even as chocolatey as some milk chocolates. It’s nice to finally have the option of a dark bar with almonds at the convenience mart or drug store ... though it’s a little late to enter the game as Dove beat them there and even Lindt, Ritter and Ghirardelli are available pretty widely now.

Hershey's Special Dark with Almonds

The bar is lovely, it’s molded just like the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds bar. 

It’s not a huge bar, but still a nice portion, clocking in at 1.45 ounces and 190 calories if you’re counting.

Ingredients: Sugar, chocolate, almonds (roasted in cocoa butter and/or sunflower oil), cocoa butter, cocoa processed with alkali, milkfat, lactose, soy lecithin, PGPR, vanillin and milk.

Hershey's Special Dark with AlmondsAs almonds were a little lower on the list or ingredients than I expected, I counted them. 10 whole almonds. Not bad. (Though they’re about the size of peanuts.)

My first reaction is that it’s sweet. My second reaction is that it tastes like cocoa. The almonds have a good crunch and were fresh. Because of the almonds, for the most part I chewed the bar instead of letting it just melt on my tongue. But for the purposes of this review I found some pieces without almonds just for tasting the chocolate.

It’s sugary and a bit grainy, there’s a distinct chalkiness that isn’t that “this is really dark chocolate dryness” instead it’s more like the chocolate’s not fully combined with the sugar. The cocoa butter isn’t really supporting the chocolate, it’s standing next to it so everything just kind of falls apart.

It’s not terrible, but it’s like eating a bunch of chocolate chips. Chocolate chips are meant to stand up to baking and are almost always used in combination with other elements. Here the almonds just can’t cover up the lackluster flavors & texture.

If you’re desperate for a non-milk chocolate bar (that actually has milk products in it) and nothing else is around, this is certainly more palatable than the straight Special Dark. I found it filling, but not satisfying.

Related Candies

  1. Hershey’s Almond Joy Pieces
  2. Hershey’s Special Dark Miniatures
  3. Hershey’s Miniatures
  4. Dove Promises (Caramel & Almonds)
  5. Endangered Species Halloween Treats
  6. Equal Exchange Miniatures
  7. See’s Awesome Nut & Chew Bar
Name: Hershey's Special Dark with Almonds
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Hershey's
Place Purchased: Walgreen's (Echo Park)
Price: $.69
Size: 1.45 ounces
Calories per ounce: 131
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, United States, Hershey's, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:36 am     Comments (2)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Storck Toffifay

ToffifayIn 1973 Toffifee was introduced in [then West] Germany. The candy was unlike anything else on the mass-produced market and capitalized on Germany’s fondness for hazelnut and chocolate. The candy was such a huge success in Europe, it was introduced in North America as Toffifay in the late 1970s with a large marketing campaign that still sticks in my head.

The tagline “Toffifay, it’s too good for kids” is gone but the rest of their description of the candy and marketing line of All Your Favorites in One are still used.

Though I doubt this is actually how they make them, this is what they say: We spin chewy caramel into a little cup, drop in a whole hazelnut, cover it in chocolate hazelnut filling and top it with a drop of delicious chocolate.

The international Toffifee website lists the components with precision:

  • 41% Caramel
  • 37% Nougat
  • 12% Chocolate
  • 10% Hazelnut
  • I loved Toffifay when it was first introduced, though in my penny pinching days of college/grad school I could scarcely afford oatmeal & eggs and wasn’t about to pay candy bar prices for something half the weight.

    Then when I did start working regularly I found the partially hydrogenated oil content to be a little disturbing. So I was happy to see that the ingredients have now shifted to naturally bad for you tropical oils like palm. The individual serving four-pack is pretty hard to find, but I picked up the 15 piece tray at the local KMart. Even though the expiry was nigh (August 31, 2009) they looked pristine & glossy.

    Toffifay

    There are a few ways to eat the candy: I usually bite it in half, as I have a well-documented fascination with what bisected confections look like and of course my own tooth prints.

    But sometimes I like to scrape the chocolate disk off and then attempt to peel the caramel cup apart to have a really intense hazelnut & buttery choco experience.

    ToffifayThey smell quite divine - a little buttery and a lot hazelnutty. The little chocolate disc is mediocre chocolate. It’s very sweet and a little grainy, but holds its own against the even sweeter hazelnut paste inside the cup. Of course what gives the candy its true punch is the whole hazelnut at the core. The caramel cup is a cross between the flavor of a good caramel (nice salty mix of toasted sugar and butter) and the soft & yielding chew of a Kraft caramel.

    The combination of textures, sugar & fat work extremely well for me. I think the packaging is excessive (a plastic tray inside a paperboard tray sealed in cellophane inside a paperboard sleeve) but then again it was fresh and unmarred. Sometimes the little cups satisfy me in a way that few other candies can. But I’m always hesitant to pick them up simply because they’re over $25 a pound and when I think about what sort of candy I can get for that price, I usually hold out for the higher quality stuff.

    I’ve always found it a bit odd that no other versions of Toffifay ever emerged. No Marzipan, no Peanut Butter, No Caramel Macchiato, no Rum Raisin.

    Lance at Candy Addict declared them Awesomely Addictive and Esquire magazine actually gives them an endorsement (though the text indicates it’s against their better judgment), Candy Monster pronounces them Freakin’ Adorable and Rosa of ZOMG Candy eats hers by placing the chocolate side on her tongue.

    Related Candies

    1. Werther’s Original Caramel Dreams
    2. Fling: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate & Hazelnut
    3. Reese Hazelnut Creme
    4. Werther’s Original Chewy Caramels
    5. Storck Chocolate Riesen
    6. Lake Champlain Hazelnut Eggs
    7. Kinder Bueno
    Name: Toffifay (Toffifee)http://www.storck.us
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Storck
    Place Purchased: KMart (Park LaBrea)
    Price: $2.49
    Size: 4.3 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 145
    Categories: Chocolate, Caramel, Nuts, Germany, Storck

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:12 am     Comments (36)

    Monday, July 27, 2009

    See’s Lollypops

    imageI popped into See’s yesterday to see what was new for the summer. The Root Beer Lollipops are back in stock (through mid-August), so if you were a fan of those (mini review here), then pop by for your fix.

    I realized that I’ve never reviewed the See’s Lollipops in their classic array. The nice thing about them is that they’re summer-proof but also that they’re pretty cheap.

    On top of that, they’re creamy and satisfying, last really long but only 70 calories each. They come in four regular flavors that are available singly (don’t forget your free sample!) or by the box: Vanilla, Chocolate, Butterscotch & Cafe Latte.

    Vanilla See's LollipopVanilla Lollipop

    Vanilla looks like a block of nothing. The color is a creamy white, the texture & tint of glossy trim paint.

    It smells sweet and vaguely like French vanilla ice cream. The flavor is like a toasted marshmallow - a sweet vanilla with a little hint of bourbon and butter.

    It’s a smooth pop with a slightly oily dissolve, which only supports that feeling that I’m eating solid ice cream. It’s sweet, but doesn’t feel cloying or sticky. The pop lasts a long time, too.

    Rating: 7 out of 10

    Chocolate See's LollipopChocolate Lollipop

    The chocolate pop doesn’t look like much. It’s not quite shiny ... it’s not really matte either.

    It smells like brownie batter.

    The texture starts smooth but quickly degrades to an oddly rich but chalky experience. It’s like the mud at the bottom of the cup of hot chocolate. Not that I don’t love that mud, but in this case the texture is rather rough like a cat tongue. 

    It’s rich, and does deliver quite a bit of the chocolatey experience without melting. But the chalky/sand paper never quite thrills me.

    Rating: 6 out of 10

    Butterscotch See's LollipopButterscotch Lollipop

    The color is lovely, like a rich caramel.

    The immediate flavor on my tongue was salt. It was very salty to me, but perhaps that was because I was eating the vanilla one right before that.

    The texture is ultra smooth, and has the same creamy & buttery melt. The caramelized sugar notes were good but the strongest flavor by far was salty butter.

    I liked how smooth the block is, though this is one that I noticed how awkward the pops are in the mouth. It takes a while to smooth away the corners. Over the years this has been my favorite pop mostly because of its simple & true flavor but also the super-slick texture.

    Rating: 8 out of 10

    Cafe Latte See's LollipopCafe Latte Lollipop

    This was the “softest” pop of the bunch. It was a little sticky from the humidity, which gave it a caramel consistency on the outermost layer.

    The scent is like dark roast coffee or espresso, but the flavor is like coffee with lots of milk and some sugar in it. There’s a slight coffee bitterness to it, but for the most part it’s like a Coffee Nip with a stick in it.

    I appreciated the silky texture and the stick prevented me from gluing my teeth shut as I often do with Nips or Coffee Rio.

    Rating: 7 out of 10

    A mixed box is a great addition to a vacation when you need a little pick me up, or something to keep you occupied at the office when wrangling endless spreadsheets of metadata.

    Related Candies

    1. Das Lollipops
    2. See’s Cinnamon (Hearts & Lollypops)
    3. Coffee Rio
    4. See’s Pumpkin Spice & Root Beer Lollypops
    5. Coffee Nips
    6. Tootsie Rolls & Fruit Rolls
    7. See’s Scotchmallow Eggs
    8. See’s Awesome Nut & Chew Bar
    Name: Lollypops: Vanilla, Chocolate, Butterscotch & Cafe Latte
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: See's Candies
    Place Purchased: See's (Fashion Square - Sherman Oaks)
    Price: $.65
    Size: .7 ounces each
    Calories per ounce: 100 (70 each)
    Categories: Hard Candy, Caramel, Coffee, United States, See's, Kosher

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:31 am     Comments (11)

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