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4-Benign

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bubu Lubu

Bubu LubuI picked this bar up at Target. They’re not available at all Target stores, in fact, the only one I see them at is the Target in Harbor City here in the Los Angeles area. I think it’s cool that Target has regionally relevant offerings and while this isn’t exactly a local product, I’m sure the folks who requested it and buy it are happy to have a taste of home.

Bubu Lubu is a Mexican candy from Ricolino. It’s described on the package (in English and Spanish) as strawberry flavored jelly and marshmallow with chocolate flavored coating. I know, I know, why am I buying a mockolate product? How could I not! Look at that metallic blue wrapper, the white marshmallow character with the spiky Lisa Simpson hair and strawberry-flavored scarf & gloves! And the name, people, just say that name out loud a few times.

They don’t say so on the package, but many folks enjoy Bubu Lubu frozen. (I don’t happen to care for cold candy, but that’s just me, so I ate mine room temperature.)

Bubu Lubu

Even the shape of the bar is fun, with its little curves.

Inside, it’s pretty obvious how it lives up to the description. A white marshmallow base with a stripe of fruity red jelly and then covered in a crackly mockolate coating.

The strawberry jelly is tart and smooth but overwhelms any delicate vanilla flavors the marshmallow may have. The marshmallow is bouncing and lightly foamy, kind of like a meringue. The jelly creates a bit of a grainy coating, especially when it comes into contact with the mockolate, so it’s yet another texture. The mockolate, well, it’s kind of waxy and only vaguely cocoa flavored. I consider it the edible container for the jelly & marshmallow, not a full participant in this confection.

The bar is rather light, even though it looks pretty big it only weighs in at 1.23 ounces (35 grams).

Since there’s really nothing else like this in the American candy bar world, I think it’s great that this is finding its way onto American shelves. Not really a bar for me, the strawberry isn’t authentically jammy enough. But hey, it was 50 cents, so it’s not like I can expect something extraordinary. If you’re watching your calories, the fact that there’s no chocolate in there and all that marshmallow & jelly means that it rings in at a modest 126 calories.

This actually isn’t the first time I’ve bought Bubu Lubu, but this was the best looking bar I’ve had so far. I’m not sure if I’m not getting them fresh, or this is just the way that they always look. I’m not sure I’d ever find this combination, even factory-fresh with top notch ingredients excellent, but I’m sure that there are many fans of the bar.

Other views of Bubu Lubu: a review atMexico or Bust, this photo shows what the full character looks like, Candy Addict review and some Bubu Lubu love & nostalgia.

Related Candies

  1. Marshmallow Pig
  2. Joyva Joys
  3. Littlejohn Caramel Marshmallows
  4. Fry’s Turkish Delight
Name: Bubu Lubu
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Ricolino
Place Purchased: Target (Harbor City)
Price: $.50
Size: 1.23 ounces
Calories per ounce: 102
Categories: Mockolate, Jelly, Marshmallow, Mexico

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:42 am     Comments (19)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Four 99%-100% Chocolate

99-100% Chocolate BarsBefore I took on this challenge of the all-chocolate chocolate bars, I did take a test to find out if I’m a “supertaster”. People are divided into three categories: nontasters, regular tasters and supertasters.

Our tongues can detect five tastes: sweet, salt, bitter, sour & umami (savory). Nontasters (about 25% of the population) tend to enjoy more intensely flavor things such as super sours and liberally salted products, enjoy fatty & sweet foods while regular tasters (50%) shy away from intensity but sample liberally from all the major tastes & textures equally. Supertasters (25%) dislike stronger bitter & sour things and even high fat content foods. There are all sorts of scientific studies about evolution and how each of these types can be beneficial or detrimental to your ultimate longevity ... or enjoyment of that long life.

Although I have a very keen sense of smell, I am a regular taster. (I like coffee, super sours, broccoli & used to drink pickle juice - though I really like chocolate & cheese, I’m not that keen on other types of fatty foods.) So I figured I might be a good candidate for appreciating the more authentic tastes of the purest chocolate.

Dagoba Prima MateriaDagoba makes one of the few 100% chocolate bars and the only one that I could find that was organic. It’s called Prima Materia which means, literally, prime matter. It’s usually used to refer to alchemical ideas about the base matter that makes up the universe, that all matter can be changed back into and then reformed. Kind of like stem cells are for living creatures.

In this case, this is the essential chocolate - just beans from Madagascar, ground up and made into a bar.

At only $2.75 retail, it was about the same price as a baking bar (though smaller of course). I got this one as a sample at the Fancy Food Show in January.

Dagoba Prima Materia

The Prima Materia is a dark looking bar, nicely glossy with a solid snap.

The melt on this was a little sticky, I can’t really explain it. Whatever it is, it’s not terribly dry. The melt lets the flavors come out slowly. I taste a bit of cherries and raspberry at the very start, but once it melts a bit more it’s all about the dark mulch of the forest floor.

There’s a light yeasty note in there that reminds me of dark beer. The bitterness is noticeable, but not enough to keep me from eating more pieces. By far this is the most edible of the bars I tried. I wouldn’t say that I’ll be eating a lot of it, but with some almonds or cashews nearby, it’s an acceptable form of entertainment for a while.

It really doesn’t take much to satisfy my chocolate craving either. (Of course then I start craving something else, like a glass of water & some sweet caramels.)

2 ounces - 185 calories per ounce - Kosher
Rating: 5 out of 10

Ghirardelli 100% CacaoAfter Christmas this bar, Ghirardelli 100% Cacao Unsweetened Chocolate, was on sale for only $1.25, and found in with the baking products, I thought I’d throw it into the mix as a way to see if I was just being overly picky about what eating chocolate is in the first place (besides a fancy way to charge two or three times as much as chocolate chips).

The wrapper is very simple, but still quite compelling. The bar is large and flat, a little larger than the regular bars in the candy aisle, in this case it’s 4 ounces instead of 3.17 of the current Intense Dark line.

Ghirardelli 100% Cacao

To their credit, Ghirardelli is clear that this is a baking bar. So this is an off-label application of the confection.

As lovely as it was, and it is a lovely bar, nicely tempered, perhaps a bit stiff but a deep red-brown, they are correct in not promoting this as an eating bar.

The smell was quite woodsy, like cedar and a bit grassy. It tastes like olives and asparagus. Bitter, moisture-sucking, mulchy and green.

Looking at the nutrition label it’s easy to see why this is so chalky, it has less fat than the Prima Materia, a whopping 40 calories per ounce less fat. (Have i mentioned lately that I love cacao fat ... sometimes I wonder what it’d be like if donuts were made by frying them in cocoa butter.)

4 ounces - 145 calories per ounce - Kosher
Rating: 4 out of 10

Meiji 99% CacaoMeiji Chocolate Kolika Caca 99% Ita has a very short, but less “pure” list of ingredients: cacao, cocoa powder, soy lecithin & artificial flavor. (I’m guessing that’s vanillin.)

Meiji is a good consumer brand in Japan. They make all sorts of candy, not just chocolate products. (My favorites are their Gummy Choco and Chelsea.)

It’s a pretty bar with 15 nicely shaped scored pieces. The package is also good, an easy to open paperboard box that fits back together pretty well to hold the leftovers (and there’s gonna be leftovers, who eats the whole thing?). I was encouraged that it had a pretty high fat content, too.

Meiji 99% Cacao

The bar wasn’t expensive ($1.99), which is probably a pretty good indication of what I should expect for a chocolate without any sugar. The scent is of the dark roasted cocoa flavors, a bit of charcoal. There’s a very abrupt high-note of the vanilla flavoring in there as well.

On the tongue it melts pretty nicely, but it’s quite bitter and dry. Keeping it further back on the tongue seems to help to recognize the other flavors that included a bit of a yeasty note of baking bread, wood smoke and burnt sugar.

I should note, in case you haven’t noticed so far, these are not low-calorie bars. In fact, this “sugarless chocolate” is some of the highest caloric density reviews I’ve ever done. (It’s the cocoa butter.)

But note that chocolate has a good amount of iron (10%), and about 3 grams of protein per ounce and 4 grams of fiber per ounce. That doesn’t even go into the positive effects that all those antioxidants have for your heart and circulatory system.

1.58 ounces - 161 calories per ounce (contains soy lecithin & artificial flavors)
Rating: 3 out of 10

Chocolat Bonnat 100%My passion for this bar can hardly be contained. The happiest part of this whole experience is that I know that once I’m done writing this, I don’t have to eat this bar any longer.

I was so excited when I bought the Chocolat Bonnat 100% Cacao. I’ve never had Bonnat before, the only experience I have with it is reading this exhaustive series at DallasFood.org about Noka and seeing the bars at several upscale stores. At $8 a bar (granted it is a big bar at 100 grams), I was hoping for some sort of miracle. I’ve come to realize there’s a reason that chocolate with sugar is so widely available ... it’s just better that way.

The wrapper, I admit, is lovely. The regular Bonnat bars have white wrappers with similar lettering, but the 100% gets the special brick red treatment, which should be a good indication that you should stop and think about it. 100% Cacao. No sugar, not even lecithin or vanilla. Stop. Hazard. Danger.

Chocolat Bonnat 100%

The bar was wonderfully tempered. (As wonderfully tempered as I was ill tempered when I was done.)

When I first unwrapped it, it smelled strongly of green olives. Later when I tasted it, I kept getting the strong, puckering flavor of green olives, grassy matcha and artichokes. These are all good things as far as vegetables go, but I don’t like them together and I don’t like them as the primary notes in my chocolate.

Here’s the thing, I hear my flavors. Well, not quite hear ... they have wavelengths in my head (and kind of colors that go along with them). Flavors create vibrations. And different kinds of flavor combinations create different combinations of these vibrations & wavelengths. It’s called synesthesia and many people have it to some degree.

So when I talk about things being harmonious, it’s not just a metaphor, it’s an actual description of my experience. In this case the bar was screechy. It was unripe, unrehearsed, stuttery, weak and tinny.

I’ve had the bar for a couple of months and have unwrapped it a few times to see if it was just that I’d had the flu, the lights in the house were at the wrong level, the moon was in the wrong phase or was in a bad mood. No, this is like Phillip Glass & Stephen Sondheim collaborating on some sort of atonal opera about database programmers performed by deaf alley cats in a poorly ventilated auditorium with squeaky chairs that pinch. It’s probably a wonderful intellectual experiment, but it’s not an enjoyable physical one. (But again, this may be an experience colored by the way that my brain processed certain things and might be just glorious to folks who don’t get the cacophony of wavelengths.)

3.53 ounces - unknown calories
Rating: 1 out of 10

The best news is that I have a deeper appreciation of my blended chocolates now and single origins even more so. As far as pure chocolate as being a “sugarless” alternative to regular sweetened chocolate, I think a very small quantity of sweetened chocolate will be more satisfying than a larger portion of one of these. But your mileage may vary. I definitely recommend the Dagoba if you’re itching to try just one. (The fact that it has a reasonable price is also a selling point.)

All of the remaining bits of these bars will be taken next door to the neighbors this evening where I will donate them to Amy in the hopes that she’ll create some awesome and rich brownies out of them so that I may love this chocolate again.

Casey at Chocolate Note has far more appreciation for the most concentrated chocolate bars. For other deeper appreciations for these bars try the Seventy Percent for: Michel Cluizel Noir Infini & forum discussion about Bonnat & Cluizel.

Related Candies

  1. Michel Cluizel 99%
  2. Guittard Quetzalcoatl
  3. Dagoba Single Origin
  4. E. Guittard Single Origin Tasting Kit
  5. Scharffen Berger - Cacao Nibs

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:24 am     All NaturalCandyReviewDagobaGhirardelliMeijiChocolateKosherOrganicSugar Free1-Inedible3-Unappealing4-Benign5-Pleasant

Monday, May 5, 2008

Hershey’s Favorites - Sugar Free

imageHershey’s has a line of sugar free candies, while they’re not a low calorie snack, they do have a lower glycemic index because they’ve substitute sugar for sugar alcohols. I gave their version of the Hershey’s Chocolate, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and York Peppermint Pattie a try.

As is always the case, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. While sugar alcohols may lower the calorie count, they’re also not as sweet as sugar and sometimes have unwanted side effects. Here’s what the packages say:

Sugar Alcohols (Maltitol, Lactitol, Isomalt & Polyglycitol - sugar substitutes) are slowly metabolized carbohydrates that generally cause only a small rise in blood glucose levels

Sugar alcohols have another benefit, they do not promote tooth decay, as they cannot be metabolized by oral bacteria.

Say what? Polyglycitol? That’s a new one on me, so I looked it up:

A mixture consisting mainly of maltitol and sorbitol and lesser amounts of hydrogenated oligo and polysaccharides and maltotriitol. Manufactured by the catalytic hydrogenation of a mixture consisting of glucose, maltose, and higher glucose polymers; typically supplied as a syrup; may also be dried and supplied as a solid product

I’m well aware the many of these sugar alcohols can cause intestinal upset (and other euphemisms to erupt). For this reason I was exceptionally careful not to eat too much. I only ate two a day, even though a serving as determined by the package was 3-5 pieces.

Sugar Free Hershey's Chocolate Minis

Hershey’s Sugar Free Chocolates

Well, they look really good. Each one was a pristine little chocolatey block.

But there was something amiss. It has the same slightly fudgy, slightly grainy texture. But it’s cool on the tongue and the chocolate flavors are a little too much on the high range, lacking depth. The milkyness was missing completely.

It doesn’t taste like Hershey’s chocolate. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t really taste like chocolate ... it’s too sweet.

Here’s what I know about sugar alcohols: they don’t have as many calories as sugar, but they also don’t taste as sweet. In the case of maltitol it’s 90% as sweet as sucrose, which basically means that when they add it to something and they want an equivalent delivery of sweetness, they put more in. Putting in more sweetener means something else has to be reduced by proportion. My guess in this case is that they reduced the cocoa solids ... which are already pretty low in Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. (Or they reduced the milk, which may also reduce the flavor profile.)

As a low calorie treat, these do definitely have a lower caloric density:

139 calories per ounce for regular Hershey’s Chocolate
113 calories per ounce for Sugar Free Hershey’s Chocolate

If you like R.M. Palmer chocolate, you might find this acceptable.

Rating: 2 out of 10

Sugar Free Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Sugar Free Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Like the Hershey’s bars, these were lovely little cups of perfection at first glance. They’re wrapped in orange foil, not gold, so it’s easy for trained candy eaters to tell them apart. They seem a little smaller than regular Reese’s Minis (just shorter) but otherwise are glossy and pretty.

They smell of sweet peanut butter.

The chocolate shell is similar to the Hershey’s bar ... the same cooling effect on the tongue, decent melt but lack of chocolate kick. No matter, the peanut butter center seems to overwhelm that in a satisfactory manner. The peanut butter is crumbly and sweet and creamy all at the same time. A little salty kick seals the simulation as being pretty close to the original.

145 calories per ounce for regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
116 calories per ounce for Sugar Free Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

I didn’t realize until after eating two of these that there was Sucralose in there too (this is the only one of the three that uses an artificial sweetener - though I could hear arguments that polyglycitol is also not natural at this point). I didn’t notice any of the ill effects that I get from Aspartame (headache, shakes & nausea) but there was a light lingering sweet and ever so slight aluminum-like metallic aftertaste.

Rating: 4 out of 10 (if it didn’t have the aftertaste, it’d be a 7).

Sugar Free York Peppermint Patties

Sugar Free York Peppermint Patties

They look exactly like the full-sugar York Peppermint Patties, smell a little chocolatey and very minty. The mini size is my favorite, so this was an easy one for me to wrap my head around.

The chocolate shell is only slightly sweet, which is pretty much the way the regular York is. If anything, this one had a better, less chalky melt to it.

The fondant center is a little different. First, it’s rather cool on the tongue. It’s a little grainy, which is fine with me, but then there were some other lighter grainy bits in there . But they weren’t sweet little grains, I’m wondering if the sugar alcohols create a different crystalline matrix. Even so, they’re tasty. Fresh, a bit chocolatey and of course melty and smooth.

102 calories per ounce for regular York Peppermint Patties
63 calories per ounce for Sugar Free York Peppermint Patties

As a lower calorie alternative, these are real winners. There are 30 calories in each piece.

Rating: 7 out of 10

In general Hershey’s has done a nice job of approximating the experience of their full-sugar candies. They look great, which is part of the appeal of candy. The packaging doesn’t even feel like a compromise (though the price does).

But these are only good if you can tolerate the sweeteners. If you’re one of the unlucky majority (it seems to be a majority) of the public who experiences the side effects, it’s pointless to eat this stuff. (I had a full box of each of these from a photo shoot and passed some along to a friend of a friend who is diabetic ... who did not react well to them.)

If you want to know if you can eat them, please, start slow unless you have no plans for the next day or so. I seemed to tolerate it pretty well, but again, only two pieces a day, not really the way you want to eat candy you can otherwise eat because of dietary restrictions. 

(Package images at top compiled from Hershey’s website.)

Related Candies

  1. York Mints
  2. Hershey’s Cacao Reserve
  3. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Line
  4. York Pinkermint Patties
Name: Hershey's Sugar Free - Chocolates, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups & York Peppermint Patties
    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: samples from CandyWarehouse.com
Price: $2.50 retail
Size: 3 ounces
Calories per ounce: 113 & 116 & 63
Categories: Chocolate, Mint, Peanuts, United States, Hershey's, Kosher, Sugar Free

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:30 am     Comments (17)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Chocolate Covered Gummi Bears

Chocolate Covered Gummi BearsThere are a few candies still on my list of “I can’t believe you haven’t tried that before!” and chocolate covered gummi bears were one of them. Once I had the Japanese version, I realized I should try the original. They were invented over 30 years ago by none other than the ultimate “if it should be covered in chocolate, we’ll cover it in chocolate” company: Koppers Chocolates.

When I was in San Francisco I found not only Koppers Milk Chocolate Covered Gummi Bears, but also the White Chocolate Polar Bears at Sweet Dish on Chestnut Street.

I’m not sure why I’ve been reticent about trying them. It might be that I was expecting a Haribo gummi bear, which are rather firm. Instead Koppers uses Swiss gummis (I don’t know anything beyond that) that they are appropriately soft.

Chocolate Covered Gummi BearsI got just a quarter of a pound each of mixed milk & polar bears to try. What struck me at first was the fact that all the white chocolate bears were the same milky yellow color. Even held up to the light, there was no indication what color the gummi bear beneath was.

What I found out later, after diligently sucking the chocolate off of enough of them for a scientific sample, is that they’re all the same color (whether milk or white covered)! Though they’re yellow, I’m hard pressed to say that they’re lemon flavored, merely that they’re a sweet & tangy mix.

The milk chocolate was pretty smooth, and very milky tasting. It melted well and didn’t have that light waxy glaze that many other panned candies have. The white chocolate was similarly milky in its taste, but not too sweet. As a combination goes, I still wasn’t completely on board with having chocolate with my gummi bears. They’re cute and easy to eat, but I think I might like them apart.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Muddy BearsTo be fair, even though Koppers invented the confectionery genre of chocolate covered gummi bears, the ones I see most often in drug stores, movie theaters & discount chains are called Muddy Bears and are made by Taste of Nature (who also makes Cookie Dough Bites) which I think is an awesome name for an unappetizing looking product.

The box features a yellow bear who is entirely too happy to be covered in chocolate. I’m not sure if he understands that once he’s sealed in his confectionery shell he’s doomed.

I’ve only seen them in the theater sized boxes. Inside the box is a cellophane pouch that holds the bears and keeps them fresh. (And makes for extra wrapper noises at the theater and probably scowly looks from me if I’m sitting near.)

Muddy BearsAs unattractive as the Koppers were, I think the Muddy Bears are even worse. But since they’re meant to be eaten at the movies based on the packaging, I’m going to guess that doesn’t matter much. (For the record, I like candy that looks the same after sitting unwrapped at the bottom of my purse, so that when I switch purses and find it down there, I know what it is ... and then I eat it.)

One of the big differences in the products is the gummi center. Muddy Bears use multi-flavored gummis. Of course being covered in milk chocolate there’s no way to know which flavor is which. It’s a benign chocolate-covered Russian roulette. Mostly I seemed to get green apple.

The chocolate coating seems a bit crumbly, not as smooth melting as the Koppers and very sweet without much of a “chocolate” taste. I can’t see myself buying these.

Candy Addict did a review last summer as well, interestingly, their photo of the box says, “The Original”, I’m guessing Koppers took issue with the accuracy and they’ve changed it to the version I have.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Meiji Gummy Choco set the bar too high. Their candies come in lots of different flavors, they’re packaged so nicely, the price is right even for an import and if you get a flavor mix, they’re color coded. But if you’re not able to get a hold of those, give the Koppers a try (you’ll probably see them in bulk bins), if the shop also carries chocolate cordials, they’re probably Koppers.

Related Candies

  1. The Simpsons Fruit Snacks
  2. Sour Gummi Bears
  3. Krunchy Bears
  4. Chocolate Covered Sugar Babies
  5. Haribo Gummi Bears vs Trolli Gummi Bears
Name: Milk Chocolate Covered Gummi Bears & Polar Bears and Muddy Bears
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Koppers Chocolates & Taste of Nature
Place Purchased: Sweet Dish (SF) & samples from Taste of Nature
Price: $10/lb & $1.29 retail
Size: 6 ounces & 3.1 ounces
Calories per ounce: 100/113 & 99
Categories: Chocolate, White Chocolate, Gummi, United States, Taste of Nature, Koppers

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:59 am     Comments (13)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Red Vines

Red Vines Original Red TwistsThree years of Candy Blog and for the most part I’ve concentrated on candies that were new to me. But this means that I’ve neglected some classic candies, like Red Vines.

The American Licorice Company was founded in 1914 in Chicago, IL and began making something known as Raspberry Vines in 1920. In 1952 they tweaked the flavoring and renamed them simply Red Vines.

I’ve opened the can of worms in the Red Vines Giveaway about the category of confection called red licorice. In their defense, the American Licorice Company has always skirted this by simply coming up with a new and trademarked name of Red Vines for their Original Red Twists.

Red VinesAmerican Licorice is now based in Union City, California.

Red Vines are so popular (apparently they’re Crazy Delicious when combined with Mr. Pibb) that they’re the number one non-chocolate candy in the western region of the United States. I don’t know what the number one non-chocolate candy is in the eastern region. As is the case with things like tissues being called Kleenex, all colas are called Coke or adhesive bandages being identified as Band Aids, Red Vines are simply the default for red licorice. (Though in other regions that’d be the same for Twizzlers.)

What are ya gonna call it otherwise? A twisted, wheat-based confection? A long, red chew?

The candies are sold in a variety of formats, some single vines and others in a pull apart bar or textured bites. They’re exceptionally durable and can withstand temperature variations within reason inside the sealed package without much deterioration or flavor or texture. The standard in the tray is about 8.5” long and is formed via an extrusion method with a twist (four complete twists per vine). They are hollow and have crimped ends. Each vine has about 35 calories. All carbs, no fat, a trace of protein.

They smell faintly like coconut, new flip flops and strawberry shortcake lip balm. (Mmm, the smells of summer.)

They’re soft and pliable, unless you left the package open or bought expired ones, then they’re stiff and hard. Either way, they’re only lightly flavored. They’re not terribly sweet, the first ingredient is corn syrup, but the second is wheat flour ... then citric acid, artificial flavor and Red 40. That’s it. Pretty simple really.

Though it may have been raspberry flavored at one time, I think the flavor is now simply red licorice. It tastes like red. It has only the lightest tangy bite to it (the citric acid) and doesn’t leave a funky aftertaste and is one of the few red candies that I don’t actually taste the red food coloring in.

The cool thing is that it’s cheap, easy to share and has that lowest common denominator factor that you’d be hard pressed to find someone who won’t join you when you offer it (and it’s usually because of allergens, not true dislike).

I don’t eat the stuff very often. It’s fine for movies or when I want to share with my husband (they actually make a pack of Bites which has a mix of the black and red which I’ve bought just for that purpose). I’m not saying it’s bad candy, but I’m happier to give it away than eat it. Red Vines just makes me want real licorice.

Related Candies

  1. Cinnamon Fire Twizzlers
  2. Kenny’s Licorice Pastels & Root Beer Twists
  3. Black Ace Licorice
  4. Twizzlers Rainbow Twists
  5. Twizzler Sourz
  6. Bassett’s Licorice Allsorts
  7. Twizted Paradise
  8. Panda Bars
Name: Red Vines
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: American Licorice Co.
Place Purchased: samples from Red Vines PR folk
Price: $1.29 retail
Size: 7 ounces
Calories per ounce: 99
Categories: Chew, United States, American Licorice Co., Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:25 am     Comments (35)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Starbucks Chocolate

Starburcks Chocolate Tasting KitI rarely go into a Starbucks, but I do drink their coffee at the office sometimes. I think my favorite blend of theirs is the Estima (which they don’t make available for our office, drat). At home I’m more likely to drink Trader Joe’s but I’m not a coffee snob, I’ll buy coffee at 7-11, McDonald’s, happily drink the stuff on an airplane and of course at many of the local coffee houses in Los Angeles.

I’m not a “coffee drink” person. I just like a cup of coffee with some milk in it for the most part, but I’ll drink a capuccino now and then. I think coffee is a flavor that’s good enough to be savored by itself. No need for caramel, hazelnut syrup or other intrusions of flavors. (I do drink Mexican Mochas in November.)

I was still eager to try the new line of Starbucks Chocolates and happily accept the offer from some PR folks for a tasting kit (shown here, which is not available for retail sale).

Starbucks Chocolate TrufflesI am kind of picky about my coffee and chocolate combinations though. I like my chocolate smooth, and I don’t usually want to eat my coffee beans. (I had a seriously dangerous chocolate covered coffee bean problem in college that led to an EKG and some stern words from a doctor about moderation.)

So I greeted the new Starbucks and Hershey’s chocolate venture with a little trepidation, mostly worried that both would bring the worst they had to offer to the products (Starbucks high prices and Hershey’s inflated prices for substandard quality or playing off the cachet of their Artisan Confection lines Dagoba & Scharffen Berger without delivering).

Starbucks ChocolateTheir new product line consists of chocolate bars and tasting squares. There is the standard dark and milk plus two infused with tea flavors (Passion Fruit and Chai) and then a Mocha dark chocolate and a Citron dark chocolate. As expected they also have chocolate covered coffee beans (in milk chocolate) and a line of four different kinds of truffle-style bonbons.

The venture between Starbucks & Hershey’s is a strange one. Starbucks makes the sourcing of their coffee beans part of their marketing effort, with a pledge that they pay above market rates to the growers. It’s not quite fair trade (though they do have the Estima blend that is certified fair trade), it has certainly raised awareness of the issue of growers of our non-essential items like coffee and now chocolate. In this case the package makes note:

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 starbucks.com/cocoa

Starbucks Milk Chocolate Covered Coffee BeansIt’s unclear from that webpage if the chocolate in the Starbucks branded chocolate products was obtained within these principals or not. The package (on the other side) says “Manufactured for Artisan Confections Company Berkeley, CA 94710 USA under the authority of Starbucks Coffee Company”. (Emphasis mine) I’m still not sure who made these products. (Clay Gordon tried to get more info on this subject, but was unable, but I agree that the couldn’t be made at the Scharffen Berger space in Emeryville and I’m more inclined to believe they were made by the Dagoba folks.)

The good thing is that the risk with these is low for the consumer. They’re all well priced items, none more than $5.49 and available at local drug stores and discount chains. (I already spotted the full line at RiteAid.)

The ingredients on all the items are good, real vanilla, no PGPR though no indication what the cacao levels are on the products. (Well, also no indication of what the caffeine levels are on the coffee ones!)

Starbucks Milk Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans

To start, I tried the Milk Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans. They feature the Caffe Verona beans at the heart, sourced from around the world and prepared in the Italian roast style. Inside the little stand up box the glossy beans are sealed inside a clear cellophane bag. The size is 3.5 ounces and retails for $4.99 to $5.49.

They smell very sweet, the chocolate is milky and soft to the bite (so no flaking off). The combination of the crunchy bean at the heart and the chocolate coating is nice. A bit on the sweet side for me, when it comes to coffee confections, but still very nice. The consistent quality of the beans are a highlight. I ate at least a dozen and didn’t get a chewy or acrid one. (7 out of 10)

Plain Milk & Dark Chocolate from StarbucksAt the heart of all the confections, of course, is chocolate. The tasting squares are nicely wrapped little 5 gram pieces.

Milk Chocolate. They say it’s, “Sweet, silky indulgence; rich & rewarding” and I’m inclined to agree. It’s a much smoother chocolate than I’m accustomed to from Hershey’s or even Scharffen Berger. It has some strong vanilla notes and a good milky texture. (8 out of 10)

Dark Chocolate. They say it’s, “Deep, complex flavors; smooth and satisfying” and I think that was overselling it. It was rather sweet but still smooth. It lacked a depth of flavor, but it pairs well with coffee, has only the slightest acidic tang and has a good buttery melt. (7 out of 10)

They come in both 3 ounce bars or a mixed bag of tasting squares (that include the Mocha Dark Chocolate). Bars are $2.99 and the tasting squares are $4.99-$5.49 for 2.6 ounces (kinda silly, really to pay so much more for so much less).

Flavored Dark Chocolates from StarucksPassion(r) Dark Chocolate features a Tazo herbal blend of hibuscus & natural flavors. It has a very fruity scent and a grainy melt on the tongue. The little grainy bits are tangy and have a strong berry (and hibiscus) flavor to them with a tint of peach and passion fruit. It’s purely a personal thing but I thought this was dreadful ... from the texture to the combination of flavors, the sickly scent and the way it all overwhelms the chocolate. (4 out of 10)

Citron(r) Dark Chocolate is also a Tazo blend of tea leaves and lemon oil. This one smells pleasantly of lemon, but very little of chocolate. The texture is not as grainy as the Passion, but still not smooth. The lemon essence was strong, but had no citrus tang to it, thankfully. Still, no chocolate flavors came though, nor much of the tea base either.  (6 out of 10)

Drink Flavored Chocolates - Chai & Mocha from StarbucksMocha Dark Chocolate should epitomize this fusion of chocolate and Starbucks, right? It smells wonderfully rich, a combination of chocolate and coffee and a dollop of vanilla. It’s apparent looking at the square from the back that it has ground coffee beans in it, not just an infusion of flavor. It’s a bit grainy but crispy when chewed. It’s much like the chocolate covered coffee beans, but has a stronger chocolate flavor to it that isn’t quite overhwhelmed like the others. Still, I’m not one for the bits in there, but I admit that’s a personal preference.  (6 out of 10)

Chai Milk Chocolate includes Tazo tea leaves and natural flavors in milk chocolate. It smells quite rich, mostly of nutmeg, cardamom and clove. Though it looks grainy, it’s really quite smooth even with the little inclusions. It has a wonderful spicy mix of flavors without being too sweet. I’m a big fan of spicy chai but can’t stand how sweet it can be. This is a very nice mix, I almost like it better than the Dagoba bar (which has actual ginger pieces in it). (7 out of 10)

What I found most surprising about this collection of chocolate tasting squares branded by a coffee company was that three out of the six of them were tea infusions and only one was actually a coffee flavor. Their slogan for the line of products is, “when coffee dreams, it dreams of chocolate” but I think it should be, “when coffee dreams, it ends up with tea in its chocolate.” Some sort of self-loathing or something. (Or adverse reaction to cannibalism, of course coffee doesn’t want coffee!)

The curious part is that Starbucks is not selling these at their stores or even on their website. They’re a Starbucks experience without a Starbucks shop. Like the Choxie line at Target, I think they’ve done a nice job of finding the essential nature of what they have to offer, packaging them nicely and charging the appropriate amount that people are willing to pay for a personal indulgence.

I’ll have a roundup of the Truffles in a separate post.

Related Candies

  1. Caffe Acapella - Coffee Confections
  2. Joseph Schmidt
  3. Choxies in Boxies
  4. Dagoba Single Origin
  5. Scharffen Berger Tasting Squares
  6. Dagoba Chai
Name: Starbucks Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans & Chocolate Tasting Squares
    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: samples from Hershey's
Price: unknown
Size: $4.99-$5.49 retail
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Coffee, United States, Hershey's, Kosher, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:13 am     Comments (13)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Los Angeles may not be the best place for a Candy Blogger to live

TCHO GhanaLos Angeles is not a chocolate town, with good reason, it’s hot. But I greet the L.A. winters rather joyfully because it means that I should be able to receive chocolate shipments without moltency.

Since it was predicted to be so nice, and I had such a great experience with BonBonBar, I ordered two chocolate bars on Monday, February 11th from the beta chocolate company TCHO, located in San Francisco.

It’s February and the predicted high temperature all week was 66 degrees. At 1:30 PM today it was 65. Ideal, really, for chocolate.

However, the package shipped on Tuesday, February 12th and only arrived at my door on February 15th. Hardly Priority Delivery if you ask me. And really slow for door to door service a scant 400 miles apart and to major metro areas.

They came in a silver metallic bubble-wrap envelope (folded in half). It felt hot to the touch. I opened it immediately and pulled the bars out. They too were hot ... and squishy.

TCHO chocolate delivery was melted - total fail

There you have it.

TCHO was co-founded by a space shuttle technologist. I’m not sure what end of all of the technologies integrated into the space shuttle he was involved in, but it couldn’t have had anything to do with insulating or maintaining optimal operating temperatures. Or getting things to arrive on schedule.

I’m not going to give it a full review at this moment. I ate most of the melted parts of the bar shown. It’s rather tangy, has some clear coffee and dark berry notes. It’s smooth, but not super-smooth (even a few gritty bits) and doesn’t have the buttery quality that I love so much about great chocolate.

I sent a note to the company before posting this, letting them know of the poor condition the package arrived in. (I’ll let you know the resolution of that.) The 50 gram bars are $4 each and the shipping was $5.

Since I took that photo the bar has re-solidified, poorly tempered now with swirls of dark and light and an irregular texture. So sad.

The plain truth is that I get a lot of gooey chocolate. Rarely stuff that I order, usually things that are sent to me as samples, and I’ve come to accept the fact that PR folks simply don’t know how to put together a box that can survive for 24 hours without getting melted. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed it’s that package that are packed tightly do the worst. A little airspace between insulated walls does wonders. In the case of this package, a reflective package is great but once it heats up to the ambient temperature of the delivery truck’s interior, it’s actually conducting the heat to the contents, not protecting it.

I think I’ll stick to buying my bars in stores.

(The good news is that I have a lovely box of Valerie Confections’ Lemon & Hazelnut Nougat that my husband gave me for Valentine’s Day to console myself.)

UPDATE: Looks like a very prompt note from TCHO was caught in my spam filter around 3 PM (very quick!). They said that they hadn’t implemented hot weather shipping yet, but will re-evaluate that. They’re sending out a replacement package next week. Looks like I can be a beta tester for both the chocolate and the shipping! (Honestly, it appears that more of the problem is with how long it took for the package to get from SF to LA.)

UPDATED UPDATE 2/19/2008: Wow, when TCHO says they’re gonna put some new bars in the mail, they mean same day. They arrived today and in good condition.

Related Candies

  1. Tcho: Beta Batch No. C Ghana 0.7 AH
  2. Amano Single Origin Bars: Madagascar & Ocumare
  3. Dagoba Single Origin
  4. Candy Source: Candy Town - San Pedro
  5. Single Origin Chocolate

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:58 am     Bay AreaCandyReviewChocolate4-BenignUnited StatesShopping

Monday, February 4, 2008

Palmer Bee Mine

I bought this one just for you, dear readers. I’m not sure why I thought you wanted to read about it, but here it is, the Palmer Bee Mine hollow milk chocolate figure filled with compressed dextrose candies.

Palmer Bee Mine - Yummy Honey Flavored Candy Bees Inside!

This actually came in another variety, which featured a cow and some pun I can’t remember, like “you moo-ve me” or something like that. If they had a little train that said, I choo-choo-choose you, I would have bought a case even if they were made from mud.

Palmer Bee Mine - out of packageBut the Bee Mine features Yummy Honey Flavored Candy Bees Inside! and if there’s one thing I have trouble resisting it’s Yummy Honey Flavored Candy Bees (tm). (Well, I don’t really know what Yummy Honey Flavored Candy Bees (tm) are, but I figured I’d find out and then I’d know for sure if they’re irresistible.)

First, the box design is nice. It featured the choco-creature inside well, the cutouts are attractive. The box is a bit big, but I forgive that when it comes to molded chocolate items, as I know a little space tends to preserve shape. The foil design is also nice. It’s bold and endearing. It’s also a nice heavy foil that’s easy to unwrap and re-wrap.

Palmer Bee Mine - UnwrappedThe little guy inside was also nicely designed. He happend to be kind of cracked open already, but I think that might have been because I kept shaking the box. I figured yummy honey bees liked to be shaken before being set free. The little face molded in chocolate actually matches the foil design.

What’s more, it’s designed in 306 degrees. He has a little stinger and six little feet.

Like many Palmer chocolate products, he actually smells pretty good too. On the smoky side of the chocolate smell spectrum, but not overly sweet. He has a nice sheen and was pretty blemish free thanks to the packaging.

Palmer Bee Mine - Cracked OpenOnce I pulled the two hemispheres apart I found my bounty of Yummy Honey Flavored Candy Bees (tm).

But first the chocolate. It’s Palmer chocolate. Basically, disappointing. Well, saying that I was disappointed means that I had expectations ... I have no expectations of tastiness when it comes to Palmer.  But I do credit them for cute and attractive products. It was far too sweet, had a grainy melt and virtually no taste of chocolate or milk. It was like a Tootsie Roll flavor. (I did a little computation and Palmer chocolate has 12% sugar in it than Hersheys ... which is already pretty sweet stuff.)

My Yummy Honey Flavored Candy Bees (tm) are a compressed dextrose candy (like a SweeTart without the tart). They’re an attractive beige and smell like the Palmer chocolate. They’re shaped like a little bee, just like the package says they are ... in fact, the package has them at 100% scale. They’re okay ... I mean, who wants to eat compressed dextrose flavored like honey? It’s sweet and has a little dark honey flavor to it, but that’s about it. I give them points for originality though, I don’t know if I would have ever had a honey flavored compressed dextrose bee if not for this.

This was only $1.50 on sale, so it’s not like I paid a lot. (I think they’re $2.50 regularly.) The back has a greeting card layout “to” and “from” so you can just use a bold Sharpie and hand this to someone instead of a Hallmark card and have change to spare. But I’d say only give it to someone you want to confuse with your intentions ... bad chocolate does not say you care. It says, I was thinking of you ... but I wasn’t thinking nice things.

Oh, and for the record, I now have no trouble resisting Yummy Honey Flavored Candy Bees (tm).

Note: the logo on the back proudly states that this product is Made in USA but the Yummy Honey Flavored Candy Bees (tm) were made in Malaysia.

Related Candies

  1. Palmer Nest Eggs
  2. SpongeBob SquarePants Heart
  3. Elmer’s Chocolate
  4. Palmer Milk Chocolate Balls
Name: Bee Mine Hollow 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: R. M. Palmer
Place Purchased: Rite Aid (Vermonica)
Price: $1.50 (on sale)
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 146
Categories: Chocolate, Compressed Dextrose, United States, Malaysia, R.M. Palmer, Valentines

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:05 am     Comments (10)

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