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All Natural

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

XyliChew

XyliChewChewing gum is a logical product to make sugar free, and for many years there have been products that use Xylitol as an alternative (and better) gum sweetener.

I got a few samples at ExpoWest of their different flavors, but ended up opting for a full package of the Cinnamon XyliChew for this review.

The package is a nice paperboard box with a blisterpack that holds 12 pieces inside. Two pieces are normal serving size (though sometimes I go for three pieces).

XyliChew boasts 70% of its content is xylitol, which is supposed to have many health benefits. Studies link lower incidences of dental caries (cavities) to consistent use of xylitol (either in gum or mouthwash) and others have said that it keeps teeth & bones strong as we age. But the amount needed for those more substantial positive effects are probably greater than would be consumed normally. A pair of pieces gives the chewer only 1.6 grams per serving. (Studies were using dosages of 20-40 grams per day.) You can read more of the features at their website.

But that aside, this is gum and most often we’re chewing it for other reasons, such as to freshen the breath, a boost of flavor, keep us from munching and just plain old enjoyment of chewing.

These are cool on the tongue immediately, which is one of the big appeals of xylitol as a confectionery sweetener. The cinnamon flavor is much more like the powdered spice or chewing on an actual stick of the bark than those “cinnamon flavors”, so it’s a bit deeper. It’s not at all spicy though, there’s no burning feeling to it. The chew lacks much grain to it like sugared gums have (well, there’s a little from the shell, but that dissipates quickly). The flavor remains for quite a while, I tracked it as still having a satisfactory amount of cinnamon flavor after 30 minutes, though the sweetness had abated.

It didn’t stick to my teeth, which is also a nice feature (yes, I have fillings - those old fashioned amalgam & those new fangled white composite ones).

As a sugar free product, I don’t feel like I’m missing a thing. Some folks may not like that cooling sensation and of course you have to get used to xylitol. I still prefer my good old Peppermint Chiclets, but I could get used to this, too.

XyliChew is all natural, even the gum base is from the sapodilla tree. It uses beeswax though, so may not be appropriate for all vegans.

Many stores like Whole Foods, Nature Mart and health food shops carry XyliChew, you can also order online through Nature Mart or Amazon. They retail for about $2 a package. It also comes in other flavors like: spearmint, peppermint, tropical fruit, licorice and chocolate.

UPDATE: Also, be aware that xylitol is dangerous to dogs, so be very careful to keep xylitol sweetened products away from pets.

Related Candies

  1. Gimbal’s Lavaballs
  2. Atomic Fireballs
  3. Tiny Size Chiclets
  4. Gold Mine Gum
  5. Razzles
  6. No Time & Black Black
Name: XyliChew
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Tundra Trading, Inc.
Place Purchased: samples from ExpoWest
Price: $2.00 retail
Size: .47 ounces
Calories per ounce: 49 (if you chewed 25 pieces)
Categories: Gum, Cinnamon, Finland, Sugar Free, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:00 am     Comments (1)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Choxie 3 Ounce Chocolate Bars

After Valentine’s Day I picked up some discounted items from Target. I haven’t re-visited much of the Choxie line since my initial tastes on their launch, so I figured it was time to see what else they had.

Choxie Chocolate BarsI got an assortment of four bars for 75% off, so each bar was $1.25 ... quite a deal for 3 ounces of “premium” chocolate.

The box they came in was a goofy flat affair, I think just this stack with a red ribbon is a fine gift (and I threw out that box pretty much as soon as I got home). The assortment contains two milk chocolate bars and two dark chocolate bars.

The one that interested me the most was the Milk Chocolate with Roasted Almonds & Sea Salt. True to its name, it was a nice dark milk chocolate with big almond pieces (they tasted buttery like Marcona almonds) and there were some pretty intense large pieces of sea salt in there (the picture on the box makes them look like little pieces of popcorn).

The milk chocolate is a very dark and smooth version, it goes really well with the crisp crunch of the almonds. The sea salt was quite apparent, but the mixing of it was a little off. Sometimes I’d arrive at whole reservoirs of the stuff, it’s a little offputting to get more than a few grains at once. But still, an addictive bar. Though I shared it, I ate most of it in a day and a half.

The second bar was the Milk Chocolate Cashew Almond Cherry Bar which I thought sounded terrible at first, especially when I saw that it also had salt in it.

However, it won me over. The cashews & almonds aren’t as plentiful in this bar and the salt is only a slight glimmer now and then. The cherries are soft and chewy with a bright tangy note that infuses those bites.

Choxie - 62% Ghana

I was grateful to try my first Choxie single origin bar with the 62% Ghana Cocoa. I recently had another Ghana bar from Tcho, which I found to be a little too gritty for my tastes. This bar is smooth. The flavors are spot on “chocolatey” with some vanilla notes and a little cedar & tobacco. It’s a tasty bar, though not quite buttery enough for me if it’s going to be on the low end of the cacao percentage. But it’s also pretty sweet, so a nice started bar for those who don’t like the intensity of some of the higher cacao.

The box for the Dark Chocolate Espresso Bar showed the bar, like the one above, surrounded by coffee beans. I didn’t know if that meant whole coffee beans or fine grounds when I bought the assortment (I could only see the fronts of the boxes). The ingredients say “ground coffee” but I was still afraid that I was going to get coffee grounds in my chocolate.

The package smelled like the coffee aisle at the A&P where we used to grind our own 8 O’Clock coffee when I was a teen. Mostly coffee but also slight wafts of tea, cocoa and sweet sugary General Foods International Coffee flavors.

The grounds are palpable as the chocolate melts. The coffee flavor is mellow, not burnt or caramelized tasting, just a medium roasted vibe. And of course all those coffee beans integrated in. The chocolate has a good melt to it, is pretty smooth otherwise and stands up rather well to the otherwise overwhelming coffee. (Nicole at Baking Bites has a nice review of this bar, too.)

At the reduced price (expiration isn’t anywhere to be found on the packages, maybe I shouldn’t have thrown out the box), these were a great deal. I’m not sure if I would pay $4-5 for one of these in the future (well, maybe the almond & sea salt bar), but keep an eye out for their assortments (perhaps after Mother’s day?). The ingredients are all-natural and the dark chocolates have no added butterfat. They are not, however, Kosher.

Other recent reviews: The Girl Tastes has a lot of more recent Choxie introductions, Rosa tried the Key Lime Truffle Bar, Candy Snob tried the Espresso Truffle Bar, Secret Hideout thinks Choxie is better than Godiva (and I don’t disagree) and OffBeatEating tried the Coconut Truffle Bar.

Related Candies

  1. Starbucks Chocolate
  2. Caffe Acapella - Coffee Confections
  3. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels
  4. Choxies in Boxies
  5. Choxie Champagne Truffles
  6. Cha-Cha-Cha Choxie
Name: Milk & Dark Chocolate Bars
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Choxie (Target)
Place Purchased: Target (Harbor City)
Price: $5.00 for set of 4 (post Valentine's clearance)
Size: 3 ounces
Calories per ounce: 153
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, Coffee, United States, Choxie, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:39 am     Comments (4)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tcho: Beta Batch No. C Ghana 0.7 AH

Mmm, what a tasty name! Yes, I got my hands on a lovely and pristine Tcho Beta Batch No. C Ghana 0.7 AH bar.

       Tcho Ghana

Tcho is one of the newest American chocolate factories, this one located in the Bay Area, which has no lack of chocolate factories as it is. They proudly state that they’re the only chocolate factory in San Francisco.

Instead of making a package that accommodates a 12 section bar, they make the long bars, snap them in half, stack them and then insert them into these waxed kraft paper square packets.

It makes for a unique look, but makes me wonder why they don’t just make the chocolate that size to begin with. Or design the package to fit the bar.

Tcho eschews things like cacao percentages, varietal & origin, instead focusing on easily understood classifications for their chocolates. This one is called C - which stands for Chocolatey. According to the flavor wheel included, it might have been citrusy, fruity, floral, nutty or earthy. (I’m not sure what the letters for those are ... that would make two possible Cs and two possible Fs.)

The ingredients are simple:

Ingredients: cocoa beans, cane sugar, vanilla beans, soy lecithin and possibly traces of milk and nuts from processing equipment.

The bars are 50 grams (1.76 ounces) ... though you wouldn’t know that once you got a hold of it. It’s not on the package, just on the website.

The chocolate smells sweet, a bit woodsy and a lot like bourbon vanilla.

It’s very dark, very brown (no hint of red or caramel tones here).

It’s only mildly sweet on the tongue, as it melts it’s a bit rough ... not quite chalky as it does have a good level of cocoa butter, but the particle size is a bit big for my texture preference. I was pleased with the deep rich flavors. There are dark cedars, tobacco and a bit of a mulchy note that almost pushes it into the earthy realm except for the consistent feeling that I’m eating hot chocolate.

The finish continues with a lingering woodsy note and a rather parching dryness. Overall, it’s a satisfying bar. After four squares, I didn’t feel like I wanted more for quite a while.

Personally I prefer a butterier bar, a nuttier set of notes. But this tops some of my experiences with the very dark bars from Theo (which I haven’t written up) but does not beat out the Amano or Chocovic Ocumare (okay, not American-made) or Guittard Chucuri.

I’m hoping Tcho has figured out their shipping problems. (More on that history here.) Just a note, they shipped my replacement bars on a Friday over a holiday weekend, not really a good tactic either, they arrived on Tuesday and though everything turned out fine, unless the USPS made it overnight, the package was guaranteed to sit around for at least two days. (I’ve talked to many candy shippers, I don’t know many that would ship chocolate products on a Friday, and certainly not when Monday was a mail holiday.) A note went out to the folks on their email marketing list that they were implementing hot weather shipping. My second package didn’t have any warm weather protection, it was the exact same metallic bubble wrap envelop folded tightly over and taped. If you’ve ordered from them more recently than February, maybe you can chime in with how yours arrived.

Clay Gordon has an extensive article about Tcho on The Chocolate Life. I was sure to not read through it until after I’d done my tasting notes.

I might try this again, but I’m much keener on trying other bars from companies that I’ve either developed an affinity for or some of the other new chocolate makers like DeVries, Taza, Rogue Chocolatier or Askinosie (I have one of those already in my hands). The price is a bit steep as well, they’re now $5 on the site and with the shipping, that’s a steep price for less than two ounces that are still in beta. It was supposed to feel like a fun experiment, like I was part of something, but I think I’ll leave it to others to work out the kinks.

Related Candies

  1. Amano Single Origin Bars: Madagascar & Ocumare
  2. Dagoba Single Origin
  3. E. Guittard Single Origin Tasting Kit
  4. Equal Exchange Chocolate
  5. Single Origin Chocolate
Name: C Ghana 0.7 AH
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: TCHO
Place Purchased: ordered online from Tcho
Price: $4.00 plus shipping (another $5.00)
Size: 1.76 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, United States, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:16 am     Comments (3)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Malie Kai: Waialua Estate Chocolate

Malie Kai ChocolateMalie Kai introduced their single origin American chocolate a couple of years ago, which uses only beans from the Waialua Estate on the north shore of Oahu.

The orchard where the cacao grows was planted in 1997 years ago by Dole, who wanted to diversify their agriculture in the area. However, around 2000 they abandoned the orchards, which became overrun with weeds (but the cacao & coffee trees were still there) and of course weren’t irrigated or fertilized. Later in 2004 the orchards were restored and only in the past three years have the fruits of their labor become available to the public. In this case the bar is by Malie Kai.

The farm has only about 17-20 acres devoted to cacao (about 650 trees per acre) so don’t expect huge quantities of these to flood the market. The trees are mixed varieties of Trinitario and Forestero. They’re grown pesticide free (though not certified organic as I believe they use non-organic fertilizers).

One of their bars is the Single Origin Waialua Estate bar featuring 55% cacao. It’s a petite bar at only 1.5 ounces, but a good size to give me a bit of the flavor and profile of this national chocolate. 

Malie Kai Chocolate

The bar comes in a smart little box, that protects it well. Inside it’s in an airtight mylar pouch to further enhance freshness.

It has a pleasant fruity-raisin chocolate aroma. The melt is nice, but is very sweet, almost overwhelming the more delicate flavors at first. After it settles in on the tongue and melts I was able to tease notes like molasses, toffee and raisins.

The texture is smooth, with only the slightest sugary grain to it. There’s no trace of bitterness and though there’s a light finish, it’s not at all acidic or dry.

I found it too sweet to satisfy my desire for rich dark chocolate, but the texture and size is great. I don’t see myself buying it again just for the taste, but I think it’s an interesting demonstration piece. I’m interested to try some of their other bars, especially the milk chocolate. (I tasted it on the floor at the Fancy Food Show ... but I tasted a lot of things that day.)

The bars are available in Hawaii quite readily. On the mainland

In the States

you’ll have to look sharp at upscale chocolate shops or order from a Hawaiian specialty shop. The bar also comes in a 38% Milk Chocolate version. (It’s not common to see single origin milk chocolate.)

Malie Kai also makes a line of flavored & inclusion bars: Kona Coffee & Roasted Almonds (dark &  milk), Kona Coffee Cappuccino (milk), Kona Coffee Espresso (dark), Lemon Macadamia Nut (dark) and Orange Macadamia Nut (milk).

Guittard is also making a 70% cacao content chocolate from the same Waialua Estate beans.

Related Candies

  1. Amano Single Origin Bars: Madagascar & Ocumare
  2. Big Island Chocolates
  3. Michel Cluizel Les 1ers Crus de Plantation
  4. E. Guittard Single Origin Tasting Kit
  5. Single Origin Chocolate
Name: Single Origin Waialua Estate 55% Cacao
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Malie Kai
Place Purchased: sample from Fancy Food Show
Price: unknown
Size: 1.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 143
Categories: Chocolate, United States, All Natural, Single Origin

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:37 am     Comments (4)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Crispy Cat

Crispy Cat Organic BarsIt’s often puzzled me why there aren’t more organic candy bars out there. For the most part candy bars are made (or can be made) with all natural/organic ingredients pretty easily. Why no one does this is beyond me, so for the most part candy fiends with an eco bent have to eat just chocolate (sometimes flavored) or hard candies or pay for bars to be flown from far away places and pay ridiculous prices for kinky combinations ... in reality all I want is the tried and true candy bar, only made with pure ingredients.

Crispy Cat Toasted AlmondCrispy Cat has a nice line of candy bars that seem to defy that notion that candy bars have to be made with sub-par ingredients. Their bars are also dairy free, gluten free, non GMO and use a large proportion of organic ingredients (70-90% organic, depending on the bar). In fact, their ingredients list only looks long because they put things like “organic” or “made with gmo” all over it.

They come in three varieties: Toasted Almond, Roasted Peanut and Mint Coconut ... all with dark chocolate.

Here’s what Joel, the founder of Crispy Cat has to say:

Growing up ... I loved candy. Over the years .... I learned to love my body. This candy bar is the result of trying to satisfy both cravings. I now live happily ever after. I hope you will too. P.S. Try ‘em cold.

Crispy Cat Toasted Almond

The Toasted Almond features dark chocolate, crispy rice & toasted almonds.

It has a wonderful dark, woodsy and chocolatey aroma. The bite is a bit stiff, it’s not quite crunchy and certainly not chewy. It’s just lumpy.

Once I got used to the complex center, I was pleased with the combination of flavors and textures. It’s part crisped rice, a little bit of a caramel-like chew to hold it together, a toasted sugar flavor and some pieces of almonds for an added crunch. I would have preferred a lighter crunch to it, something easier to chew (either crispier or softer).

Crispy Cat Mint CoconutI admit, I thought Mint Coconut is a weird combo. I love mint, I love coconut but I don’t put them together. (Well, partly because it probably never occured to me.)

This bar also has a crisped rice center. In this case it’s a bit fluffier and softer than the others, with a light peppermint scent.

Instead of the firm and chewy center, this one was a bit crumblier and has big pieces of naturally sweet coconut in it. It’s an interesting flavor combo, very tropical and fresh, a bit of a grassy note to the whole thing.

I can’t say that I loved this one, in fact it was my least favorite of the three. But I can’t help but be pleased that someone is paying attention to coconut these days. I love the stuff.

Crispy Cat Roasted PeanutThe Roasted Peanut bar was much softer (and a little flatter) than the Toasted Almond.

The center felt fattier though had the same number of calories as the Toasted Almond at 220 it has 10 grams of fat (TA has only 9).

The dark chocolate is rather bitter but has a decent melty texture. The crunchy rice, peanut butter and peanut chunk center is tasty. It’s dark and nutty, a bit salty and only lightly sweet. This one hits it out of the park as far as a peanut candy bar can go.

It definitely tasted like a candy bar, not one of those nutrition bars.

I was kind of surprised to see that they weighed only 1.75 ounces, it’s actually bigger than a Snickers bar, which gives the perception of a much larger mass of satisfaction.

Overall, these are fun and have very few compromises. And what’s the biggest one? Price. These retail for $2.50 ... that’s three times the price you’d pay for a non-organic bar. Pretty startling. But compared to other premium meal replacement bars, they can hold their own. The two nut varieties have 4 grams of protein (not from soy, though they do use soy lecithin so they’re not soy free) and 2 grams of fiber. They also clock in at 220 calories, which is a decent snack. I’d probably prefer these in a smaller variety though ... they’d make an awesome Halloween Treat if they came in snack size.

The Roasted Peanut bar is the one most likely to appeal to kids but none are too mature to miss with a true candy bar fiend.

I’d also recommend a bit of a change in the design of the package. I’m not sure who it’s supposed to appeal to, but it’s not grabbing me. They call themselves “tree huggin’ treats” and have the image of a couple of arms around a tree on the left size of each wrapper. (I’m not sure where the cat comes in.) The website looks completely different and inconsistent from this (but I’m not keen on the web’s cartoon designs either).

I’m not quite sure about them, they’re definitely on the right track and I’d be most inclined to eat the Roasted Peanut again, but if I were faced with eating one of these or a Lara Bar, I’d probably go for the Lara Bar.

Want to win some? Check out Crispy Cat Chronicles, if you can guess Ann’s new baby’s height, weight & birthdate you can win three cases of the bars of your very own.

Related Candies

  1. Theo 3400 Phinney Bars
  2. Organic Surf Sweets
  3. Russell Stover Organic Pecan Delight
  4. 100 Grand Coconut
  5. Pure Fun Candy Floss
  6. Coffee Beat
Name: Crispy Cat Bars: Toasted Almond, Mint Coconut & Roasted Peanut
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Crispy Cat
Place Purchased: samples from ExpoWest
Price: $2.50 retail
Size: 1.75 ounces
Calories per ounce: 126
Categories: Chocolate, Cookie, Nuts, Peanuts, Mint, Coconut, Canada, All Natural, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:06 am     Comments (5)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

3400 Phinney: Fig, Fennel & Almond and Hazelnut Crunch

Theo 3400 Phinney - New BarsTheo Chocolate, the only all Fair Trade and Organic chocolate company that makes their confections from bean to bar in the United States is growing. This year they added two new bars to their 3400 Phinney line, bringing the total to four milk chocolate bars and four dark chocolate bars.

They are all a standard format of two ounces in four sections and feature artwork on the wrapper by Kitten Chops.

3400 Phinney - Fig, Fennel & Almond in 65% Dark

I picked my full-sized samples of the new bars at the Natural Products Expo last month. The Fig, Fennel & Almond in 65% Dark was the one I was most looking forward to.

Let’s see, favorite things:

Figs? I never knew fig love until I had my own tree. Check!

Fennel? Love it in salads, prefer licorice in candy. Check!

Almonds? I eat them every day. Check!

65% Dark Chocolate? Not too dark, not too dry is the way I like it. Check!

Upon first bite this was too dark, too complex, kind of a mess. But like some Philip Glass piece, the spareness of each note eventually started making music.

It took about half the bar, but I started liking it more and more. The fennel stands out in the scent of the bar, a light and grassy licorice or anise note. Upon letting a bite melt it becomes a bit acidic, a little tangy and rather like raisins, but fresher. Not quite figgy but the seeds help. Later the little bits of crushed almonds pull it all back together.

The chocolate is dry and not quite as buttery as I’d like for a “candy bar” but for a chocolate bar, it has a nice bitter component that keeps the figs from feeling to sticky sweet. Still, it requires a bit too much effort for me to just eat the bar.

Rating: 6 out of 10

3400 Phinney Hazelnut Crunch in Milk Chocolate

I had a very hard time with this bar ... I have a very hard time not eating it all before I finished writing this review.

It’s simply called Hazelnut Crunch Milk Chocolate.

It smells hazelnutty, and has little bits of crushed hazelnuts and a toffee crunch mixed into the creamy and rather dark milk chocolate.

The toffee bits are what makes this really fabulous. They’re very salty (in fact, there’s a lot of salt in this bar: 140 mgs) but man, each little milligram makes a little jolt of electrical energy delivering those flavors right to the pleasure centers of my brain.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Where I had trouble with the FF&A, the Hazelnut Crunch was one I couldn’t believe I ate the whole thing when it was gone. It’s a perfect afternoon bar, not too filling, not too sickly sweet and the little dose of nuts makes it feel very satisfying. In fact, I’d probably eat it anytime, anywhere ... but the Fig, Fennel & Almond would definitely need to be the kind of bar where I’d need to be in the mood.

Theo’s 3400 Phinney line is now Kosher (dairy).

Related Candies

  1. Zotter Candy Bars
  2. Theo Confections
  3. Vosges Haut-Chocolate
  4. Figamajigs
Name: 3400 Phinney: Fig, Fennel & Almond and Hazelnut Crunch
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Theo Chocolate
Place Purchased: samples from ExpoWest
Price: $3.25 retail
Size: 2 ounces
Calories per ounce: 140 & 165
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, Toffee, United States, Theo, Kosher, Fair Trade, Organic, All-Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:22 am     Comments (10)

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)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lindt Chocolate Carrots

Lindt Chocolate CarrotsI stared and stared at these at the Target a couple of weeks ago and thought, “I have these eggs, that’s enough Lindt for one Easter.”

But then I was back in Target again last week and there they were, further on sale (only $1.33 for the package instead of $1.66 on sale). It was the fact that they were hazelnut that got me. Or maybe that they were carrot-shaped. Or maybe that I only had one item and I’d already walked about 2.3 miles around the circumference of the new Harbor City store and that negates any calories in my basket, right?

The little box holds four of the carrots. They’re billed on the box as, “Solid Milk Chocolate blended with Hazelnut.” That sounds like guanduia!

Lindt Chocolate Carrots (or are they umbrellas?)

Honestly, I was thinking it would be a hazelnut paste filling, not a whole stick of guanduia, but I’m not saying I’m disappointed.

Out of the foil the little confections stop looking like carrots and now look like folded umbrellas completely with a hooked handle. Very springy! They’re about 5.25” tall, with the chocolate portion at about 2.75” high. Each portion of chocolate is rather small, about .4 ounces or so (rather like the little traditional Piedmontese hats).

The chocolate is less milky tasting than the regular Lindt variety, instead it has some dark roasted nut notes and of course that rib-sticking hazelnut satisfaction.

They’re a cute little novelty, and at that price and with no artificial ingredients, it’s hard to beat. Unless you want some pretty foil-wrapped mockolate. I’m sure there’s something you can do with the leftover little sticks too, maybe something for Barbie or GI Joe. Definitely an item to pick up on clearance.

Made in Austria.

Related Candies

  1. Milka Alpenmilch
  2. Caffarel Gianduias
  3. Caffarel Chocolate Truffle Mushrooms
  4. Lake Champlain Hazelnut Eggs
  5. Caffarel Gianduia 1865
Name: Chocolate Carrots
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Lindt
Place Purchased: Target (Harbor City)
Price: $1.33 (on sale)
Size: 1.8 ounces
Calories per ounce: 153
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, Austria, Lindt, Easter

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:09 pm     Comments (8)

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Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.

 

 

 

 

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