Candy with added or measurable amounts of caffeine, either through natural ingredients like coffee or fortification.
Friday, January 18, 2013
It’s easy to dismiss this bar as one of the flash-in-the pan intersections of hipsterism. Mast Brothers are bearded bean-to-bar chocolate makers based in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn and part of the trend of micro-producers of formerly mass-marketed products. This bar mixes their carefully sourced (but unnamed) beans with coffee beans from the famed Portland, OR coffee roasters, Stumptown (they also have a Manhattan location).
I admit that I do love very good coffee, though I also drink the mediocre stuff rather happily. (Lately I’ve been indulging in a weekly cappuccino made with Verve beans served up by the excellent baristas at Short Cake at the Farmers Market in Los Angeles.)
I want a chocolate bar that evokes all the pleasures of a well made espresso shot in a portable solid - mix the coffee with chocolate instead of hot frothed milk. Both contain strong akaloids and bitter tannins but the cocoa butter might give a slower release to those flavors than hot water.
One of the distinguishing features of Mast Brothers bars is the packaging. They’re wrapped in distinctive papers, this one with an appropriately evocative deep red with black line art of a vintage motorcycle. Inside the thick paper wrapper, which is sealed on the back with a large label, it’s also wrapped in a good quality gold foil.
The bar was nicely tempered. I know that working with other inclusions that also have oils in them can be problematic (sometimes I note a hint of bloom around nuts in dark bars). The look of the bar is interesting, it’s not completely smooth and this is accurate to the actual texture of the chocolate itself. It looks a little lumpy (though that could just be the artisan style of the bar molds), but I found it gritty.
The bar is exceptionally dark looking, and the flavor matches. The coffee notes are bold: smoky with aspects of toffee, molasses and oak. I can’t really tell where the coffee stops and the chocolate starts, but the flavors I thought were from the cacao were a little more green. Some olive and dried cherries (with the accompanying tartness) with another little note of lemon zest. The melt is not quite smooth, I’ve mentioned the grittiness already, I found this in other Mast Brothers bars (I’ve never reviewed them before). The finish is a bit dry, but not chalky.
Overall, it’s not my ideal cup of coffee. I will say that the coffee is bold and stands out from the chocolate without being too sweet nor too bitter. I’ll probably finish the bar (though I can’t eat it late in the day because it is actually caffeinated), but I don’t think I’m going to buy another. I’d say as far as bean to batch bars married with single origin roasters go, I’m still the most fond of the Askinosie and Intelligentsia marriage.
The ingredient list is simple and short: cacao, cane sugar and coffee beans. No emulsifiers and no vanilla. There’s no statement about nuts, gluten or dairy on the wrapper.
Note: Eagranie of The Well Tempered Chocolatier also reviewed this bar last year, but hers was a different iteration, which contained more whole beans. For more about Mast Brothers, check out this 2009 NY Times article about Brooklyn food producers.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
I’m traveling again, which means I’ve got a hankering for portable coffee. I know that coffee flavored chocolates don’t have the same caffeinated kick as actual coffee, but a little snacking on some coffee-ish candy probably has some sort of placebo effect.
I’ve written about Feodora Moccas before. When I was in Germany I actually visited the factory where Feodora and Hachez chocolate is made and picked up both versions of their chocolate coffee beans. Even at the factory store, they’re still not cheap, though certainly less expensive than the prices I pay in the United States.
The Feodora Moccals Zart-Bitter is the most common version, but I was eager to try their Feodora Mocca’s Vollmilch because Feodora is so well known for their extremely smooth milk chocolate. The Feodora website had a product page for them in English:
The previous review of these holds up, as I still feel the same way about the slightly grainy texture. They’re quite strong in flavor, on the bitter side but not too acidic. They’re very woodsy but also sweet and have a note of cinnamon to them.
The pieces are excellently detailed, larger than a real coffee bean but with the little crease down the middle. They fit well in the mouth, and one is actually a great portion. There chocolate is mixed with 3% coffee beans ... I don’t know what that means for caffeine content, but I’d probably put it at least than 20 mg per portion.
I was a little disappointed by the Vollmilch variety (called Superior Milk Chocolate with Coffee on the back of the box in English). The Feodora chocolate is extremely smooth and milky, slick and cool on the tongue. However, the Moccas lack that smoothness, probably because of the addition of the actual coffee beans. It’s a little bit grainy, bitter and the milky flavors are more toffee and almost molasses.
Much to my surprise though, I went through the milk chocolate variety much quicker than the dark chocolate. It really shouldn’t surprise me, I prefer my coffee with a bit of milk in its liquid form. My favorite coffee flavored chocolate lentil is still the Meiji Coffee Beat from Japan, but this one does have an authentic coffee kick to it.
Friday, December 23, 2011
These little bars called Starbucks Dark Chocolate with Via Ready Brew are found only at Starbucks cafes (not even on their website) and feature the Starbucks Via Ready Brew instant coffee as a flavor base. The packaging is simple and effective, it’s a tough paper and foil combination. The package says that this little chocolate bar is 100% natural roasted instant and microground coffee blended into rich, dark chocolate.
It’s rather small, at 1.2 ounces, but for such an intense thing, it’s an appropriate size. (And with a calorie count of 160 according to myfitnesspal, it’s not on the Starbucks website or the wrapper.)
The bar shape and size is clever and incredibly portable, like a narrow and thick companion for your iPhone. The bar is in four little sections, the top is molded with some very nice typography.
The color of the bar is exceptionally dark, much darker and blacker than I usually see in just chocolate bars.
Starbuck’s has done an awful lot right with this little bar. The texture is very smooth but still intense. It’s about the coffee for the most part, but the elements of the chocolate are also in a strong supporting role.
The coffee flavors are concentrated. It’s a little acidic, smoky and woodsy. The coffee notes are less intense, but don’t fight. The texture is smooth though the bar has a bit of a dry finish. The powdered coffee isn’t chalky or gritty at all, which is a great bonus over chocolate covered coffee beans.
There’s no indication what the caffeine content was on this bar, and as I’m sensitive to the stuff, I made sure to eat only half of this for breakfast this morning.
It’s a really strong bar, smooth for something with whole coffee beans in it, flavorful and nicely portioned. The price of $1.75 seems steep at first, but as a coffee replacement that you can pull out at any time, it’s a great deal. If you’re traveling, especially driving, and need to have something at the ready, this is a great option.
I’ve never actually tried the Via Ready Brew was a drink. I do, however, buy it for use in baking. I make an incredibly intense triple salty chocolate (cocoa, melted chocolate & chocolate chips) espresso cookies with Via Ready Brew. It makes the recipe ingredients insanely expensive (between the two bags of good Guittard chocolate chips and Via it’s about $11 for a batch, and that doesn’t include the standard ingredients). So if you have the money, I do think it’s much better than espresso powder or ordinary Folger’s crystals for baking.
Starbucks posted a bit about the ethical sourcing of the chocolate on their blog in two parts: part one & part two. One of the posts indicates a relationship with Tcho, but another blog reports that the chocolate bars are made by Santander.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Single origin chocolate and single origin coffee sound like an excellent fit. Askinosie Chocolate, one of America’s few (but growing) number of bean to bar craft chocolate makers has paired with Intelligentsia one of America’s fair trade, artisan and single origin coffee roasters.
As with all of Askinosie’s creations, the bar is thoughtfully packaged. It comes in a glassine sleeve that’s tied shut with a little loop of twine from the bags that the cocoa beans arrive in. Inside there’s a folded sleeve label over the cellophane sealed bar. It all fits back together pretty well, which is good because I can’t eat this bar in one sitting.
It’s three ounces and cost $9.50, which is a bit steep, except compared to everything at Intelligentsia. I’ve only had their coffee twice, both times was a dry cappuccino and both times it was intense but brewed nicely - not burnt, not too acrid or acidic. (I don’t go for the darkest roast of the day, either.)
The bar has 18 squares, spelling out Askinosie Chocolate. The color of the bar is exceptionally dark, glossy and has a clear snap to it.
The scent is quite strong with more of a woodsy, coffee grounds scent than a brewed note. The texture of the bar is noticeably stiffer too. The melt is smooth but slightly chalky and dry at first. There’s plenty of cocoa butter to thin it out after a few moments, kind of like the crema on a cup of espresso.
The coffee flavors are strong, bitter and rather overwhelm the chocolate. The ingredients are cocoa beans, cane juice, coffee beans and cocoa butter. So there’s no vanilla in there, no emulsifiers.
I found myself returning to bar, even though I had to be very restrained in my portions because of the strength of the coffee. I appreciated how well blended it was, that the bar wasn’t just a superior chocolate bar with a bunch of coffee grounds thrown in like so many other companies seem to do. The flavors linger, with more mild notes of licorice, apricot, fig and molasses.
The package says there are two servings, I was much happier with six pieces over the full nine, but I’m the kind of gal that just has a small cup of coffee in the morning (an actual 8 ounce cup). Lest you feel bad about the calories (154 per ounce), there’s also almost 4 grams of protein, 4% of your calcium and 14% of your RDA of iron in that ounce. I can’t hazard a guess on the caffeine.
It’s not an every day bar, which is fine because it’s hard to get a hold of (at Intelligentsia cafes or their website) and pretty expensive. But as a substitution for three coffee drinks, it’s mighty fine, just as satisfying, far more portable and ready when I am. Now ... when is a white chocolate/coffee bar coming out?
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Scho-Ka-Kola has a cult following, especially in Germany. The concept is simple, it’s a caffeine enhanced chocolate. They use both coffee and cola nut to boost the stimulant content which is where the name comes from, Schokolade (chocolate), Kaffee (coffee) and Kola (cola) . It was introduced at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin by Hildebrand as a “sport chocolate”. Later it was used during the war, especially by German pilots. Today it’s made by Sarotti, which is owned by Stollwerk which itself is now owned by international chocolate giant, Barry Callebaut. It’s still made in Berlin and the packaging has changed little over the years.
The tin is easy to carry in a roomy pocket (though I’d worry about melting). It’s about 3.5 inches in diameter and one inch high. There’s a helpful little thumb-print impression on one side of the lid, press it and the tin opens easily.
The round tin holds little “slices” of the chocolate disk. There are eight slices on each layer of the tin, separated by a stiff piece of waxed paper. A serving which would contain the equivalent caffeine as a cup of espresso. My guess (and part of this is from translating the package) is that a serving is four pieces and the actual caffeine content is about 50 mg. So it’s not a lot, but it’s a mild and even boost. It says to me that munching a few pieces an hour would be a good way to keep a steady dose of caffeine in your system without getting all jittered up.
The chocolate isn’t very intense or dark, it’s 52.5%, but the rest of the content isn’t all sugar either. It’s 2.6% coffee and 1.6% cola nut powder. Kola nuts (or cola nuts) are closely related to cacao and have a fair amount of theobromine as well as caffeine in them but far less fat.
The pieces are thick (just shy of a half an inch) and have these great ridges that make it easier to hold them without getting too warm from your hands and bite. (One piece is less than a quarter of an ounce, so it’s a fine mouthful if you won’t want to bite.) The flavors are quite deep and on the woodsy side. There’s a dry and bitter note to it in the flavor, but it didn’t leave me wanting a lot of water. The coffee flavor is muted, it’s mostly a roasted and charcoal sort of chocolate. Not intense but also not pansy. There were no acrid caffeine flavors for me, so the fact that the caffeine was still integrated into their natural sources probably helped. It probably also means that the caffeine is metabolized a little slower.
I picked up this little tin for 2 Euros, but in the States these things sell for about $6 retail. For $6 I could buy a truly extraordinary bar of chocolate. But if I were traveling in Europe and wanted an alternative pick-me-up to the sub-par coffee that’s found in far too many places, then this is the way to go. Easy to carry and share and with a reliable dosing scheme.
There is a little milk in there, so it’s not a vegan product. The tin also says that it may contain traces of almonds, hazelnuts and gluten.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I was surprised and pleased when I ran into the bars at the nearby Cost Plus World Market.
There are three varieties with a bold package design that keeps in tune with the Swiss Army style of the red shield with a white cross. The bars are larger than most American single-serve chocolate bars, about half the size of the typical 3.5 ounce (100 gram) tablet.
The wrapper calls them Survival Portions though the rest of the package is rather vague about how these help you survive, or what exactly the challenge is that needs a portion for survival.
I think the design on the wrapper is great. The bold design of the logo caught my eye immediately and the nice placement of the description & statement that it contains caffeine from guarana is easy to see.
It’s billed as Swiss Army Energy Bar Chocolate - Skimmed Milk Chocolate with Cornflakes and Guarana.
Guarana is an Amazonian vine related to the maple tree that produces a little fruit with seeds high in caffeine. In its purest form I understand the roasted fruits/seeds are a bit like cocoa powder, a bit astringent and bitter but also with some pleasant cocoa & coffee flavors. In this instance it’s just a guarana extract and it only makes up 1/2% of the total bar.
It’s quite a nice looking bar - shiny and nicely molded with scored pieces for easy portioning.
Once I broke the bar it was easy to see the little cornflake bits. It smells rather sweet but also slightly malty, which I attributed to the cornflakes.
The texture is quite smooth, though not quite silky because of the cereal bits. It’s sweet but the slightly salty, mildly malty cornflakes plus the dairy notes of the milk made it all work. I only got the slightest hint of caffeine bitterness that lingered high and light at the finish.
After the creamy experience with the milk chocolate version, I was thinking perhaps this one would be nice but probably sweet. I was happy to see that the first ingredient is cacao mass and the second sugar then cocoa butter ... so this was going to be pretty chocolatey.
It has the same 1/2% guarana extract content, which amounts to about 42 mgs of caffeine per bar.
The scent isn’t very complex, just sweet with a woodsy roasted note. The texture is smooth and has a good immediate melt. It’s a bit bitter with an overall fruity and berry note to the chocolate flavors and a little hint of smoke towards the end. I got a similar bitterness at the end as well that was different from the initial bitterness.
The white bar is a bit different, first because it has coconut instead of cornflakes. It’s made with real cocoa butter, and quite a lot of it (the second item on the list of ingredients, right after sugar and followed by skimmed milk powder).
Of course all that fat amps up the calorie count here, this bar is 290 calories versus the 260 for the previous two bars. The other confusing aspect of the nutrition label is that it lists salt as an ingredient but says that there is no sodium in it.
The bar is a light yellow, buttery looking block. The little white flecks of coconut are quite small. The overwhelming scent of the bar is coconut.
The bar melts readily and has a smooth texture, except for the soft & chewy coconut flakes. It’s sweet and milky but also has a fair bit of a salty note which keeps it from seeming too sticky like some white chocolates can. I might have preferred it with the cornflakes, but it’s still a fun bar. I didn’t sense any bitter aftertaste here, which may have just been the chocolate and not the guarana in the previous bars.
What sets these bars apart, besides the Swiss Army branding is the caffeine content. It’s not that much at only 46 mg per bar, the same caffeine content as 1 ounce of espresso or a 4 ounce cup of coffee. And as I mentioned, the portions are quite generous for what is basically an “all chocolate” bar with only a few small inclusions.
They’re well priced for what they are, a quasi-novelty item but also a decent chocolate bar with a unique set of attributes. They’ll probably be very popular stocking stuffers this holiday season.
They have an odd website, it looks great, but feels a little off because of what appears to be a machine translation of the text. The wrappers say Imported into the USA by Cost Plus, Inc. so I’m guessing they’re the exclusive retailer for these here.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Here are two new super charged coffee bean candies. GoGo Beans are made by How Do You Take Your Coffee and feature “The Eating Roast” coffee, which are beans that are chosen & roasted to be tastier for consuming than for brewing (I already reviewed their JAVAZ). Jitterbeans are the overclocked version of Crackheads (review here) from Osmanium ... and when I say overclocked I mean it, each piece contains about 20 mg of caffeine so the package has as much as 6 small cups of coffee.
GoGo Beans are super-fortified and offer both the caffeine inherent in the bean plus an addition kick added to the candy shell plus some special B vitamins, taurine and ginseng. The format is an bean at the center (specially roasted for eating) then a mockolate coating all covered in a thick candy shell.
The shell has a pretty immediate light bitterness which may be the fortification or may be the food coloring. That fades away pretty quickly for me. The inside has a mellow cocoa flavor but not a huge kick for me. The texture is soft and has a decent melt, but at times felt a little waxy. The bean at the center was lovely, just as I found with the Javaz - crunchy and crisp with a strong coffee flavor but no oily bitterness.
The Jitterbeans follow the tried and true format of chocolate over an espresso bean and adds a candy shell. Like the original Crackheads, these are in the classic tuxedo colors of black and white, though there’s no actual white chocolate in there.
The candy shell is rather thin and offers a sandy crunch. Inside the chocolate is sweet and has a bit of a spicy woodsy ginger flavor to it along with the mellow coffee notes. The extra caffeine isn’t bitter at all though some of the beans in the center had a bitter kick. The whole thing is rather tasty and probably very dangerous for those who don’t know that there’s a lot of caffeine in these and consumes a whole box. I limited myself to three beans in the three different times I tried these. That said, I have a hard time believing they have that much caffeine in them without so much bitterness that I’ve found in other caffeinated candies - maybe someone can comment on the caffeine in “guarana seed extract.”
Both of these are great, durable & portable caffeine supplements. They’re tasty and what’s most important - portionable so you can control exactly how much caffeine you take in. That said, I much prefer the more sedate and non-fortified versions and will stick with the JAVAZ for my candy, coffee & caffeine combination. The addition of artificial colors wasn’t enough of selling point.
Jitterbeans and GoGo Beans get a 6 out of 10 - not bad candy, but not for me.
Friday, April 3, 2009
For some reason people want Energy. I’m not quite sure why they’re looking for products specifically labeled that way, as my understanding is that all food contains energy. Calories are available energy from food. If it doesn’t have calories, as far as I’m concerned, it’s not food.
But consumers, I believe, have been duped into thinking that stimulants are actually energy. They’re not, they’re just, well, stimulants. Stimulants make you feel like doing stuff, as the general state of humans (if you believe advertising and general laws of physics) is to be inert and bored. Stimulants, though, don’t cure boredom or actually get anything done.
Caffeine is the most common stimulant and is naturally found in a product that masks the bitter and unpleasant taste of it very well: coffee. Caffeine also works as an additive in other products in smaller quantities, usually products with natural alkaloids, like chocolate or perhaps strong fruit flavors.
There are some other compounds which are also grouped into energy products: Taurine and B vitamins (Niacin, B6 and B12). These have their own distinct flavors, often known collectively as the “vitamin burp” taste. (You can read about these at Energy Fiend)
All of this writing, however, is just vamping. After trying my first Beechies Force Chewy Candy, I didn’t want to continue.
Lemon - it looks pretty good and the first crunch of the candy shell was a bright & promising sweet lemon flavor. But chewing it, well, I should probably start posting photos of my facial expressions. The first was something akin to “Wha? Is this really happening? Does this really taste like this?” kind of quizzical look. Then a bitterness set in, which caused me to furrow my brow. Then came a general distasteful look that someone might mistake for “May I spit this out in your hand please? Please! Right now!”
And then I waited for a couple of weeks. I reviewed a bunch of other stuff, even avoided reviewing yesterday by posting a new products announcement list. I carried the bags around with me in my “to review” package. The wrapper does say recharge - refresh - renew so I thought I’d try again.
Green Apple went a little better. The candy shell is tangy and has that comforting artificial apple flavor. Then ... well, it took a turn for the worse. The soft chew of the center, which is rather like a Mentos, had a bit of a bitter tingle. The flavor was that midrange bitterness that reminds me of dirty gym socks. But it was mercifully short
Strawberry was a beautiful red. Much prettier than any Mentos. The shell flavor was soft and sweet. The inner chew was musty and tasted like generic chewable vitamins.
935 mg of Taurine
This combination of chemicals does not give me energy, it gives me angry.
I emailed the company, Richardson Brands, to see if they actually still make these. They never responded. Their website doesn’t list them on a product page but includes them in the ingredients/nutritional section. I found record of them being offered at All Candy Expo in 2006, but under different flavors. The only place I’ve ever seen these for sale is at the 99 Cent Only Store, but I have seen them at multiple stores and the packages appear fresh and current.
The chew itself was odd looking, it’s olive green. Really nicely done olive green, but just not a color I associate with rich, roasted coffee. (But I do associate with unroasted coffee.)
The outer shell is sweet and has a mellow coffee flavor. The inner chew is rather promising. It’s sweet and has a latte taste - both creamy and with some good brewed coffee flavors. The bitterness is there, but rather believable because of the coffee flavor.
I still had the aftertaste of bitter B vitamins, but it didn’t feel as strange because there was no tangy fruit flavor component. I wouldn’t call these great, but compared to the fruit ones, they’re actually edible. They reminded me of the Chewy Coffee Rio.
The other trick I found is to actually chew it all up. When I ate my second Java, I left the candy shell dissolve. Bad idea, because that’s where the extra sugar was. The center chew is not as sweet, but if you let it dissolve like a hard candy, it’s not a bad either. They do end with coffee breath though, so have some real mint Mentos on hand for that (as a side note, there is a caffeinated version of Mentos available in Europe).
An 8 ounce cup of brewed coffee (yes, I actually drink just an 8 ounce cup) contains about 100 mg of caffeine but no calories. Each bag contains two servings (140 calories)... and for only a buck, it’s a pretty good price for an easily metered amount of caffeine. I suppose you can swallow them whole.
I can see these having their place. For travelers, especially those who don’t want to take in a lot of liquids, it’s a nice alternative to coffee or energy drinks. They’re extremely portable (although 14 of them do take up a bit of space).
The package says a serving is 14 pieces, but it holds on 25 ... so it’s just shy of two actual servings. They’re made in
Colombia, which knows a lot about coffee. I’m keeping the Java (4 out of 10) ones on hand for medicinal purposes but I’m throwing out the fruit ones (1 out of 10).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.