Known as chalk candy, this is candy that's made from powdered ingredients, mostly dextrose (also known as glucose). Pieces are created compacting the powder with a small amount of binder in molds in a compression machine.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Enter XLear with their SparX candies, all sweetened with xylitol. Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol with the same sweetening power as sucrose but one third fewer calories. It’s made from birch bark, corn cobs and occurs naturally in plenty of other places and is even metabolized by the body in everyday fruits & vegetables.
They come in three different flavor varieties:
Each little flip top plastic tube holds 30 grams (about 1.06 ounces).
The little pastel bits are naturally colored and about the size and shape of the old Tart n’ Tinys.
They have a light little shell on them, it’s a bit soft on the tongue at first and a little slippery. The little pellet inside has a cooling effect, a little tart boost and a sweet finish. The flavors are very light, not really that noticeable - not as powerful as SweeTarts.
Citrus has a distinct flavors, a little more tart than the others. Berry is all about the floral flavors of strawberry & raspberry, I couldn’t tell them apart that well, they weren’t at all tangy, but felt very fresh. The Fruit blend had the banana, which I thought was fun (especially for someone who likes Runts), grape was like concord grape (with a slight chewable vitamin aftertaste) and apple was similarly similar to apple juice. Peach was, well, peachy enough (not my favorite, but not too powerful so I didn’t pick them out of the mix).
I thought they could have been a bit more flavorful, but that’s because I wanted some super-duper cavity fighting replacement for SweeTarts, but that’s not what these are. They’re not really candy for popping mindlessly, I don’t think. Just a little freshening, mouth cooling treat.
Each little candy has about .6 calories each, meaning the whole package has about 68 calories total.
Xylitol, like other sugar alcohols, can cause intestinal distress and I did notice a bit of gassiness after eating these (probably the equivalent of a whole tube over two days). I’m told that if you slowly ramp up, your body acclimates. Brian reviewed them a couple of years ago and didn’t get along at all well with the xylitol and neither did many of the commenters, so start slow with these before you go eating a whole package.
The ingredients are natural enough, though I’m not sure what the source of the natural colors are (so I can’t say if it’s vegan or not, but there’s also beeswax in there, so it may not meet all vegan standards). They also contain some other mineral items like calcium glycerophosphate (which is a source of calcium and phosphorous) and magnesium sterate.
Xlear products can be ordered directly from their website and found in many vitamin, health foods and stores like Whole Foods. The price isn’t bad for one of these fringe products, they usually retail for $1.50 or so per tube. It’d be cool if they offered these in bulk, so you could refill the tubes.
Note: do not allow dogs to consume products with xylitol (well, really don’t let your dogs eat any people food) as it can be toxic.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Wintergreen is a natural flavor derived from a few sources, one of them being the Wintergreen plant. It’s also found in the North American teaberry and birch bark. Wintergreen is sometimes called Winter Mint, but isn’t really a mint (in the sense that it’s derived from a mint plant), but it still falls into the “aromatics” of flavors. (Still, I characterize it as a mint flavor, because it reminds me tooth powder - yes, I’m old enough to remember tooth powder.) It’s a flavor that’s more popular in North American than the rest of the planet. It’s also a flavor found in Root Beer and Birch Beer, two other uniquely North American flavors.
For many of us Wintergreen is associated with things like Pepto Bismol, Icy Hot or Ben Gay. So even if you enjoy the flavor, other people associate it with those things and when they smell it they ask if you have sore muscles or a queasy stomach.
Canada Wintergreen are built on the flavor and don’t seem to have suffered for it. They’re a simple candy, just a firm sugar-based dough with some gums & gelatin in there to hold it all together in a firm chalky tablet.
Canada Mints are made by Necco, who makes another slightly different version of these called Necco Wafers in different flavors (the only real difference in the ingredients is some dextrose and glycerine).
They’re a bit more intense than Necco wafers. The texture of the tablet is a little softer than a conversation heart. They’re crumbly, not too sweet and have a pretty intense wintergreen flavor, so much that it makes my mouth a little numb. (There’s also a slight and quick-to-dissipate bitter aftertaste, but I chalk that up to the presence of Red #40.) I prefer the texture of these to something like the LifeSavers Wint-O-Green (but there’s no spark-making with these).
I pretty much love these and don’t care of someone thinks that I’ve been rubbing muscle-soothing balms into my muscles (but my pink tongue is probably a dead giveaway that it’s candy related). The only problem I can think of with wintergreen is that it doesn’t really go well with coffee.
Canada Mints come in a peppermint version in white as well (and supposedly a spearmint version that I haven’t found in years). They’re supposedly available in rolls, but I only ever see them in bulk bins or in these types of bags. I used to buy them a lot when I was a teen and when I was in college, I think because it was a dirt-cheap candy, usually less than a dollar a pound. Now I just buy Neccos every once in a while (mostly because they’re available in rolls).
The package heralds that they’re fat free. They’re also 100% carbs, for those watching those. (About 12 calories each, for those who just track that.)
As a strange side note, there is a plant that’s known as Canada Mint, Corn Mint or simply wild mint (Mentha arvensis) which is the only mint species native to North America. It’s not wintergreen flavored though. The name Canada Mint in this case was because it was sold in Canada starting in the 1880s and looks pretty much unchanged since then.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
I was at the bulk candy shop at the mall last month and saw what looked like a new mix of Runts in the bins. Curious, I bought a little sampling of them. I thought they were Tropical Runts (which used to exist).
Instead, I found out that they’d reformulated the Runts flavors yet again.
The new assortment includes: Strawberry, Banana, Orange, Pineapple and Mango.
The previous version had: Blue Raspberry, Watermelon, Cherry, Strawberry, Banana and Orange.
The version before that, that I remember best was what they introduced in 1982: Banana, Orange, Cherry, Strawberry, and Lime. It was the best replacement for Wacky Wafers.
Back when they were that first assortment of flavors I bought them quite a bit. They were cute, they didn’t roll around when you sorted them out and the flavors were nice ... only one in the mix I didn’t like, which were good odds as far as I was concerned.
But when they went to the 21st century flavors, I lost interest completely. I didn’t like watermelon or blue raspberry or cherry ... so half the box was thrown out or given away.
This new version though, we’re back to 80% efficiency!
The Banana is quite artificial. It reminds me of Circus Peanuts and nail polish remover. Strawberry is sweet and flowery. Orange is bland and tastes like Tang or Jell-O mix. (That’s not a bad thing.)
The new Pineapple is awesome. It’s tangy, it’s fragrant, it’s a real hit. The Mango surprised me because I didn’t like it. I love mangos, I have a serious mango addiction when they’re in season (I’ll buy a half a dozen when they’re on sale and eat them in a weekend). But mango flavor is kind of like peach, it’s just not quite the same. It takes like pine needles and fake peaches to me.
A complaint I’ve heard about the new mix is that it’s no longer as colorful as it used to be. There are two yellows in there, no more blue or green. (Honestly, the Mango could have been green ... or even the Pineapple.) But I still find them very pleasant and are now back on my list of candies that I pick up every once in a while.
Wonka has always had the best names for their candies. Discontinued ones (that some will remember fondly): Wacky Wafers, Punkys, Oompa Loompas and Dweebs. Their current lineup still includes: Bottlecaps, Everlasting Gobstoppers (well, Roald Dahl came up with that one), Laffy Taffy (formerly Tangy Taffy) and of course all of the items swallowed up from Sunline like SweeTarts & Pixy Stix.
The new flavor set is Green Apple, Banana, Orange, Grape and Strawberry.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
It’s the Wonka Chocolate Golden Egg. It’s Wonka because it’s made by Nestle. It’s chocolate because that’s what it’s made from. It’s golden because that’s what color the foil wrapper is and finally, it’s egg shaped.
It’s sold in a rather large box, which I suppose protects it well, but seems a bit of overkill for the amount of actual candy you get.
The whole confection clocks in at 4.5 ounces (the largest of my candy reviews in Hollow Chocolate Rabbit Week). What’s also different about this one is that it has something inside, a handful of SweeTarts Chicks, Ducks & Bunnies. The egg itself is 4.5” tall. The box that holds it is 7” tall.
The chocolate shell is woodgrained. Or maybe it’s supposed to look like a nut. I have no idea why it would be either. Eggs are smooth.
The chocolate itself is, well at least real. It’s very sweet, sticky and milky. It’s definitely not the wonderful Swiss milk chocolate that Nestle makes, but as novelty fare goes, it does pretty well.
Some pieces taste a little “fruitier” because of the SweeTarts.
My egg had eight SweeTarts Chicks, Ducks & Bunnies. Three red and five purple. I was spared the recent atrocity of the blue/tropical punch. I kind of hoped for more candy inside, but the amount matched the image on the box. Also, the candies rattle around inside and ding up the chocolate with little nicks and leave a SweeTart dust.
It’s fun, it’s well made (in Canada), but it’s a bit pricey at $7 to $8 retail (I haven’t found a store with them in stock, I got mine as a sample from CandyWarehouse.com). That ends up about $1.67 per ounce.
The Wonka Golden Egg is one of the few Wonka products that relates back to the 1971 movie adaptation. (And the best candy-themed musical rant ever.)
So if you have your own Veruca Salt at home, this might be the perfect featured item for an Easter basket.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Now it’s Easter season and time to trot out these cute little baby farm creatures. The package calls them Artificially Flavored Marshmallow candies, which doesn’t really explain them that well. Inside there are 10 little pouches that hold 9 or 10 candies in each.
The candies come in two shapes: Chick & Bunny (could you have guessed?). They also come in four colors: yellow, lavender, fuschia and turquoise.
They’re really cute. The colors are vibrant and actually go through and through, the insides are soft pastel versions of the exterior colors.
Each is about the size of a Flintstone’s Chewable Vitamin, but happily tastes nothing like it. They’re not a compressed dextrose candy (like SweeTarts), these are made of sugar and corn syrup (like marshmallows, actually).
They’re very crunchy and have a light marshmallow flavor. Marshmallow flavor? Well, it’s kind of like the lightest fake vanilla and light sugar. Kind of like a tasteless Altoid.
Not really something I want to eat as a candy, but they are really cute and the bags are really tiny, so it’s an appropriate size indulgence. (Heck, each bag has only 36 calories.) They’re probably better as decorations ... on cupcakes ... scatter them around on the table or maybe in a mix of other candies. I suppose you could also use them for a Peeps Mash Up. They certainly maintain the Peeps appeal as being one primarily of appearance.
Just Born raised a bit of a controversy last year when they introduced their Spooky Friends individually wrapped Halloween marshmallows. Instead of being manufactured in Bethlehem, PA, they were made in China. Though the company says that this is the first time they has outsourced their production, it’s not the first time that they’ve licensed their name. Flix introduced the Peeps Lollipop Rings & Slider Pops last year, which are also made in China, just as these are.
Just Born also added new Tulip shaped Peeps to their line this spring.
Monday, February 11, 2008
If there’s an all-ages emblem of modern Valentines candy, it’s conversation hearts. The first “Motto Lozenges” were invented in 1860 based on Necco’s already popular Necco Wafers. They were shell shaped and then later assortments included both mottos and expressions of love and came in a variety of shapes such as horseshoes, baseballs and of course hearts. Eventually they were made smaller and thicker and had briefer messages evolving into the current Necco Sweethearts.
I’ve spent years avoiding a review of them. So I bought a couple of boxes this year (why not, they were on sale for 20 cents each).
I actually like Necco Wafers. I know that sounds odd, because they’re so dry and chalky. (I did not like the Necco Smoothies, though.)
It used to be that the Conversation Hearts were just like the wafers, only thicker and smaller, same flavor rotation. Even though the Necco Wafers have remained unchanged, at some point they mucked around with the Hearts (I don’t know when) and changed up the flavors.
In an effort to be exhaustive (and sorry if I exhaust you), I’ve fully documented a random box of Sweethearts. They weigh one ounce and mine contained 36 hearts (one rather crushed though). There are six colors and they broke down in the following assortment:
Each year Necco adds new mottos to the little hearts. They always seem to be a little out of step with the modern world, but I think we forgive that lameness and just call them classics. (I didn’t find any that said Fax Me this year!)
There were three others that I couldn’t figure out. This year featured an “eco” theme with the addition of the mottos like “Wild Life” and “Heat Wave”. What’s nice is that there is a wide variety of mottos. In the second box I opened I found others that I didn’t have in this box (IM Me, Real Love, Marry Me and Sun Shine).
I have to say, I think the quality control isn’t very good on these. There were quite a few that were intelligible, like having a conversation while the garbage disposal is on. Some are a little bumpy and irregular in shape as well. But hey, they were twenty cents and come in a box ready for your own personal message to give as a Valentine, cheaper than a card.
In the Necco Wafers the purple is Clove (I also find that bitter too, but in a more natural way), Pink is Cinnamon and Yellow is Lemon (and there’s a Brown Chocolate one and a Black Licorice one). The changeup in the hearts is understandable, but the Red #40 is probably what I’m tasting ... my husband can’t taste it, so your mileage may vary.
While I tend to lump Sweethearts in with the other “chalk” candies, they’re not compressed dextrose like many other mints and sour tablet candies are. They’re actually made from a real sugar-based wet dough (that also includes gelatin, my vegetarian friends). This gives it a bit denser feel and also a deeper sweetness than dextrose (a monsaccharide instead of a disaccharide).
Having these reminded me that I prefer Necco Wafers. I like the tablet shape and how they clink together and are easy to crunch or dissolve. There are too many flavors that I don’t eat in this mix as well ... so I’ll stick with Necco Wafers. But I still might pick these up every year ... especially on sale after Valentines. They also come in: Spanish , Sour and Chocolate (one version is just the chalky chocolate and they also have foil wrapped actual chocolate hearts on the website, but I’ve never seen them in person).
I was wishing I had a cute story about an experience with Necco Sweethearts ... but I bet some reader has a great one about these or some other conversation hearts.
It appears that Necco has changed the standard flavors (and some of the packaging) for their time-tested Necco Sweethearts. Prompted by some readers who commented here, I picked up a new bag. They are fruit flavors, no longer the classic fruits & spices. (Strawberry, Grape, Green Apple, Lemon, Orange and Blue Raspberry.)
Full review with pictures over here: Necco Conversation Hearts (Sweethearts) 2010
Friday, February 8, 2008
I’ve always loved Gobstoppers, especially the ones that came out originally that were more Everlasting (tm) than the current mini ones. They were the size of real jawbreakers (about the size of a walnut) and would actually last for an hour. I found the flavor layers a little more vibrant than the Ferrara Pan ones I was used to. It also seemed smoother and kind of cool on the tongue, great for a summer treat. Later they were reformatted to include a compressed dextrose sour center ... which is kind of nice too, because it means I can crunch it. I’m a cruncher.
The color variety is different here than the regular bright versions in the box and lacking a green/apple one. But they gain a pink/strawberry.
The heart shape is soft and rounded, about the same diameter as a penny. They’re shiny and have the added bonus that they don’t roll around and off my desk like the spherical non-holiday version.
I think I might prefer these to the round ones. The fit nicely in the mouth, it’s easy to roll my tongue around on them or simply tuck it into my cheek discretely if I have to talk.
The flavor is mild. The candy layers have a light sweet flavor of whatever layer, with the out layer being the strongest. There’s no tartness with the outer layers, it’s all sweet. The “SweeTart” center is also only mildly flavored and not terribly sour, just a little on the tangy side and of course grainy.
They also look fabulous in the little jar, which is half the fun of candy. Of course they don’t last long in the jar. These would also make a fabulous candy for favors and candy buffets.
I don’t miss the green ones and actually like the strawberry quite a bit. I found the price of $1.99 for 12 ounces to be a bit high for a sugar candy, but if I can find these on sale after Valentine’s they’ll probably keep for quite a while. (I know, this is strange coming from a woman who just wrote about spending $5 on a candy bar yesterday.)
These Gobstoppers were made in Mexico.
Monday, February 4, 2008
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.
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.
But 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.
The 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.
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.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.