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.
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.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Sometimes I order stuff on the internet because I like the sound of the name. I saw Kasugai’s Fruits Lemonade (also known as Ramune Iro Iro) on JBox.com and since I was already ordering a gazillion rolls of Pineapple Mentos, so I figured I should get some other stuff too.
From the description it was clear that these were just compressed dextrose candies like Smarties or SweeTarts. But the intriguing part was it looked like they came in pineapple. As I was in a pineapple mood, it was quickly in my cart and on its way to me.
The little package is cute and has a variety of different sizes. Some are large sweets, about the size of four quarters stacked up. Others were little tablets in rolls - some were tiny, others were a little bigger (like the size of American Smarties).
Most of the rolls were of all one flavor: Lemon, Strawberry, Pineapple, Kiwi or Orange. They were color coded and had little images of the fruits, so I had no trouble figuring out what I was going to get. (Well, the green one was a bit of a puzzle, but I eventually figured out that it was Kiwi, either that or a honeydew.)
There were a couple of rolls that were combinations of flavors. It was extremely hard to tell as they weren’t really different colors. I kind of liked that it was all about the flavor and there were no colors in there.
The texture was softer than Smarties ... in fact, the large ones were downright powdery. There was one larger roll (shown above) that had truly dense ones, but the rest were about the same. While I like a softer style most of the time, because you get right to the flavor, these had an odd chalky taste to them. It was like there was something else in there along with the sugar, maybe some sort of calcium carbonate and I’m actually getting some nutrition or something.
Overall the flavors were more intense than Smarties, but not as flavorful as SweeTarts. They weren’t truly sour through, not like a lot of other ramune products I’ve had. However, the high proportion of Pineapple items in this was what made it truly tasty. Sure it’s called Lemonade Mix, but it was really all about the Pineapple.
As a small side note, I’ve been experimenting with my husband’s Nikon D70 DSLR. He shot the two photos above in a little session we had over the weekend. I’m debating a move away from my point & shoot Sony DSC-V3. While I love my little camera, the control I have on the focus is a little frustrating sometimes. For now I’ll just borrow his for a while. (I think his photos turned out fantastic. It’s very hard to get a crisply focused shot on cellophane items, and the control on the depth of field is also amazing.)
Friday, November 30, 2007
I had hoped to do a good history of Sprees and the newer Chewy Sprees for this review. What I found is that like many large families, the kids in the middle or towards the end get kind of lost in the shuffle. The novelty of their existence is lost and though they grow up admirably strong and fetch a good price when sold (oh, wait, we don’t sell kids any longer, do we?), it’s just not as interesting as the first.
So info is kind of scant. Sprees came along sometime after SweeTarts, which came after Pixy Stix and Lik-m-Aid and were made by Sunline (Sunmark) brands (a little history here). I remember eating them as a kid. I loved the bright colors and the sound they made in my pocket (or when I unwrapped them from their roll and put them in the Gold Mine Gum bag I had because they both had that sunshine sweet juicyfruit scent). Sunline later sold out to Nestle which kind of folded the candies under the Wonka brand. The product, however, was happily unchanged except for the swap of Green Apple for Lime a few years back.
Chewy Spree come in a few different formats. You can get them in the bags shown here that holds 1.7 ounces and I believe they may still make the 1.73 ounce rolls. They also have a little plastic container of Chewy Mini Sprees that I’ve tried before as well.
The original Sprees are a compressed dextrose tart with a bright candy shell. The Chewy Spree, however, is less tart. I don’t know why, but it is. They’re a mellow version of the Spree, which I’m guessing sets it apart from the much bolder SweeTarts Shockers, which have a sour flavored candy shell and tart chewy inside.
They come in Grape, Orange, Lemon, Green Apple and Strawberry, otherwise known as the “don’t rock the boat” flavors of middle/later children.
The package, however, gives little indication about what’s inside. Simply called Mix’d Berry, it occured to me that besides telling us that it’s a kick in the mouth, Spree packages offer no explanation of what they are. Most candies do! (And I often like to dissect those statements.) There’s no listing of flavors, and even the colors on the front of the package bear little resemblance to the real-life ones.
Then I realized I didn’t figure out which color was which flavor, so I had to stop at the 7-11 this morning and buy another package. And for the life of me, after actually paying attention, I can’t figure it out.
Pink tastes like watermelon to me. I don’t think that’s a berry, even a mix’d one. Blue is raspberry, not terribly tart or intense, it has a good fragrant quality to it. The other two, I just didn’t know what they were. And after two packages, you’d think I would have figured it out. Purple might be mixed berry or maybe blueberry. I’ve never been good at figuring out what “flavor” blueberry is in candies. Red has me completely flummoxed. I suppose it could be Cherry?
They’re pretty, but I think I’ll stick with the regular hard Sprees.
Chewy Sprees have egg albumen in them, so are not suitable for vegans.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
I have a deep attraction to pretty candy. I’ve always enjoyed arrays of colorful candies spilled out on my desk. I like to arrange them in patterns, rainbows, color combos. I put them in glass jars, layered by color or shape. Mix them up, repeat and eat.
Most candies are pretty limited in what they can do with shapes and variety. Compressed Dextrose - the plain old chalky sweet and tart candies however, are extremely flexible when it comes to design (I call them chalk candies). With the loss of Tart ‘n Tinys, the time has come to find a replacement.
Oak Leaf (part of SweetWorks) is one of the few sugar-candy companies that really pays attention to the possibilities of pretty candy. At the All Candy Expo I got to see in person the huge variety that they make. I also got to bring home a good selection of those that attracted me most.
Holy moly, the green Baby Tears is actually lime! Who knew anyone made anything lime any longer? It’s all green apple these days. I think blue is Blue Raspberry, which was okay but certainly not sour.
There are a few versions of baby tears out there, (ZOMG has a review here).
Most of the candy is the same, the only differences are the colors and shapes. Some have different flavors depending on the mix. I was tickled by this Bonz variety. They sell it a couple of different ways, with just the skulls, just the bones and a mix of the two. (The plain bones are fun for a dog theme, the mix is great for Halloween or pirate themes.)
The bones themselves were super tart and kind of chalky on the inside instead of being dense. Pink (cherry), Red (also cherry), Yellow (lemon), Blue (sweet raspberry), Green (lime) and White (pineapple?). The candy shell was thin and easy to chomp through or dissolve off.
The skulls didn’t have an identical color line, there was a Purple (grape) and Orange (orange) and the Green was darker (watermelon).
These were dreadful. As cute as they are, they’re just as tasteless. The scale, for one, is just horrible. The Watermelon is the same size as the Strawberry and that’s bigger than the Lime! The Orange has a cute bumbly coating, but it’s so thick and flavorless I was worried it was actually a piece of plastic display. The grape had a similarly hard shell filled with a flavorless sweet powder. The Banana was the only standout, though I’m still not sure how I feel about it. Some days when I chomp on them I find the fake banana flavor comforting. Other days it feels rather cool on my tongue and slightly bitter I’m wondering if I’m eating fingernail polish remover. I had another small assortment of little fish in my mix and found the banana-yellow one in there even more alarmingly chemical-tasting. (I’m wondering if there’ll come a day when someone diagnoses Banana Candy Workers Lung.)
All of the candies are fun and at most places where I see them in bulk (at those pick-a-mix places at the mall) they’re way overpriced. You can buy them for about $2.50 a pound on Amazon (different brand) ... if you’re willing to buy 24 pounds of Bonz at a time. I wouldn’t pay more than $4 a pound for these unless I was depressed and nothing but bright food coloring and sugar could shake the doldrums.
They make Super Sours (different sizes, coated and uncoated), Smiles, Snaps, Lil’ Jewels (perhaps like the old Tart ‘n Tinys?) and Fishes along with all sorts yellow Bananas and multicolored Crazy Bananas.
The best way to buy these, as far as I can tell, is from those candy machines in kiosks at malls and arcades. At only a quarter for a little handful, it’s a pretty good pick-me-up.
If I wanted a fun and casual candy buffet (especially one that could stand the heat in summer), these could definitely be at the top of my list. Though some flavors are hit & miss, I still give them an 8 out 10 ... because they’re still pretty to look at if I don’t eat them.
EDITED 11/28/2007: I updated this to correct an earlier error. I attributed this candy to Concord Confections in error. These candies were made by Oak Leaf.
Friday, September 7, 2007
I never reviewed them here even though I tried them because it only came in two flavors: Cherry and Green Apple. Since they’re not really my favorite flavors, I didn’t think it was a good idea to evaluate them based on those, I kept thinking that they’d come out with the classic Grape, but no such luck.
However, last week I saw an announcement that Wonka was bringing out a Shockers version of the Squeez line and one of their first flavors was going to be lemon. I enjoy the SweeTart Shockers ... they’re blisteringly sour (I’m salivating just thinking about them!) and the citrus flavors are undoubtably the best.
When I was a kid I used to make a version of this Squeez stuff. It involved taking Pixy Stix (or the cheaper and less flavorful Filled Plastic Fruit) and a little water and making a paste. This could then be spread (or glopped) onto lips as a special tangy lipgloss (and facial peel) or slathered onto a green apple Jolly Rancher Stix. As a special treat, sometimes I made something else: take a little single-serve pack of saltines (like you get with your soup at a diner), smash the crackers completely into a fine power while still in the wrapper. Then carefully open the package at the top and pour in as many Pixy Stix as you have. Jello-O powder will also do in a pinch. Add a small amount of water, enough to form a dough. Mash completely together. Spread on other crackers or eat by squeezing bits onto the tongue. )If the dough is particular firm, small balls can be created, lined up on the windowsill to dry for later.) The combination of salt, light crunch from the crackers that weren’t completely soggy yet and the sour of the Pixy Stix was, well, an interesting way to pass a half hour in front of the TV watching old episodes of the Monkees.
But enough of about that!
Shockers Squeez comes in a little tube, larger than a travel size of toothpaste. Flip the top and squeeze some out onto your finger. The texture is rather like toothpaste, except that the “grit” actually dissolves.
Tongue Trippin’ Lemon smells pretty good, but not much like lemons. It smells like that cloud of powder the comes out of a can of Country Time Lemonade Drink Mix. It’s immediately sour and then has a metallic lemon note that tastes like, well, lemonade drink mix, but a bit more intense.
The sugary part feels slightly cool on the tongue, like Pixy Stix do.
The thick paste isn’t quite as tart as the lemon, but still similarly sour like a SweeTart. Unlike Shockers, which start tangy and then become rather sweet, these are tart all the way.
There are probably many ways to eat these, I found that just squeezing a dot out of the tube and wiping it up with my finger and into my mouth was the cleanest and most satisfying. Amy, from next door, just put it directly onto her tongue in much larger proportions that I did. The blue does make the tongue, well, bluish.
I could see experimenting with other candies, like putting it on Red Vines or maybe throwing a dollop on a lollipop every once in a while. I can say that it doesn’t go very well with coffee, but you probably already knew that. I haven’t tried it on Saltines ... I could only find some Rye Crisps left over from the last time I got soup ... that’s not so hot. They might make a good icing accent on some cupcakes. I’m eager to try them on my Peeps! But the price is kind of prohibitive. Regular SweeTarts are far cheaper.
These are available in stores now. I saw them at the checkout at Von’s last week (the same day that these samples from Wonka arrived).
The first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. The last two ingredients are yellow #5 and sodium benzoate. Kosher.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The mint market is well, full of mints. So what’s a company gonna do to distinguish themselves from the crowded field? Ver thinks it’s hit on the right balance of novelty, quality and qualifications. Their line of six different flavors are vegan, Kosher and gluten free, nut free and all-natural (and featuring many organic ingredients).
The blue tin was predictably Peppermint, their original flavor. Unlike a mint like Altoids, these aren’t blindingly strong. Just simply, well, mints. The texture is pleasant. Not chalky, but a little crumbly but sufficiently dense. The intensity of the mint grows (though sometimes one mint may be stronger than another) as it dissolves and leaves a breath-freshening coolness when it’s gone.
WinterMint is what I’m guessing is wintergreen since it features wintergreen oil in the ingredients. I think wintergreen flavor is undervalued in our culture and I blame Pepto Bismol for giving us the association of wintergreen with being sick. (Some additional blame goes to Ben Gay for making us think of locker-rooms and old people.) Upon reading a little more on the subject, wintergreen is not to be taken lightly as it can be toxic in very large doses, which you really can’t achieve with a tin.
This was like one of those big Canada pink mints (wintergreen is also called Canada mint), but not as chalky. Smooth and peppery, I enjoyed these quite a bit. There were also little bits of real peppermint leaves in the pastilles.
With my motion sickness difficulties I tend to eat a lot of Ginger candies. I like to strike a balance between their spiciness, the amount of actual ginger in the candy and of course the overall taste. Too much spice and I can’t maintain my intake (though fanning my mouth often takes my mind off of nausea ... so that’s effective).
These crazy mints have a lot of ginger flavor in them and burn on my tongue right away. It dissipates after a moment and I forget about the inital scalding by the time I eat another one.
They have two kinds of ginger in them: ground ginger root and ginger flavor. I think ginger goes particularly well with Maple Syrup.
It’s definitely cinnamon, completely spicy, kind of woodsy and a little sweet. There are peppermint leaves in this one too, but I think it would have been better to throw a few little bits of cinnamon in there while they were at it. But they didn’t ask me.
For a while I was pronouncing this as Very Mints ... not realizing, first that they were spelled Ver with no I in there after the Ver. It wasn’t until I got the VerMONT connection that I understood the name. I still think Very Mints is a good name, too. I might start calling the state it Very Mont.
The two flavors that set this set apart are the flavor combos. This one, Chai features Fair Trade teas from Honest Tea. Of course this means that this ingredients simply say that it contains “Organic Chai Tea” which is a pretty vague thing, kind of like “cake mix”. I can taste a bit of the black tea background, some cinnamon and strong clove, a little nutmeg. I’d have liked, of course, more cardamom and perhaps vanilla notes. And less clove. Just make a clove mint and leave clove out of the other candies.
It’s pretty good and a nice change of pace from the others. The spicy notes are refreshing and I think gives me pleasant breath.
The last flavor is Cafe Express which features Fair Trade coffee from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. The ingredients list both coffee and natural coffee flavor and they certainly smell like sweet, sweet coffee. The flavor is a little less intense, mellow and coffee-ish. On the good side of that, there’s no coffee breath afterwards. On the bad side, they feel more like candy than a breath mint. Not that there’s anything wrong with that since they’re pretty much gone now.
Overall I prefer the texture of these to Altoids, they’re a little smoother and the binder gums in there give them a very slight slippery feel on the tongue as they dissolve. The flavors are more pleasing than the similarly-textured Pastiglie Leone and completely different from the also-vegan friendly St. Claire’s Organic Mints.
Curiosities & other facts associated with these mints:
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