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.
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:
Friday, August 24, 2007
A couple of months ago I reviewed a dollar store find called Soda Can Fizzy Candy thinking that it was a cheaper and possibly cuter version of Jones Soda Co’s new Carbonated Candy.
Allow me to say that I was wrong.
While it is true that the Soda Can was less expensive and had a nice variety of flavors in one package, the candies inside are not the same. It’s not just that the Jones candy tablets are bigger, they’re simply more flavorful and fizzier.
The nice tin from Jones is substantial. It’s tall and has a firmly locking flip top. Inside the top is a little encouraging missive, mine said “jump up and down for no reason” which is somehow more encouraging than some of the sayings inside the Dove wrapped candies. I did have trouble getting the tin open much of the time, but unlike the difficulties with the York tin, I never spilled anything.
I bought these at Target, which had them for $1.39, not a bargain but certainly less than the $2.49 quoted on Amazon which scared me off of them in the first place.
The selection was limited at Target though, at least at the checkstands I checked, so I had a choice of M.F. Grape and Green Apple. Seeing how grape is an actual soda flavor I enjoyed as a kid, I thought that was the deal for me.
Later I pondered the “MF” part of the flavor name. I can imagine quite a few things that might fit into those initials:
Marty Feldman Grape
There’s probably something I’m missing as a possibility ... but this is a family-friendly blog.
The little tablets are the size of a regular aspirin. The smell when opening the tin is absolutely grape, like the foamy head on a chilled grape soda or sitting next to a mouth-breathing child chewing Grape Bubble Yum.
The flavor goes through and through with a tart bite and pretty well rounded grape flavor of both the chemical variety and a small dose of the grape juice note. What is most notable is the carbonation. These are pretty much fizz bombs for your mouth. Not blisteringly sour ones, just a simple frothy foam.
Frankly, they’re not that appealing to me. I enjoyed the flavor more than the Bawls mints (but there’s no caffeine here). Carbonated things make me burpy and while a grape repeat isn’t too bad, I’m not fond of the later revisit of flavors like green apple. This is pretty why I don’t drink sodas anyway. But my husband liked the flavor of them, so I give them marks for appealing to him. The tin mentions that you can drop them in your soda as a flavor booster.
So, if you’re a soda fan and are looking for a dried out capsule version to carry around with you, this might do the trick. The tin is pretty sweet looking and it’s easy to share a little pep-me-up with friends. There are only three calories per tablet and 50 tablets in the tin. I feel a bit more confident recommending them since they’re made in Canada and not China as the Soda Can candies were. Now, if they had a Root Beer version or perhaps Cola ... then I’d probably be more excited. I’ll stick with Bottle Caps for now.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Way back in the day there was a cute little candy called Tart n Tinys. They were tiny little pellets of tart candy, kind of like SweeTart, only sold in a small cigarette-pack-sized box that dispensed the candies from a little slip-tab at the top. (Nerds are still sold in this format.) They were made by Willy Wonka Candy Company, which was founded by Breaker Confections in 1971 just in advance of the feature film, Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. The book (called Charlie & the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl was published in 1964 and already wildly popular as was James and the Giant Peach which came out in ‘61.)
The Wonka line of candies were largely a marketing invention, the only candy in the original line up of confections that was actually mentioned in the book were Everlasting Gobstoppers.
However loosely tied Tart n Tinys were to Wonka’s imagination, I loved them. The little chalky pellets were fun to sort and stack, simple to share and easy to portion. The original flavors were Cherry, Lemon, Lime, Grape and Orange. The texture always seemed a bit smoother than SweeTart, which had a chunky and gritty texture (which I also appreciate).
In 1988 Breaker Confections sold the brand to Nestle. Nestle eventually made some changes to the candies, mostly because they had also recently acquired the Sunline brand of SweeTart confections in their takeover of Rowntree (who bought Sunline in 1986). Sunline products (SweeTart, Sprees and Bottle Caps) were then branded under the Wonka label as well. In the early 1990s Tart n Tinys were reintroduced with a new colorful candy shell (more like mini Spree than mini SweeTart now). The most interesting part of the candy shell addition is that the grape ones were no longer purple, they’re now blue (but thank goodness they’re not the blue punch flavor of SweeTart).
The new candy coated variety were also a little rounded, so they roll. No more stacking. But I have to admit they were fun to look at, and probably a little easier to sort even in dim lighting conditions.
So, you may have noticed that I started this post with, “Goodbye.” This is because Nestle has decided to discontinue both Tart n Tinys and Chewy Tart n Tinys.
It makes sense that Nestle thinks that the line is redundant (as I found with the head to head comparison between the Chewy Mini SweeTart and the Chewy Tart n Tiny) to products they already produce. The marketing on them was never particular strong, they don’t do seasonal editions (no pastel Tart n Tinys for Easter, no red & green for Christmas) so it’s easy to see why people have not responded to them as much as other products like SweeTart, Sprees and Runts.
I’ve enjoyed Tart n Tinys since their introduction but rarely buy them simply because I never find them in stores. Runts have been more available, even in the movie style box. I don’t think I’ve actually bought Tart n Tinys in five years for this reason. How successful can a candy be if you can’t find it in the first place? There are still a few online vendors who still have inventory left, so if you’re a fan, get ‘em now!
Friday, July 13, 2007
There are some candies that are placed very low on the shelves at drug stores and grocers for a reason, they’re appealing to little people. And until I started shopping the bottom shelf, there was a lot of stuff that never even entered my candy radar.
This little baby bottle filled with compressed dextrose tarts is one such candy. It’s made by a small company called Imperial Toy and they haven’t even bothered to name the product. So I’m just going to call them Baby Bottle Pacifier Tarts. Once I took off the clear plastic shrink wrap, there’s no branding on here at all.
The little bottle is an actual toy baby bottle, complete with a rubber nipple with a hole in it, so as to make a mess with your little baby doll that actually drinks, or maybe it doesn’t. (Here’s a tip, don’t put actual milk in your doll that actually drinks. It’s fun at first, but then your doll smells like spoiled milk.)
The bottle holds 1.5 ounces of candy, so it’s a nice size and of course refillable with candy or kids can use it as a toy bottle for their dolls.
The little compressed dextrose candies are cute, a great size an the pacifier shape is nicely done. The flavor isn’t very strong, certainly not as strong as SweeTarts. I’d liken these to Smarties, but perhaps a little harder and a little more flavorful (well, and a little more colorful).
I think these are called “Oh Baby! Pacifier Candy” and made in Canada by Concord Confections. I’ve seen them in bulk at candy stores and advertised as a favor-filler on sites that specialize in baby shows and the like. Since you can buy them in bulk, I suppose you can make your own little filled favors for parties. Since this was $1.09 at the drug store, it may be a less expensive way to go. (Concord also makes the super-fun Candy Blox.)
As a novelty item, this doesn’t really do much for me, but then again I don’t recall actually having a doll when I was a girl (I know I must have had one, but I don’t remember her ... I remember my sister had that doll that grew her long blonde hair when you pushed a button on her tummy). I see this as more of a “favor” item or stocking stuffer. As a candy container, it’s cute but of course once you take it out of its plastic wrap, it doesn’t work very well to keep moisture out because there’s a hole in the nipple.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
These are cute but certainly expensive, useless and probably bad for the environment.
What’s worse? I bought two.
The come in a gajillion different versions: Eeyore, Piglet, Tiggr, Pluto and Mickey were the ones I saw. They’re called Candy Keepers, and as far as I’m concerned, they can keep the candy.
Each little pod comes in a snug little clear plastic box along with a packet of candies (about the same amount as a packet of sugar). They’re all pastels. I thought for a while there might be primary colored ones in there and rooted around in the display. The pastel really doesn’t make much sense, unless you’re a Piglet fan.
The little pastel candies are dreadful. I thought they were going to be like Tart n Tiny ... little sugar shelled SweeTarts or something. Instead the candies are slightly floral/raspberry flavored ... completely sweet except for the awful bitter aftertastes (is that the artificial coloring?).
How much, you’re wondering? $2.50 each. The included candy aside, they’re still going to be fun to keep on my desk and put other actual candies that I like inside. (This week it’ll probably be Good & Plenty.) If it were just a little toy, I think I’d be okay (if it were less than $2, come on, how much was it to make these things ...). With the candy, these fall out of my good graces and I give them a 5 out of 10. If you’re trying to moderate your child’s candy intake and have only given them a $2.50 budget for sweets and Disneyland, well, this is the treat for you! (It makes me feel silly for complaining about paying over a dollar for those Gummy Fishies.)
There are a lot of lollipops for sale at Disneyland. My guess is there is at least one per child available in stores at all times. They’re a silly candy, really. A very, very big piece of bright hard candy. You could get a kid interested in hard candy if you paid them ... unless it’s flat, comes with a handle and has some sort of Princess on the wrapper.
I was pretty pleased to see these Mickey Mouse Bundled Pops at the stores. They’re fun to look at and it appears that a kid might actually be able to eat one of these while waiting in one of those long lines for a ride ... and still have some for later.
The bundle has five thick Mickey Ear pops in it: Cherry, Orange, Banana, Cotton Candy and Watermelon each on a 7” paper stick.
I left the red on my brother’s windshield ... so the kids would think there was a lollipop fairy at Disneyland!
Each pop weighs about .66 ounces each. They feel substantial and are dense, without any noticeable voids. They’re opaque due to the addition of titanium dioxide, which means they’ll make effective but small sunblocks if necessary.
The flavors aren’t as bright as the colors though. For Banana and Cotton Candy, the flavor was mild and sweet. For the Orange and Watermelon, the flavor just didn’t have any zazz. It was all sweet and no tang. I suppose some children prefer sweet over tart, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for a candy that won’t overpower them.
They are very attractive and one of the few candies that continues the Mickey Mouse theme all the way until you bite their ears off. At $3.95 for the bundle of five, well that’s a bit steep. I give them a 6 out of 10.
Neither of these treats was marked Kosher.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.