Thursday, March 3, 2011
One of the earliest international candy obsessions I developed because of Candy Blog was HiCHEW. They’re made by Morinaga in Japan and come in a wide variety of fruity flavors. The packages are flat, contain only one flavor and feature individually wrapped pieces that are easy to share.
They’ve been popular in Japan for since 1975 (and existed in different formats for at least 40 years before that). Lately they’ve become more widely available in the United States and Canada, starting with large metropolitan areas with large Japanese populations. Now they’re pretty commonplace here in Los Angeles, I can get them at 7-11 or Target and the packaging has been Americanized with English wrapper and full nutrition facts.
The American ones are made in Taiwan and feature slightly smaller packages at 1.76 ounces and sporting a price of about $1.00. The flavor set is rather ordinary with strawberry, orange, green apple, mango, lemon and melon (and sometimes banana) available. The Japanese also come in similar flavors with seasonal or limited edition varieties coming out all the time.
I decided to pick up a package of each and really put them to the test.
The Taiwanese version is more intensely pink in the center. The chew is stiff at first, but still smooth. It’s slightly tangy and has a good strawberry flavor that errs more on the tart side than the floral sweetness though it does get a little jammy towards the end with cooked strawberry notes. The chew lasts a long time and never gets grainy.
The Japanese version is a little softer and chewier. The flavor is also a well rounded berry with good sweet and sour notes, a little hint of floral and a creamy component (which might be attributed to a splash of yogurt in there). Instead of strawberry jam it was more like a strawberry smoothie.
Given a choice, I would pick up the Japanese version. Yes, I like to be able read my packages, but I also like my flavors bold and as authentic as they were originally conceived. I feel like the Taiwanese HiCHEW is like the Turkish Haribo Gummi Bear, not as good as those made in their homeland. However, I love the fact that this candy is able to get a wider audience. It’s a good introduction and perhaps die hard fans will work towards getting the real thing released in North America.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Wrigley’s (part of Mars) has quietly released a new variety of Skittles called Skittles Blenders. They feature blended fruit flavors.
The package is bright yellow with sky blue accents. I’m not sure if Blenders requires an exclamation point at the end or a tornado like the package shows. Unlike the Crazy Cores introduced about two years ago that have contrasting flavors for the shell and center, these flavor combinations are completely combined.
The package smells a lot like the Tropical Skittles at first.
Blue - Melon Berry Burst (tm) - the aqua blue Skittles have a distinct flavor that’s just like Tropical Punch but tastes nothing like the melon or berry mentioned in the name. It’s tangy and certainly vibrant.
I’m underwhelmed by this new version. There were two flavors that I picked out to eat, which left 3/5 of the package uneaten by me. I have nothing against the invention of new flavors or new flavor combinations but the fact that all of these are trademarked leads me to believe that there were more intellectual property lawyers involved in the creation of this candy than actual candy makers. I wish Wrigley’s/Mars would just stick to really great flavors instead of these strange mixes. They make a Citrus Mix for Australia, why won’t they give those a try in the United States?
The package states that they are gluten free and gelatin free. It also reminds you to do your part and dispose of the wrappers in the trash. Skittles are fortified with vitamin C and a package 40% of your daily recommended amount.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Brach’s makes a wide assortment of classic nougats. They’re probably best known for the little block of white nougat that has the jelly bits in it, but what I appreciate are the hand-crafted icon nougats. They make them for Christmas where the center of the nougat is a tree or snowman. For Valentines Day the Peppermint Nougats have a heart inside.
Also for Valentine’s Day Brach’s (now part of Farley’s and Sathers) makes a Cherry Cordial Nougat. The bag was quite a good deal, at only $1.00 for 12 ounces of candy. The package says that the candy combines two favorite tastes to create the perfect treat, chocolate and cherry.
Since I’m not a cherry lover, it’s hard for me to say anything more than this: If Hasbro made Cherry Play Doh, this is what would come out of the Fuzzy Pumpers Candy Shop. They smell like maraschino cherries that have been marinating in the ink that goes in Dry Erase Markers. The texture is soft and less grain than I imagine Play Doh actually is, but just as maleable.
They’re lovely to look at, but they smell disgusting and for me, they taste even worse. The cherry flavor combined with the faint hint of cocoa and the red food coloring aftertaste is just too much for me. I think the other nougats Brach’s make are great, but these are a huge miss for me.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
I was surprised to learn at the candy fair (ISM Cologne) last week that Panda Liquorice is the #4 brand of licorice in the United States (Twizzlers, Red Vines and Good & Plenty come in ahead). What was surprising and pleasing about this little tidbit is that Panda makes all natural licorice, the real stuff with real licorice extract and no artificial colors or flavors.
Their newest introduction at the show is their Panda Blueberry Liquorice. It features a very short list of ingredients: molasses syrup, wheat flour, blueberry puree, citric acid, natural flavoring and liquorice extract. The package they gave me as a sample is 200 g (7 ounces) and features a gusseted bottom so it stands up and a zipper top to make it easier to reseal it to keep the candy fresh.
The pieces are striking in that they smell like blueberry pie: a bit like jam and a little like a fruit Danish. But they’re also quite light in color, like little caramel nibs instead of what I was expecting which would have been darker purple.
They’re very soft and have a light, easy chew. They’re not dense at all and have a tart and sweet blueberry flavor. Because of the wheat flour in there, there’s more snack satisfaction going on than candy. They’re satisfying but also feel more like little cookies than a licorice chew. The molasses keeps them from being too sweet, though the licorice extract does give it a little bit of a lighter tea-like sweetness than a straight sugar candy might have.
They’re considered vegan and have very little fat in them, so the caloric load is only 88 calories per ounce. Though I like blueberries as a fruit, a chewy candy made with blueberries isn’t quite the same thing. These would be fun as a trail mix addition (mixed with pretzels and nuts and maybe a few chocolate chips) but I don’t see myself eating them straight in one sitting. I’m sure there are other folks, though, who have been looking forward to a realistic blueberry candy like this.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Newman’s Own Organics has also joined in the all natural licorice arena. The front of the package is simple and classy. It’s a soft creamy color though made of a lightweight mylar and has an old timey font for the logo. It also mentions that the candy is made with organic sugar.
They come in four flavors: Strawberry, Tangerine, Pomegranate and traditional Black. I looked at three different stores for the black but couldn’t find it, so this is a review of the fruity flavors, which are pretty much their own type of product and probably shouldn’t be lumped in with black licorice.
The back of the package has more info as well. They mention that they’re fun to eat, full of flavor and low fat, which is a great thing to mention. These twists are very low in calories, my calculations put them at 88 calories per ounce (because they’re wheat based) or about 25 calories each.
Each twist is only 4 and a half inches long. They’re shiny and quite firm, but not at all sticky or oily. They’re also stiff but pliable enough to bend completely in half without cracking or crumbling. They have a little hole in the center, but it’s rather narrow and sometimes smashed, so I wouldn’t quite call them straws.
Strawberry (left) smells sweet and floral. The texture is really tough though generally smooth after chewing. The strawberry flavor is tangy but a little watered down. They take a lot of chewing, which I guess makes them last a long time but it also makes me dread eating more than one, especially since some of the bits stick in my teeth.
Tangerine (middle) smells fantastic. It’s a realistic zesty citrus smell that got me drooling quickly. This version was just a little softer, but also a bit easier to bite and chew. However, the citrus blast was just too much. The tartness was mild, not even as noticeable as the strawberry, however the zest was too oily and ultimately bitter. The bitterness lingered, a kind of caustic burn on my tongue and gums.
Pomegranate (right) looked pretty much like the strawberry but smelled like raspberry. This stuff was tough, like chewing Kevlar or something. The flavor was a great blend of berries, deep and fruity with a long floral note afterwards that gave my mouth a fresh feeling. There was only a hint of tartness (which is too bad because I like the dry tangy note of real pomegranates). But the texture was just so much work. Sucking on them just gave me a puddle of paste in my mouth. I couldn’t finish them.
Overall, I’m not hopeful about trying the black licorice variety when I find it. The texture is just so far off from what I expected or even find pleasant. I generally find Newman’s Own candies to be hit and miss, they’re often too sweet, lack a strong sense of flavor and are overpriced even for organic products purchased at Whole Foods. They’re made in Mexico and there’s no statement on there about nut status or other allergens (except the obvious ingredients like wheat).
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Brach’s Christmas Nougats are classics. The disk shaped, mostly circular candies are wrapped in clear cellophane with green triangles on a red band at the edges where the wrappers are twisted. They’re about an inch and a half around. The style highlights the look of the candy, which features a green triangle (Christmas tree) in the center of the white chew. There are little red bands around the edge as well. To make the pattern, the candy is constructed like a giant burrito, the triangular green piece at the center, a little red piece for the “trunk” and then the mass of white nougat is wrapped around that with the strips of red added at the end. Then the whole thing is rolled out into a long rope and sliced to reveal the design.
The base of the candy is called nougat and I admit that there is some egg white in there, but the texture isn’t quite nougat as far as I’m concerned. It’s not as chewy as a taffy, but not as fluffy as most nougats. So I’m just going to call it a chew.
They’re soft and easy to chew, not stringy or particularly sticky but could be considered clingy. They’re strongly flavored with peppermint, but it’s a clean flavor. The texture is mostly smooth, though there were some grainy bits of sugar now and then. They dissolve pretty quickly, so I found it easy to eat them one after the other. There’s a little hint of salt to keep them from tasting far too sweet. They’re fresh, most definitely, I’m sure that old ones get tacky and stiff.
I can see why these are a classic for the holidays. They’re a little on the bland side for me, not quite enough like true nougats and I didn’t care for the aftertaste from the artificial colors. They’re quite pretty and easy to share.
They also come in Wintergreen and Cinnamon (I haven’t found those in stores).
Monday, November 29, 2010
A couple of years ago Tootsie brought back their classic Tootsie Pop Drops. The package heralds them as Tootsie Pops without the stick! but they’re actually a mini version of a hard candy with a little filling of chewy, chocolatey Tootsie Rolls.
It only makes sense that they’d do seasonal versions, such as the Candy Cane Tootsie Pop in this smaller, sharable format. I believe these hit the shelves last year, but I didn’t find them until this year.
The 3.5 ounce box holds a thick foil/plastic pouch with the candies inside. I’m never keen on this “bag inside a box” package, but I do admit that all of the candies came out looking great, no chips or broken ones and it wasn’t just a bag of sugar dust.
I loved the look of them when I dumped them out of the bag. They’re thick and feel heavy and solid, like pieces of glass. The color of the candy is a very light and milky pink with red stripes. They’re smaller than a Starlight Mint but I find the size and shape excellent in the mouth.
The hard candy is smooth and has very few voids. The dissolve is good with a good mint flavor that has a few pops and sparkles of extra flavor on occasion. At the center is a small piece of a Tootsie Roll. I found the ratio to be a bit off, I’d like more Tootsie Roll, but still the chew of it is good. The flavor of the Tootsie Roll itself is always a bit disappointing, mostly because the chocolate flavor is often a bit musty and watery instead of woodsy and cocoa-ish. In this case there’s a hint of rum and less of the cardboard taste, probably because of the essence of Peppermint at play here.
There’s only the one flavor in the package, just like the old days when I would buy a roll of just Orange or Grape Tootsie Pop Drops. It would be fun to see these wrapped individually in wax paper and sold in rolls at least for the nostalgia value at Christmas. But the addition of seasonal flavors is a great touch that I hope Tootsie continues.
The new packaging advises that the Tootsie facility that made these is peanut free, gluten free, egg free and tree nut free. (It does contain milk ingredients and soy.)
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Mentos are the KitKat of chews. There are dozens of flavors worldwide, and of course most of the interesting flavors are found in Asia. This newest version is the oddest one I’ve had to date: Mentos Jam Filled - Strawberry Lemon.
They’re made in China and sold in Southeast Asia and Pacific Islands. I got this package from Santos of Scent of Green Bananas after two failed efforts to buy them on eBay from a Thai seller.
They’re double packaged (like the Sour Mentos often are.) There’s a main package of stiff, thick foil backed paper which is then encased in a plastic sleeve.
Inside the inner package are 8 soft candies. The most noticeable difference is that they don’t have a crunchy shell. They’re a little glossy and might have a bit of wax but are basically shell-less. They’re soft enough that they don’t really have a native shape, they’re a little flat on the sides where they meet and sometimes stick together a bit.
They seem a bit bigger than a traditional Mentos. They’re also more fragrant, authentically strawberry scented.
The outer layer of chew is soft and has a good pliable taffy texture and tangy/sweet strawberry flavor. The inner jam is not very complex, more like a lemon flavored syrup, more like a reduction of lemon drink than lemon marmalade. It’s not as tart as I would have liked and lacked a lot of lemon essence. The texture is sticky but not at all grainy. It didn’t do much for me. The difference in the flavors wasn’t strong enough to be called complementary and wasn’t close enough to match.
I’m not sure why they did this. It’s a lot of packaging and not a lot of excitement inside.
I might have felt differently if it were a uniquely named and branded item, but coming to me with a Mentos logo on it, I expected more authentic flavors and for it to, well, be a fresh take on the goo filled candy field.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.