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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Crackheads

One of the more timely items I got from the All Candy Expo folks is this box of Crackheads candy. It’s been around for at least a year, but I haven’t seen it in stores.

Crackheads

I first saw them on ThinkGeek and reviewed on CandyAddict. I wasn’t terribly interested in them, after all, they’re just chocolate covered coffee beans, not exactly an innovative new product. The unique selling proposition in this case is that they’re in “single serve” boxes and come as a mix of both white chocolate and dark chocolate coatings.

The boxes look similar to Lemonheads or Boston Baked Beans. Easily portable and resealable.

Crackheads Close-UpThey’re really nicely panned coffee beans. Though they’re not all consistent in size, the panning is excellent with shiny coats and well-tempered chocolate. The white chocolate is real white chocolate made with cocoa butter. The mellow malty milky flavors go really well with the coffee bean. This was the first time I’d had a white chocolate coated one, and it’s a natural match - the fatty sweetness with the dairy flavors are pretty much a dense version of a latte.

The dark verison are not nearly as sweet, but still provides a nice counterpoint to the dark and lightly bitter beans. The beans are crunchy without being fiberous or too burnt tasting. My box had a bit more white chocolate to it, but I was okay with that.

imageThe “creator” of Crackheads, John Osmanski, was on The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch last night on CNBC. The segment was One Minute to Millions where they featured a panel of three experts: Kevin Nealon (who was there promoting his book and probably provided the consumer point of view), Pam Macharola of Blair Candy and Brian Pipa of Candy Addict!

The product was introduced with a little pretaped segment. It made no mention of the fact that chocolate covered espresso beans have been around for at least 30 years. They’re pretty widely available, at least in specialty stores or at coffee locations like Starbucks (and of course the new Hershey’s Starbucks chocolates). While the back of the box has a breakdown of caffeine content of other beverages (cocoa, cola, tea, coffee & espresso), it doesn’t exactly spell out the caffeine content of the actual product. However, the Crackheads website pegs it at about 120 mgs (about half of a cup of coffee).

imageOsmanski introduced the product as a solution to those low caffeine moments, especially for students and academics.

The new tagline “because everyone’s addicted to something” works well with the name. The product packaging has been redesigned since my sample (you can see the new one here). But the general consensus from the panel was that the name would never have the wide appeal that would guarantee it placement on the shelves of stores like Walmart (which might be necessary to make millions off a single $2 product). Instead it would probably stay in places like Think Geek and coffee houses (where it’s currently found).

imageWhile I think it’s a good quality product, the packaging feels a bit downscale, not rising to the $2 per package price tag - which translates to over $24 per pound (the Starbucks version is about $12 a pound). The name, which tries to co-opt drug culture fails ... there may be other names that might fit the addiction tag better (but I’m not going to come up with it here, Osmanski has a blog if you want to give him feedback directly). Perhaps coming up with two lines, one under this name and another more mainstream version would be a success story worthy of follow up on Donny Deutsch.

(I suspect that Osmanium doesn’t actually manufacturer these, just repacks them, as they package says that they are made in a facility that processes peanuts & tree nuts. The website also says that they’re Kosher. My prime candidate as the maker of these is Koppers Chocolates.)

Related Candies

  1. Starbucks Chocolate
  2. Snickers Charged
  3. Caffe Acapella - Coffee Confections
  4. Java Twix
  5. Green & Black’s Espresso Chocolate
  6. Pocket Coffee
Name: Crackheads
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Osmanium
Place Purchased: samples from All Candy Expo
Price: $2.00 retail
Size: 1.3 ounces
Calories per ounce: 146
Categories: Chocolate, White Chocolate, Coffee, United States, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:52 am     Comments (10)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Choxie 3 Ounce Chocolate Bars

After Valentine’s Day I picked up some discounted items from Target. I haven’t re-visited much of the Choxie line since my initial tastes on their launch, so I figured it was time to see what else they had.

Choxie Chocolate BarsI got an assortment of four bars for 75% off, so each bar was $1.25 ... quite a deal for 3 ounces of “premium” chocolate.

The box they came in was a goofy flat affair, I think just this stack with a red ribbon is a fine gift (and I threw out that box pretty much as soon as I got home). The assortment contains two milk chocolate bars and two dark chocolate bars.

The one that interested me the most was the Milk Chocolate with Roasted Almonds & Sea Salt. True to its name, it was a nice dark milk chocolate with big almond pieces (they tasted buttery like Marcona almonds) and there were some pretty intense large pieces of sea salt in there (the picture on the box makes them look like little pieces of popcorn).

The milk chocolate is a very dark and smooth version, it goes really well with the crisp crunch of the almonds. The sea salt was quite apparent, but the mixing of it was a little off. Sometimes I’d arrive at whole reservoirs of the stuff, it’s a little offputting to get more than a few grains at once. But still, an addictive bar. Though I shared it, I ate most of it in a day and a half.

The second bar was the Milk Chocolate Cashew Almond Cherry Bar which I thought sounded terrible at first, especially when I saw that it also had salt in it.

However, it won me over. The cashews & almonds aren’t as plentiful in this bar and the salt is only a slight glimmer now and then. The cherries are soft and chewy with a bright tangy note that infuses those bites.

Choxie - 62% Ghana

I was grateful to try my first Choxie single origin bar with the 62% Ghana Cocoa. I recently had another Ghana bar from Tcho, which I found to be a little too gritty for my tastes. This bar is smooth. The flavors are spot on “chocolatey” with some vanilla notes and a little cedar & tobacco. It’s a tasty bar, though not quite buttery enough for me if it’s going to be on the low end of the cacao percentage. But it’s also pretty sweet, so a nice started bar for those who don’t like the intensity of some of the higher cacao.

The box for the Dark Chocolate Espresso Bar showed the bar, like the one above, surrounded by coffee beans. I didn’t know if that meant whole coffee beans or fine grounds when I bought the assortment (I could only see the fronts of the boxes). The ingredients say “ground coffee” but I was still afraid that I was going to get coffee grounds in my chocolate.

The package smelled like the coffee aisle at the A&P where we used to grind our own 8 O’Clock coffee when I was a teen. Mostly coffee but also slight wafts of tea, cocoa and sweet sugary General Foods International Coffee flavors.

The grounds are palpable as the chocolate melts. The coffee flavor is mellow, not burnt or caramelized tasting, just a medium roasted vibe. And of course all those coffee beans integrated in. The chocolate has a good melt to it, is pretty smooth otherwise and stands up rather well to the otherwise overwhelming coffee. (Nicole at Baking Bites has a nice review of this bar, too.)

At the reduced price (expiration isn’t anywhere to be found on the packages, maybe I shouldn’t have thrown out the box), these were a great deal. I’m not sure if I would pay $4-5 for one of these in the future (well, maybe the almond & sea salt bar), but keep an eye out for their assortments (perhaps after Mother’s day?). The ingredients are all-natural and the dark chocolates have no added butterfat. They are not, however, Kosher.

Other recent reviews: The Girl Tastes has a lot of more recent Choxie introductions, Rosa tried the Key Lime Truffle Bar, Candy Snob tried the Espresso Truffle Bar, Secret Hideout thinks Choxie is better than Godiva (and I don’t disagree) and OffBeatEating tried the Coconut Truffle Bar.

Related Candies

  1. Starbucks Chocolate
  2. Caffe Acapella - Coffee Confections
  3. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels
  4. Choxies in Boxies
  5. Choxie Champagne Truffles
  6. Cha-Cha-Cha Choxie
Name: Milk & Dark Chocolate Bars
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Choxie (Target)
Place Purchased: Target (Harbor City)
Price: $5.00 for set of 4 (post Valentine's clearance)
Size: 3 ounces
Calories per ounce: 153
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, Coffee, United States, Choxie, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:39 am     Comments (4)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Crispy Cat

Crispy Cat Organic BarsIt’s often puzzled me why there aren’t more organic candy bars out there. For the most part candy bars are made (or can be made) with all natural/organic ingredients pretty easily. Why no one does this is beyond me, so for the most part candy fiends with an eco bent have to eat just chocolate (sometimes flavored) or hard candies or pay for bars to be flown from far away places and pay ridiculous prices for kinky combinations ... in reality all I want is the tried and true candy bar, only made with pure ingredients.

Crispy Cat Toasted AlmondCrispy Cat has a nice line of candy bars that seem to defy that notion that candy bars have to be made with sub-par ingredients. Their bars are also dairy free, gluten free, non GMO and use a large proportion of organic ingredients (70-90% organic, depending on the bar). In fact, their ingredients list only looks long because they put things like “organic” or “made with gmo” all over it.

They come in three varieties: Toasted Almond, Roasted Peanut and Mint Coconut ... all with dark chocolate.

Here’s what Joel, the founder of Crispy Cat has to say:

Growing up ... I loved candy. Over the years .... I learned to love my body. This candy bar is the result of trying to satisfy both cravings. I now live happily ever after. I hope you will too. P.S. Try ‘em cold.

Crispy Cat Toasted Almond

The Toasted Almond features dark chocolate, crispy rice & toasted almonds.

It has a wonderful dark, woodsy and chocolatey aroma. The bite is a bit stiff, it’s not quite crunchy and certainly not chewy. It’s just lumpy.

Once I got used to the complex center, I was pleased with the combination of flavors and textures. It’s part crisped rice, a little bit of a caramel-like chew to hold it together, a toasted sugar flavor and some pieces of almonds for an added crunch. I would have preferred a lighter crunch to it, something easier to chew (either crispier or softer).

Crispy Cat Mint CoconutI admit, I thought Mint Coconut is a weird combo. I love mint, I love coconut but I don’t put them together. (Well, partly because it probably never occured to me.)

This bar also has a crisped rice center. In this case it’s a bit fluffier and softer than the others, with a light peppermint scent.

Instead of the firm and chewy center, this one was a bit crumblier and has big pieces of naturally sweet coconut in it. It’s an interesting flavor combo, very tropical and fresh, a bit of a grassy note to the whole thing.

I can’t say that I loved this one, in fact it was my least favorite of the three. But I can’t help but be pleased that someone is paying attention to coconut these days. I love the stuff.

Crispy Cat Roasted PeanutThe Roasted Peanut bar was much softer (and a little flatter) than the Toasted Almond.

The center felt fattier though had the same number of calories as the Toasted Almond at 220 it has 10 grams of fat (TA has only 9).

The dark chocolate is rather bitter but has a decent melty texture. The crunchy rice, peanut butter and peanut chunk center is tasty. It’s dark and nutty, a bit salty and only lightly sweet. This one hits it out of the park as far as a peanut candy bar can go.

It definitely tasted like a candy bar, not one of those nutrition bars.

I was kind of surprised to see that they weighed only 1.75 ounces, it’s actually bigger than a Snickers bar, which gives the perception of a much larger mass of satisfaction.

Overall, these are fun and have very few compromises. And what’s the biggest one? Price. These retail for $2.50 ... that’s three times the price you’d pay for a non-organic bar. Pretty startling. But compared to other premium meal replacement bars, they can hold their own. The two nut varieties have 4 grams of protein (not from soy, though they do use soy lecithin so they’re not soy free) and 2 grams of fiber. They also clock in at 220 calories, which is a decent snack. I’d probably prefer these in a smaller variety though ... they’d make an awesome Halloween Treat if they came in snack size.

The Roasted Peanut bar is the one most likely to appeal to kids but none are too mature to miss with a true candy bar fiend.

I’d also recommend a bit of a change in the design of the package. I’m not sure who it’s supposed to appeal to, but it’s not grabbing me. They call themselves “tree huggin’ treats” and have the image of a couple of arms around a tree on the left size of each wrapper. (I’m not sure where the cat comes in.) The website looks completely different and inconsistent from this (but I’m not keen on the web’s cartoon designs either).

I’m not quite sure about them, they’re definitely on the right track and I’d be most inclined to eat the Roasted Peanut again, but if I were faced with eating one of these or a Lara Bar, I’d probably go for the Lara Bar.

Want to win some? Check out Crispy Cat Chronicles, if you can guess Ann’s new baby’s height, weight & birthdate you can win three cases of the bars of your very own.

Related Candies

  1. Theo 3400 Phinney Bars
  2. Organic Surf Sweets
  3. Russell Stover Organic Pecan Delight
  4. 100 Grand Coconut
  5. Pure Fun Candy Floss
  6. Coffee Beat
Name: Crispy Cat Bars: Toasted Almond, Mint Coconut & Roasted Peanut
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Crispy Cat
Place Purchased: samples from ExpoWest
Price: $2.50 retail
Size: 1.75 ounces
Calories per ounce: 126
Categories: Chocolate, Cookie, Nuts, Peanuts, Mint, Coconut, Canada, All Natural, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:06 am     Comments (5)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ghirardelli Intense Dark

Intense Dark Premium Assortment: 72%, 60% with mint or espressoGhirardelli has really expanded their line of chocolate bars over the past five years. Not only that, I see their products everywhere now thanks to the expansion of higher end chocolate into grocery stores and drug chains. They even have a charming chain of ice cream stores.

But I’ve ignored them on the blog for a long time. Probably because my initial impression of them has been that the chocolate bars is waxy and bland. But they’re wildly popular and have been making chocolate since 1852 in the Bay Area, one of my favorite candy destinations, so I needed to put those impressions to the test.

That’s not to say that I don’t use their chocolate chips, I prefer them to Nestle’s Toll House Morsels or Hershey’s Baking Chips and they’re often on sale for a decent price.

So I picked up this assortment of tasting squares after Christmas when they were on sale. They feature the new line of Intense Dark in three different flavors.

Intense Dark: Espresso EscapeThe Espresso Escape wrapper says: dark chocolate with finely ground espresso beans in 60% cacao. As usual I was worried about the bits of coffee beans, but in thsi case they really were so finely ground as they matched the particle size of the cocoa solids.

Roasted brewed coffee flavors mixed with the woodsy taste of real beans. Very little chocolate flavor here, it’s all coffee but with a smooth chocolate texture. Good cocoa butter melt, very silky. Light vanilla overtones. But the cedar and smoke is quite tangy.

While I enjoyed the texture quite a bit, the flavor was just a little too, well, Intense (tm).

Intense Dark: Mint Bliss

The Mint Bliss package says: dark chocolate with natural mint in 60% cacao. What the front of the package doesn’t mention is that there’s also some unidentified “artificial flavor” in this as well.

Nice buttery texture, but an incongruous tangy and musty taste along with the peppermint. It’s more of a fresh peppermint leaf taste, not a pure peppermint oil, which is a nice change of pace from their Peppermint Bark that I had over the holidays. But the combination of flavors still doesn’t quite jive for me.

Intense Dark: Twilight DelightThe Twilight Delight wrapper simply says 72% cacao in big bold, gold letters.

It has a nice buttery melt with a light cool feeling but the flavor is a little thin. It’s a little fruity, on the raisin side of things.

It’s sweet, only the lightest trace of bitterness. Light dry finish.

Ghirardelli has some other versions in their Intense Dark line, including the Midnight Reverie that has 86% cacao, Evening Dream with only 60% cacao and two other flavored 60% called Citrus Sunset & Toffee Interlude. They also have some filled bars that I haven’t tried yet.

Overall, it’s nice stuff, certainly worth the price and a fun little pickup for coffee or after dinner, maybe a mid-day munch. I like the 10.6 gram squares, it’s a good size for a little taste of chocolate.

Note: the Mint Bliss & Espresso Escape have milk fat in them, so are unsuitable for vegans, but the Twilight Delight is milk-free (though made on equipment that processes dairy).

Name: Intense Dark: Coffee, Mint & 72% Dark
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Ghirardelli
Place Purchased: Walgreen's (Echo Park)
Price: $2.50 (on post-Christmas clearance), regularly $9.99
Size: 8.63 ounces
Calories per ounce: 145
Categories: Chocolate, Mint, Coffee, United States, Ghirardelli, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:15 am     Comments (9)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Starbucks Truffles

Starburcks Chocolate Tasting KitThough I admit freely that I take samples from candy companies (always fully disclosed to you, dear readers), the new Starbucks chocolates line was one of the rare times when I actually asked for a tasting kit when the press release arrived via email. (Usually companies specifically offer to send me something, about half the time I say yes.) I actually had to ask twice, as the first person never actually sent it. (Or my UPS guy is wise to the contents of the packages delivered to my house.)

The biggest reason for asking was because I knew that this tasting kit existed and the idea of going out and buying 7 different boxes at over $5 each was kind of prohibitive, even for someone who has a line item in her personal budget for candy.

Starbucks Chocolate Truffles

There are lots of chocolate bars out there that feature coffee and tea combinations (Joanie’s Smiles, Dagoba, Dolfin, Theo, to name a few). So whatever Starbucks was going to come up with should be distinctive. What they have going that that most others don’t is a line of “truffles”. Each comes in a single flavor box (4.2 ounces) and retails for $4.99 to $5.49. I saw them at Target yesterday for $5.29.

Starbucks Coffee TruffleDark Chocolate Espresso Truffles - Intense, indulgent dark chocolate delights infused with our bold Espresso Roast coffee.

The smelled of freshly ground coffee even before taking a bite. The dark shell is shiny and has a decent snap to it.

Where I didn’t care for the inclusion of the crushed coffee beans in the chocolate tasting squares, this truffle just goes for flavor and texture.

It’s a very dark mix of flavors, much stronger on the coffee than the chocolate side of things and with just a hint of acidity and bitterness.

Starburcks TruffleMilk Chocolate Caff? Mocha Truffles - Luscious milk chocolate embraces creamy mocha centers infused with our rich Espresso Roast coffee

I tried eating these truffles blind at first, just having one in the car without looking at the wrapper.

I thought this one tasted like fudge. Nice fudge, but plain old chocolate fudge. The ganache center was smooth, but still not a decadent buttery melt that I’d associate with something called “truffle.” I really wasn’t getting the mocha vibe here.

Then I felt really full and even though I was in the car for another half hour I didn’t feel like eating any additional truffles. Basically, this was my least favorite of the four ... not bad and I’d probably be happy with it in a mix of truffles, but pretty unhappy if I’d bought a whole box.

Starbucks ChocolateMilk Chocolate Chai Truffles - Creamy milk chocolate wraps around a sweetly spiced Tazo(r) Chai black tea center.

Oops, I photographed this one up-side-down. It’s supposed to look like a little teacup.

The center is a mild and buttery ganache with a strong chai scent and flavor to it with a slight grain. The flavor notes, like the tasting square of the chocolate, omit the clove that’s so commonly the loudest part of chai and instead focuses here on cardamom & ginger and perhaps only the lightest hint of cinnamon & black pepper. I like the combo very much, I think it goes well with the milk chocolate. (But YumSugar didn’t like that at all, she thought it was missing its essential chai-ness).

I’ve never had a Tazo Chai, as Starbucks won’t serve it unsweetened, so I can’t say how this flavor profile compares for fans of that drink.

Starbucks TruffleDark Chocolate Vanilla Bean Truffles - Sweet and dreamy vanilla from Madagascar meets exquisite dark chocolate in a lovely pairing

It’s definitely a strong dose of vanilla here. It was easy to smell those bourbon vanilla notes even before cracking the shell in my teeth.

The white ganache has little flecks of vanilla in it and a mildly sweet flavor. The dark chocolate shell balances it all very well, a little bitter, a little bit of a dry finish.

It goes very well with coffee.

I loved the little wrappers. They have cute little icon designs on them that kind of reflect the flavors inside and an extra foil wrap around the chocolate itself for extra protection.

They should sell a mixed box of these. Heck, they should sell the sample box I got as a gift selection. (It probably doesn’t need the full 3 ounce bars in it though, since the tasting squares are pretty much the same thing. I haven’t opened those yet as I wanted to get through the truffles first. I’m planning a head-to-head with Choxie 3 ounce bars.)

Basically, the Chai and Vanilla are the two that I’d be most likely to buy, but I don’t know if I’d want a whole box ... I’d like a mix like the Tasting Squares are offered. There’s a fifth flavor as well, a Macchiatto, but that’s not sold via retail outlets at this time.

What I’d probably be most likely to do is buy one or two to have with my coffee while sitting at the Barnes & Noble ... except that’s not really the kind of life I have where I sit around in bookstores.  And I don’t go into Starbucks very often, there really aren’t that many in my area that are more convenient that the indies and I’m kinda cheap and just as likely to stop at the 7-11 or McDonalds if we’re talking chains. But maybe the enticement of a little $1.00 piece of chocolate would make me stop and relax.

UPDATE - Here are some other reviews: YumSugar, Chocolate Snob, Candy Addict and The Chocolate Life.

Related Candies

  1. Starbucks Chocolate
  2. Caffe Acapella - Coffee Confections
  3. Joseph Schmidt
  4. Choxies in Boxies
  5. Dagoba Single Origin
  6. Scharffen Berger Tasting Squares
  7. Dagoba Chai
Name: Starbucks Chocolate Truffles
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Starbucks (and Hershey's)
Place Purchased: samples from Hershey's
Price: $4.99-$5.49 retail
Size: 4.2 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Coffee, United States, Hershey's, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:56 am     Comments (7)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Starbucks Chocolate

Starburcks Chocolate Tasting KitI rarely go into a Starbucks, but I do drink their coffee at the office sometimes. I think my favorite blend of theirs is the Estima (which they don’t make available for our office, drat). At home I’m more likely to drink Trader Joe’s but I’m not a coffee snob, I’ll buy coffee at 7-11, McDonald’s, happily drink the stuff on an airplane and of course at many of the local coffee houses in Los Angeles.

I’m not a “coffee drink” person. I just like a cup of coffee with some milk in it for the most part, but I’ll drink a capuccino now and then. I think coffee is a flavor that’s good enough to be savored by itself. No need for caramel, hazelnut syrup or other intrusions of flavors. (I do drink Mexican Mochas in November.)

I was still eager to try the new line of Starbucks Chocolates and happily accept the offer from some PR folks for a tasting kit (shown here, which is not available for retail sale).

Starbucks Chocolate TrufflesI am kind of picky about my coffee and chocolate combinations though. I like my chocolate smooth, and I don’t usually want to eat my coffee beans. (I had a seriously dangerous chocolate covered coffee bean problem in college that led to an EKG and some stern words from a doctor about moderation.)

So I greeted the new Starbucks and Hershey’s chocolate venture with a little trepidation, mostly worried that both would bring the worst they had to offer to the products (Starbucks high prices and Hershey’s inflated prices for substandard quality or playing off the cachet of their Artisan Confection lines Dagoba & Scharffen Berger without delivering).

Starbucks ChocolateTheir new product line consists of chocolate bars and tasting squares. There is the standard dark and milk plus two infused with tea flavors (Passion Fruit and Chai) and then a Mocha dark chocolate and a Citron dark chocolate. As expected they also have chocolate covered coffee beans (in milk chocolate) and a line of four different kinds of truffle-style bonbons.

The venture between Starbucks & Hershey’s is a strange one. Starbucks makes the sourcing of their coffee beans part of their marketing effort, with a pledge that they pay above market rates to the growers. It’s not quite fair trade (though they do have the Estima blend that is certified fair trade), it has certainly raised awareness of the issue of growers of our non-essential items like coffee and now chocolate. In this case the package makes note:

Starbucks is committed to purchasing cocoa and coffee that are grown and traded in an ethical, transparent and sustainable manner. To learn more about our cocoa-purchasing practices, please visit us at starbucks.com/cocoa

Starbucks Milk Chocolate Covered Coffee BeansIt’s unclear from that webpage if the chocolate in the Starbucks branded chocolate products was obtained within these principals or not. The package (on the other side) says “Manufactured for Artisan Confections Company Berkeley, CA 94710 USA under the authority of Starbucks Coffee Company”. (Emphasis mine) I’m still not sure who made these products. (Clay Gordon tried to get more info on this subject, but was unable, but I agree that the couldn’t be made at the Scharffen Berger space in Emeryville and I’m more inclined to believe they were made by the Dagoba folks.)

The good thing is that the risk with these is low for the consumer. They’re all well priced items, none more than $5.49 and available at local drug stores and discount chains. (I already spotted the full line at RiteAid.)

The ingredients on all the items are good, real vanilla, no PGPR though no indication what the cacao levels are on the products. (Well, also no indication of what the caffeine levels are on the coffee ones!)

Starbucks Milk Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans

To start, I tried the Milk Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans. They feature the Caffe Verona beans at the heart, sourced from around the world and prepared in the Italian roast style. Inside the little stand up box the glossy beans are sealed inside a clear cellophane bag. The size is 3.5 ounces and retails for $4.99 to $5.49.

They smell very sweet, the chocolate is milky and soft to the bite (so no flaking off). The combination of the crunchy bean at the heart and the chocolate coating is nice. A bit on the sweet side for me, when it comes to coffee confections, but still very nice. The consistent quality of the beans are a highlight. I ate at least a dozen and didn’t get a chewy or acrid one. (7 out of 10)

Plain Milk & Dark Chocolate from StarbucksAt the heart of all the confections, of course, is chocolate. The tasting squares are nicely wrapped little 5 gram pieces.

Milk Chocolate. They say it’s, “Sweet, silky indulgence; rich & rewarding” and I’m inclined to agree. It’s a much smoother chocolate than I’m accustomed to from Hershey’s or even Scharffen Berger. It has some strong vanilla notes and a good milky texture. (8 out of 10)

Dark Chocolate. They say it’s, “Deep, complex flavors; smooth and satisfying” and I think that was overselling it. It was rather sweet but still smooth. It lacked a depth of flavor, but it pairs well with coffee, has only the slightest acidic tang and has a good buttery melt. (7 out of 10)

They come in both 3 ounce bars or a mixed bag of tasting squares (that include the Mocha Dark Chocolate). Bars are $2.99 and the tasting squares are $4.99-$5.49 for 2.6 ounces (kinda silly, really to pay so much more for so much less).

Flavored Dark Chocolates from StarucksPassion(r) Dark Chocolate features a Tazo herbal blend of hibuscus & natural flavors. It has a very fruity scent and a grainy melt on the tongue. The little grainy bits are tangy and have a strong berry (and hibiscus) flavor to them with a tint of peach and passion fruit. It’s purely a personal thing but I thought this was dreadful ... from the texture to the combination of flavors, the sickly scent and the way it all overwhelms the chocolate. (4 out of 10)

Citron(r) Dark Chocolate is also a Tazo blend of tea leaves and lemon oil. This one smells pleasantly of lemon, but very little of chocolate. The texture is not as grainy as the Passion, but still not smooth. The lemon essence was strong, but had no citrus tang to it, thankfully. Still, no chocolate flavors came though, nor much of the tea base either.  (6 out of 10)

Drink Flavored Chocolates - Chai & Mocha from StarbucksMocha Dark Chocolate should epitomize this fusion of chocolate and Starbucks, right? It smells wonderfully rich, a combination of chocolate and coffee and a dollop of vanilla. It’s apparent looking at the square from the back that it has ground coffee beans in it, not just an infusion of flavor. It’s a bit grainy but crispy when chewed. It’s much like the chocolate covered coffee beans, but has a stronger chocolate flavor to it that isn’t quite overhwhelmed like the others. Still, I’m not one for the bits in there, but I admit that’s a personal preference.  (6 out of 10)

Chai Milk Chocolate includes Tazo tea leaves and natural flavors in milk chocolate. It smells quite rich, mostly of nutmeg, cardamom and clove. Though it looks grainy, it’s really quite smooth even with the little inclusions. It has a wonderful spicy mix of flavors without being too sweet. I’m a big fan of spicy chai but can’t stand how sweet it can be. This is a very nice mix, I almost like it better than the Dagoba bar (which has actual ginger pieces in it). (7 out of 10)

What I found most surprising about this collection of chocolate tasting squares branded by a coffee company was that three out of the six of them were tea infusions and only one was actually a coffee flavor. Their slogan for the line of products is, “when coffee dreams, it dreams of chocolate” but I think it should be, “when coffee dreams, it ends up with tea in its chocolate.” Some sort of self-loathing or something. (Or adverse reaction to cannibalism, of course coffee doesn’t want coffee!)

The curious part is that Starbucks is not selling these at their stores or even on their website. They’re a Starbucks experience without a Starbucks shop. Like the Choxie line at Target, I think they’ve done a nice job of finding the essential nature of what they have to offer, packaging them nicely and charging the appropriate amount that people are willing to pay for a personal indulgence.

I’ll have a roundup of the Truffles in a separate post.

Related Candies

  1. Caffe Acapella - Coffee Confections
  2. Joseph Schmidt
  3. Choxies in Boxies
  4. Dagoba Single Origin
  5. Scharffen Berger Tasting Squares
  6. Dagoba Chai
Name: Starbucks Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans & Chocolate Tasting Squares
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Starbucks (and Hershey's)
Place Purchased: samples from Hershey's
Price: unknown
Size: $4.99-$5.49 retail
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Coffee, United States, Hershey's, Kosher, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:13 am     Comments (13)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lake Champlain & See’s Bunny Battle

Lake ChamplainYou thought I was done with hollow chocolate rabbits?

I can’t stop buying them. (And, um, taking photos of them, as this post will demonstrate, it’s mostly photos.)

Here are a couple of other more upscale models, in case you still haven’t outfitted your Easter basket for the year. Call it my Bunny Battle, spawned in part by sticker shock at Whole Foods (who doesn’t come away from WF without some degree of sticker shock?).

I picked up this extremely cute and extremely small goodie basket (I think they call it a favor basket) from Lake Champlain. It contains three filled half eggs and one tiny .6 ounce hollow milk chocolate rabbit. The price? $8.49.

Now, lest you think that it’s the little eggs that are racking up the tally there, the bunny all by itself on the Lake Champlain website is $3.25 ... it’s just chocolate, nothin’ special there. Just all natural milk chocolate.

Lake Champlain Eggs

I’ll get to the bunny in a moment, but first the unique items in this little basket (well, more like a cup) are the Lake Champlain filled eggs. They’re lovely little half eggs with a pretty molded shell that has the Lake Champlain logo and the word “Vermont” on it.

It comes with three eggs. I reviewed the blue foil wrapped egg before that has a hazelnut cream inside before, so I picked up the rest of the eggs in their set to make sure that I’ve covered them all. (The basket came with Raspberry, Caramel & Peanut Butter.)

Lake Champlain Gold EggGold = Caramel in Milk Chocolate. The shell is sweet and firm, the center is creamy and flowing. It’s pretty salty on the inside and with a real taste of burnt sugars.

Pink = Raspberry Cream in Dark Chocolate - very jammy center, definitely more fruit than chocolate.
Light Green = Coffee Ganache in Dark Chocolate - this was quite a treat, rich and robust coffee flavor, a little salty and not at all sweet. Not quite enough filling for me though, it seemed like there was a lot of shell and not a lot of cream.
Orange = Peanut Butter Cream in Milk Chocolate - oh so sweet. The filling is very light in color, much lighter than a Reese’s. It’s salty and a little grainy and very nutty.

I didn’t want to overwhelm everyone with too many See’s items, so I’ve had these Rabbits for a while. I picked up one of the milk (small in gold foil) and one of the dark (in blue foil). They’re hollow, but still rather hefty.

See's Milk & Dark Chocolate Rabbit

Lake Champlain & See's Milk Chocolate RabbitsThe See’s Milk Chocolate bunny is less than 5” tall, yet it towers over the little one bite Lake Champlain Hollow Rabbit.

Lake Champlain Milk Chocolate - it’s sweet and milky, but smooth and has a very slick melt on the tongue, almost like it has hazelnut in it. ($3.25 for .6 ounces) The larger sizes are priced at: $15 for a 9.5 ounce solid rabbit and a novelty one driving a car for $20 for 8 ounces.

Lake Champlain uses Belgian chocolate for their molded items. The ingredients are all natural.

See’s Milk Chocolate - it’s sweet and slightly less milky, with more of a roasted base to it. It’s not quite as sweet as the Lake Champlain, but still has similar silky qualities. ($2.45 for 2.2 ounces.) There is a smaller one that’s solid that goes for $1.00 at the stores and the other hollow novelites available are $4.90 for 4.5 ounces and the largest standing rabbit is $8.50 for 10 ounces.

Lake Champlain & See's Milk Chocolate RabbitsThe ingredients on the See’s are pretty standard, the only one that throws up a flag is the use of vanillin (but they also use real vanilla, go figure).

So they both taste good. They’re both good quality. They’re both cute ... I’ll admit that I like the squat and fat Lake Champlain format, but the foil wrapping and doe-like eye of the See’s is awfully lovable, too.

It comes down to two other things, I guess. Price and availability. See’s is pretty easy to find on the West Coast and of course you can order via the internet.

There’s a nice campaign to raise awareness about the hazards of giving children real rabbits (or baby ducks or chicks) at the holidays called Make Mine Chocolate. While a chocolate rabbit is not going to engender the same sort of squishy lovey feelings in a kid that a real animal will, it’s much more humane.

I had rabbits as a kid and I can attest to how much responsibility it is to care for a pet (especially one in a cage).

Dark Chocolate See's RabbitFinally, there is my huge friend the See’s Dark Chocolate Hollow Rabbit who clocks in at 4.5 ounces.

He sat around my office for weeks, I really liked the look of this rabbit in the light blue foil with his drowsy, heavily-lashed eyes and real bow.

Eventually the foil had to come off though, I had no idea what was beneath, I expected something similar to the milk chocolate one. The 2.2 ounce version (which also comes in dark chocolate) has those little drawn on hairs, so you know it’s a rabbit.

This one, well, it was startling. Mostly because it’s so stylized. I immediately thought of those Draw Me! ads that used to appear in the back of comic books and magazines.

It’s so smooth yet angular. And the eyes are so vacant.

The dark chocolate is tasty, very smooth but middle-of-the-road. Kind of like very good chocolate chips or a good cup of hot chocolate. A little hint of bitterness, no dry finish and a buttery melt.

The bunny isn’t really that much taller than the 2.2 ounce one, just wider and of course has a very thick wall. (Honestly, I had a hard time ringing his neck to break him after I bit off the ears.) They come in milk or dark, but no white.

     Dark Chocolate See's Rabbit

Related Candies

  1. Upscale Hollow Chocolate: Michel Cluizel & Hotel Chocolat
  2. Wonka Golden Egg
  3. Palmer Hollow Chocolate Flavored Bunny
  4. Russell Stover Hollow Milk Chocolate Bunny
  5. Lindt Chocolate Bunnies (Dark & Milk)

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:25 am     CandyReviewEasterLake ChamplainSee'sCaramelChocolateCoffeeKosherPeanuts8-TastyBelgiumUnited StatesHead to HeadComments (1)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Snickers Charged

imageMars has messed around quite a bit with Snickers over the past few years with various limited editions. Snickers Almond (more nuts with added almond pieces), Snickers Xtreme (all caramel & nuts), Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch (all peanuts & nougat), Snickers Dark (dark chocolate) and Snickers Shrek (green nougat).  What they haven’t done yet is put something in Snickers that wasn’t already there.

That comes to an end as Snickers thinks that we need to wake up.

They’ve introduced their new Limited Edition Snickers Charged which boasts 60 milligrams of caffeine, taurine and other B vitamins (about 10% of your RDA).

The bar is slightly smaller than their regular one, again this is the same with all the limited edition bars. It’s 1.83 ounces instead of 2.06.

imagealt=“Snickers Charged” />

Of course a slightly smaller bar means fewer calories. This one is 250 calories compared to the 280 in the regular bar.

It smells much like the regular Snickers, has the same texture ... same crunchy peanuts, chewy caramel and super-sweet nougat with a hit of salt. And then it comes along, the caffeine kick. And when I say kick, I mean in the mouth. It’s a bitter aftertaste that sits high and in the back of the mouth. It just kind of lingers there, like maybe it’s not something you ate but something you smelled (sometimes strong skunk will do that to me). And it stays with you, probably as long as the caffeine is in your system. I clocked my aftertaste for eating one half of a bar at 90 minutes.

If you’re one of those people who doesn’t notice the bitterness of coffee, it might not be such a big deal. The nice thing about a regular Snickers is that it’s an anytime bar ... this one I wouldn’t be able to eat late in the day or the evening because I simply can’t sleep if I have caffeine that late. If they’d made this a coffee flavored bar like the Twix Java, well now then we’d have something!

That 60 milligrams is nothing to sneeze at:

1 - 8-ounce soft drink contains 20-40 milligrams (about 150-170 calories)
1 - 8-ounce regular coffee contains 65-120 milligrams (5-100)
1 - 8-ounce energy drink contains 72-80 milligrams (110-140 calories)

Honestly, it’s a great value as an edible dose of caffeine goes. A candy bar is usually about 75 cents at a convenience store. A cup of coffee is usually $1.25 and a soda is $1.00 ... you might be able to get an energy drink for about $2.00. (Let’s not even go into the caffeine, calories & price of those blended coffee drinks.)

I got four bars as samples from Mars and I’ll probably eat them all, but unless I have a specific need for unhydrated caffeine, I don’t see myself picking up one of these. (Add that to the fact that they’re limited edition, which will likely make them harder to find.)

Some other early reviews: Crown Combo Blog & Digital Ronan.

Related Candies

  1. Butterfinger Buzz (Caffeinated)
  2. Loud Truck Energy Gummies
  3. Caffe Acapella - Coffee Confections
  4. Trader Joe’s Espresso Chocolate
  5. Pocket Coffee
  6. No Time & Black Black
Name: Snickers Charged
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Mars
Place Purchased: samples from Mars PR reps
Price: $.75 retail
Size: 1.83 ounces
Calories per ounce: 137
Categories: Chocolate, Nougat, Caramel, Peanuts, Caffeinated, Limited Edition, United States, Mars, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:36 am     Comments (80)

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Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.

 

 

 

 

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ON DECK

These candies will be reviewed shortly:

• Orgran Molasses Licorice

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