Wednesday, June 10, 2009
The world of gum is huge these days. No longer is it just a world of soothing mint & peppy cinnamon. There are at least a half a dozen formats: sticks, gumballs, nuggets, chicklets, tape & goo filled pieces and the flavors are all over the map with the general array of mints & fruits but now there are sour gums, exotic flavors and even more combinations & special ingredients than ever.
Chewing gum started out, early on, as a simple little stick of chicle base with sugar and a little flavoring. Some of the earliest varieties, launched in the late 1800s still survive today in pretty much the same format. For your chewing enjoyment I have a few classic gums: Black Jack, Clove and Beemans plus Clark’s Teaberry.
Teaberry is a regional name for wintergreen (also known as Canada tea, which may explain the name of Canada mints which are also wintergreen flavored).
The D.L. Clark Company used to be a rather large & diverse candy manufacturer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which made both candy bars and gums starting in 1886. At one point the company was making 150 different kinds of confections. In 1921 the gum side of the business (which was made in a separate factory anyway) was spun off into its own company: Clark Brothers Chewing Gum Company (later shortened to Clark Gum Company). They were best known for two flavors: Teaberry and Tendermint.
Though Tendermint is no longer produced, Teaberry is still available.
The biggest issue I’ve had with purchasing Teaberry gum in the past 10 years or so, besides it being rather difficult to find is freshness. The pieces, first of all, seem a bit thinner than I remember them. Second, they’re often stale & crispy instead of soft & pliable. (Yes, sometimes I like to roll up my sticks.)
Even so, I’ve never felt that gum needs to be “fresh” in order to be enjoyed, though sometimes the flavor isn’t quite a vibrant.
Like all the gums profiled in this review, Teaberry is still made with sugar and no other sweeteners. (Though it’s now made in Mexico.)
Here’s an old commercial from Teaberry’s heyday in the 60s called the Teaberry Shuffle performed by Herb Alpert.
Though the Clark’s Gum Company is only a vague shadow of what it used to be, Adams is the oldest gum company and some of the classic flavors are still produced today now that it’s part of the Cadbury Adams company. The Adams nostalgic line is still made sporadically (in Colombia), in fact, the gums are back on store shelves presently (and when the inventory is gone, it’s pretty much gone until they make more in a year or two). I got mine at Cost Plus World Market.
The Thomas Adams gum story is pretty interesting. (If you want to know far more than I’m prepared to cover, please read this great page.)
Black Jack gum is the first flavored gum in the United States, starting in 1871.
The package doesn’t even say what it is, but I found the flavors are anise, ginger & green woodsmoke.
If I’ve had Black Jack before this, I’d forgotten (for the most part all I chew is Peppermint Chiclets, Teaberry and bubble gum balls). It’s much more mellow than I would have expected after the scent. Caramel, molasses & licorice but it also reminds me of the woodsy ginseng gum I pick up in Chinatown from time to time. A little weird bitter metallic taste to it but also a very, very sweet note that doesn’t go away even when the sugar is gone.
The scent is pure clove, just like sticking my nose in a bottle of the spicy, dried flower buds.
The chew is soft and mellow, the clove also has a hint of cinnamon to it, making the whole thing reminiscent of spiced cider and a baked ham.
My biggest issue with clove is its association with dental problems. Clove oil is a natural analgesic and one that can be applied topically in the mouth without worry of poisoning. So the mere scent of it reminds me other teething issues ... probably not my own, probably more of an association with other screaming toddlers.
The numbing quality is a bit evident as I chewed it, I could swear that my tongue felt a little like putty towards the end. Overall, this kind of changed my mind about the clove flavor, it wasn’t as medicinal as I expected and the flavor certainly lasted a long time for a sugared gum.
Because of the white package I always assumed that this was peppermint flavored gum and I saw no need to switch from Wrigley’s Spearmint of Doublemint gum for this niche product.
Even though the sticks were white, once I opened the package it became apparent that this is a wintergreen flavored gum.
A little backstory about wintergreen & Beemans.
The gum was developed by an Ohio physician named Dr. Edward E. Beeman. Pepsin was a common treatment for digestive issues and working it into a gum was a good solution for delivering it in a slow dose. The Adams company purchased it from Beeman in 1898.
The flavor is a bit more intense than Teaberry. Actual pepsin doesn’t appear as an ingredient on the label. The chew is soft and smooth but after the sugar is gone it has a bit of a warming quality, like Ben Gay for the tongue. (Which may or may not be a selling point.)
I prefer Teaberry ... though I like the fact that the Beemans and Clove have no artificial colors in them.
They’re all rather simple gums and lack a liquid center, fancy graphics and huge marketing campaigns. They’re quiet and contemplative ... comforting and a rather cheap little way to buy some nostalgia.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:49 am
Friday, April 3, 2009
For some reason people want Energy. I’m not quite sure why they’re looking for products specifically labeled that way, as my understanding is that all food contains energy. Calories are available energy from food. If it doesn’t have calories, as far as I’m concerned, it’s not food.
But consumers, I believe, have been duped into thinking that stimulants are actually energy. They’re not, they’re just, well, stimulants. Stimulants make you feel like doing stuff, as the general state of humans (if you believe advertising and general laws of physics) is to be inert and bored. Stimulants, though, don’t cure boredom or actually get anything done.
Caffeine is the most common stimulant and is naturally found in a product that masks the bitter and unpleasant taste of it very well: coffee. Caffeine also works as an additive in other products in smaller quantities, usually products with natural alkaloids, like chocolate or perhaps strong fruit flavors.
There are some other compounds which are also grouped into energy products: Taurine and B vitamins (Niacin, B6 and B12). These have their own distinct flavors, often known collectively as the “vitamin burp” taste. (You can read about these at Energy Fiend)
All of this writing, however, is just vamping. After trying my first Beechies Force Chewy Candy, I didn’t want to continue.
Lemon - it looks pretty good and the first crunch of the candy shell was a bright & promising sweet lemon flavor. But chewing it, well, I should probably start posting photos of my facial expressions. The first was something akin to “Wha? Is this really happening? Does this really taste like this?” kind of quizzical look. Then a bitterness set in, which caused me to furrow my brow. Then came a general distasteful look that someone might mistake for “May I spit this out in your hand please? Please! Right now!”
And then I waited for a couple of weeks. I reviewed a bunch of other stuff, even avoided reviewing yesterday by posting a new products announcement list. I carried the bags around with me in my “to review” package. The wrapper does say recharge - refresh - renew so I thought I’d try again.
Green Apple went a little better. The candy shell is tangy and has that comforting artificial apple flavor. Then ... well, it took a turn for the worse. The soft chew of the center, which is rather like a Mentos, had a bit of a bitter tingle. The flavor was that midrange bitterness that reminds me of dirty gym socks. But it was mercifully short
Strawberry was a beautiful red. Much prettier than any Mentos. The shell flavor was soft and sweet. The inner chew was musty and tasted like generic chewable vitamins.
935 mg of Taurine
This combination of chemicals does not give me energy, it gives me angry.
I emailed the company, Richardson Brands, to see if they actually still make these. They never responded. Their website doesn’t list them on a product page but includes them in the ingredients/nutritional section. I found record of them being offered at All Candy Expo in 2006, but under different flavors. The only place I’ve ever seen these for sale is at the 99 Cent Only Store, but I have seen them at multiple stores and the packages appear fresh and current.
The chew itself was odd looking, it’s olive green. Really nicely done olive green, but just not a color I associate with rich, roasted coffee. (But I do associate with unroasted coffee.)
The outer shell is sweet and has a mellow coffee flavor. The inner chew is rather promising. It’s sweet and has a latte taste - both creamy and with some good brewed coffee flavors. The bitterness is there, but rather believable because of the coffee flavor.
I still had the aftertaste of bitter B vitamins, but it didn’t feel as strange because there was no tangy fruit flavor component. I wouldn’t call these great, but compared to the fruit ones, they’re actually edible. They reminded me of the Chewy Coffee Rio.
The other trick I found is to actually chew it all up. When I ate my second Java, I left the candy shell dissolve. Bad idea, because that’s where the extra sugar was. The center chew is not as sweet, but if you let it dissolve like a hard candy, it’s not a bad either. They do end with coffee breath though, so have some real mint Mentos on hand for that (as a side note, there is a caffeinated version of Mentos available in Europe).
An 8 ounce cup of brewed coffee (yes, I actually drink just an 8 ounce cup) contains about 100 mg of caffeine but no calories. Each bag contains two servings (140 calories)... and for only a buck, it’s a pretty good price for an easily metered amount of caffeine. I suppose you can swallow them whole.
I can see these having their place. For travelers, especially those who don’t want to take in a lot of liquids, it’s a nice alternative to coffee or energy drinks. They’re extremely portable (although 14 of them do take up a bit of space).
The package says a serving is 14 pieces, but it holds on 25 ... so it’s just shy of two actual servings. They’re made in
Colombia, which knows a lot about coffee. I’m keeping the Java (4 out of 10) ones on hand for medicinal purposes but I’m throwing out the fruit ones (1 out of 10).
Friday, May 9, 2008
It’s called MarieBelle Mayan Chocolate Bar 70% single origin Colombian cacao - unsweetened. That’s the extent of the description given. What I found interesting reading the back of the package is that this bar is made in Colombia. And it’s made by Eneh Compania Nacional de Chocolates, and only distributed by MarieBelle (in their bar format, of course). It’s certified Kosher.
Now, besides its origin, it has other tricks up its sleeve. Unlike the 99% & 100% cacao stuff that I’ve been eating for the past two days, this is more like Michel Cluizel’s Cacao Forte 99% truffle. While there’s no added sugar here, there is a lot of milk ... probably more milk than some chocolate bars have chocolate.
The bar may be 70% cacao, but the second ingredient is milk. The whole list of ingredients goes like this: Cocoa mass, skim milk powder, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, soy lecithin, PGPR-90 polyglicerol polyricinoleate (emulsifier) and natural vanilla.
From what I understand from reading the label, what MarieBelle (or Eneh) has done is take some intense, unsweetened chocolate and diluted it with some milk & emulsifiers. Much like coffee becomes much more drinkable to the majority of folks with a bit of milk to temper the bitterness but still allow the flavors to come through, that’s how this bar operates. Milk adds a bit of sweetness with its natural sugars (lactose) as well as simple bulk with its fats & protein. (This bar has about 20% more protein per ounce than straight chocolate but also has 16 grams of carb per ounce though none of them straight sugars.)
Yes, it has PGPR in it too, which I was a little concerned about, as I associate it with cheap chocolate ... it’s a simple filler in most cases, it maintains the texture & mouthfeel of chocolate but of course is far cheaper than actually have chocolate content. In this case, I’m guessing with such high milk content the extra emulsifiers are handy to keep the bar properly integrated.
But all that technical stuff aside, it’s a nice looking bar. It reminds me of a rye crisp, with the little divets in it or maybe a game board that should have little pegs.
The thick plank of chocolate has a nice stiff snap to it. I was concerned with all the extra milk & emulsifiers it’d be fudgy or soft, but it has a texture consistent with a 70% dark bar.
On the tongue it has a very slow and viscous melt. It reminds me of peanut butter. It actually tastes a bit like dark roasted peanuts. It also has those toasted burnt sugar notes, like the crust of a creme brullee.
It’s quite sticky in the mouth, but that makes it feel substantial and long-lasting if savored. The other way to go is to chew it up, but I have to say that makes a big mess in the mouth. Once it melts, it’s clingy. Chocolate with sugar in it wants to fall apart, kind of like fudge. Instead, this is almost like a caramel, it wants to stay together.
I have to say that even though this bar is jarringly different than many chocolate bars, the way they’ve solved the problem of leaving out sugar without being chalky or blazingly bitter is quite pleasing. (Kudos for not going to the sugar alcohols that mess with the texture and of course have those unwanted side effects.) If you’re a fan of peanut butter flavors and textures, this bar won’t feel too unfamiliar.
I don’t know if I’d buy it again for myself, but if you’re on a low carb or no sugar diet (but have no problem with the immense amount of fat) this could be the indulgence you’re looking for. I don’t think this bar is that easy to find. I got mine at Chocolate Covered in San Francisco, you can also order online directly from MarieBelle.
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Chiclets are my absolute favorite gum of all time. I love the classic white gum. It’s not easy to find any longer, I usually pick up six packs at the 99 Cent Only Store. They used to come in a lot of flavors, Spearmint and Fruit and if I’m not crazy, I think there was a Cinnamon at one time. The boxes are clean and feature nicely packed little candy-coated tile-like pieces of gum. Crunchy, flavorful ... easy to share. No messy wrappers.
At one time the Fruit Chiclets were different flavors, but eventually all the colors became the familiar fruit flavor (kind of like JuicyFruit). On rare occasions I also see the Tiny Size Chiclets at the store. Tiny Size are, well, just adorable. They the perfect size to offer to your Barbie doll. You know, if she’s a gum chewer ... maybe trying to break a smoking habit.
I stopped at the CVS to pick up some toothpaste the other day after work and spotted these at the checkout. I couldn’t resist. Sure, I had a six pack of Peppermint at home, but I hadn’t had the Tiny Size in years and that Gold Mine Gum was still pretty fresh in my mind.
While the regular pack boasts 12 pieces, which is pretty much six portions, the Tiny Size is only one half of an ounce.
For me this amounted to about three portions. The chew is satisfyingly crunchy, but not as grainy as the larger Chiclets can be. The fruit flavor is pleasant. A little bland and of course doesn’t last very long.
As cute as these little freaks are, I don’t think I’m going to buy them again, unless I’m working on some sort of candy craft project. The colors are unusual, the package seems to indicate that they’re rather neon tinted, in reality they’re just bright.
Peppermint Chiclets were introduced by the Fleer company in 1906. Fleer was later swallowed up by Warner Lambert in 1962, also the year that the Tiny Size was introduced. Warner Lambert sold their gum concerns to Cadbury Adams in 2000. Chiclets are still made with sugar but are manufactured in Colombia.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.