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Ethically Sourced

Friday, December 17, 2010

Divine Milk Chocolate with Spiced Cookies

Divine Milk Chocolate with Spiced CookiesI found the Divine Milk Chocolate with Spiced Cookies while in San Francisco last month. It seemed like the perfect place to pick up a limited edition bar for the winter season, as San Francisco always seems to be cold when I’m there.

I usually like the Divine packages; I like the simplicity and flexibility of the icons on the solid color field. The designs are color coded so it’s easy to pick out your favorite on a crowded shelf at the store. This breaks with that tradition and the wrapper sports a shiny red ribbon and bow. Not a pretty hand tied bow, but one of those cheap stick on bows. The design is done with a bit of tromp l’oiel that just ruins it because of the violation of scale.

The bar is made of mostly fair trade ingredients (the chocolate and the sugar) and is all natural though not organic.

Divine Spiced Cookie

The bar is soft, both because the cookies are crumbly and the milk chocolate isn’t quite as crisp as some. The chocolate has a very strong yogurty-dairy flavor to it, a little on the side of cheese even. I’m not keep on this more earthy and grassy flavor of milk chocolate. The chocolate melt is also a bit thick and sticky but very smooth. The cookies are quite good and have a well rounded flavor profile with a hint of ginger, black pepper, a graham cracker base and a hint of salt.

I liked it and eventually finished the bar (with a little help) but I don’t think this is quite for me. It’s a good candy bar that uses fair trade chocolate, but it’s not what I’d consider a good chocolate bar. The spiced cookies are a nice change from crisped rice and plain ginger, but not quite enough for me to wish that they’d make this bar all year round.

Related Candies

  1. Brach’s Indulge Cookie Nibbles
  2. Ferrara Dark Chocolate Covered Biscotti
  3. Trader Joe’s Chocolate Covered Gingersnaps
  4. See’s Pumpkin Spice & Root Beer Lollypops
  5. Divine Fair Trade Chocolate


Name: Milk Chocolate with Spiced Cookies
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Divine Chocolate
Place Purchased: Fog City News (San Francisco)
Price: $4.50
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 148
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Christmas, Divine Chocolate, Chocolate, Cookie, Ethically Sourced, Limited Edition, 7-Worth It, Germany

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:55 am     All NaturalCandyChristmasDivine ChocolateChocolateCookieEthically SourcedLimited Edition7-Worth ItGermanyComments (3)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Equal Exchange Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt

Equal Exchange Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea SaltCooler temperatures mean more chocolate consumption in my world. I’ve really been enjoying the bars from Equal Exchange, so I decided to branch out from the plain dark chocolate bars to their flavored offerings.

The Equal Exchange Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt is a modest bar, sporting only 55% cacao content, it’s not extraordinarily dark and has more of a candy bar flair to it with bits of salty toffee.

The bar is wrapped simply in a burnt orange and brown wrapper that goes with the color coding Equal Exchange has going on for their line.

Equal Exchange Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt

The bar is inside a thin white plastic sleeve which is easy to open and slip the bar back into. The bar looks great, it has a reddish hue to it and the inclusions of toffee bits are visible within the chocolate mass.

Equal Exchange Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt

The bar has a distinct and bright snap. Breaking the bar reveals a plethora of big crunchy toffee bits (made with just four ingredients: cream, sugar, vanilla and sea salt). The chocolate itself smells like coffee and has a light acidic bite to it. It’s sweet, but not sticky and has a well rounded woodsy chocolate flavor. The toffee bits are crunchy and buttery with a strong salty note. They go exceptionally well with the chocolate and complement the smooth melt of the chocolate with the hard burnt sugar notes and the dash of sea salt.

This bar straddles the world of easy to eat candy and decadent treat. The chocolate isn’t as nuanced as the darker single origin bars, but it’s also more accessible. It’s one of my favorite toffee chocolate bars now. (It still prefer the slightly more candy-ish Green & Black’s Peanut Bar, but that’s milk chocolate and I’ve had more of those bars than the Equal Exchange.)

It’s fair trade, organic and Kosher. It’s made in a facility that processes tree nuts and peanuts and of course isn’t vegan because of the milk in the toffee.

UPDATE 11/16/2010: I transcribed the ingredients incorrectly in an earlier version of this review. There is no corn syrup in this bar. The only sweetener is organic unrefined and/or raw cane sugar. I’ve revised the review to reflect the accurate ingredients.

Related Candies

  1. Equal Exchange Dark Chocolate: 65%, 71% & 80%
  2. Green & Black’s Peanut Milk Chocolate
  3. Sweet Earth Chocolates
  4. Mini Mentos: Orange, Apple, Lemon & Strawberry
  5. Valerie Toffees & Nougats
  6. Equal Exchange: Espresso, Mint & Nibs
  7. Equal Exchange Miniatures


Name: Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt (55%)
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Equal Exchange
Place Purchased: samples from Equal Exchange
Price: $4.00 retail
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 156
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Equal Exchange, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Kosher, Organic, Single Origin, Toffee, 9-Yummy, Switzerland

POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:06 pm     All NaturalCandyEqual ExchangeChocolateEthically SourcedKosherOrganicToffee9-YummySwitzerlandComments (4)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Justin’s Organic Peanut Butter Cups

Justin's Organic Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter CupsI am a huge proponent of improving upon classic candies. The peanut butter cup is so simple, yet there are a few weaknesses in the most commonly found ones on store shelves.

So could a company known for it’s amazingly fresh tasting peanut butter (and other nut butters) make something like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup even better? The new Justin’s Organic Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups and Justin’s Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups have a lot going for them in their lists of specs. They’re all-natural, organic and gluten-free, they use fair-trade chocolate, contain no preservatives and are packaged in compostable wrappers.

Justin's Organic Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup

They’re also about $2 per package of two cups. Premium has a premium price. But I was on board, I wanted to see if eco-awareness would make the actual candy tastier (and possibly limit my other candy consumption because of the pricetag.) So after I got them home and took a few pictures I turned over the package to see some serious trash talk from Justin himself:

Think of your favorite peanut butter cup. How would you feel if I told you that compared to ours it tastes like chocolate covered sawdust? That’s right, I said it. Imagine what happens when I take the best tasting organic peanut butter in the world and delicately place it into the highest quality organic and fair trade chocolate available. Yup. Peanut Butter Cup Perfection. [signed] Justin

I don’t mind a little puffery in sales copy, but I don’t like it when my preferences are insulted. Why would Justin start out our relationship by exhibiting such contempt for my predilections? (For the record, my problems with Reese’s have never involved the peanut butter, it’s about the lackluster chocolate.) It took me a while to shrug this off, but I think I managed to center myself back to zero on the predisposed opinion scale.

Justin’s Organic Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

There are two cups in the package, which weighs 1.4 ounces (Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are 1.5 ounces per two cup package). Each cup is exactly 100 calories.

Justin's Organic Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup

I picked these up at Whole Foods within a week or so of them being placed on store shelves (I frequent the one near my office for lunch and I always cruise by the chocolate shelf). The “best by” date was 5/11, so they’re are definitely fresh. Yet there was a slight bloom on all of the cups. This is the opposite of the issue I usually have with peanut butter cups, which tend to get a greasy sheen as the peanut butter oils migrate into the chocolate.

They smell wonderful, mostly like grassy, fresh peanuts but with a light note of milk and cocoa.

What I noticed first when biting into the cup was how sandy and dry the center was. Most peanut butter cups will bend first, this crumbled and broke into chunks. Not a bad thing, just different. The chocolate is silky smooth and like a silky not-to-sweet chocolate butter. The peanut butter center is salty and sweet with strong roasted peanut notes. The texture is odd, it’s not pasty or buttery, it’s crumbly. It’s not grainy either, it’s a very fine sort of powdery texture. The chocolate really makes up for a lot of that with its silken texture and consistent melt.

The other thing I noticed, as the photo shows is that it’s not a coherent block of peanut butter filling. It has some swirls of milk chocolate in it and a rather thick chocolate reservoir on the top. This was the same with all of the cups that I got (see the dark chocolate one below as well).

Justin's Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter CupsSo after the milk chocolate version, I was definitely curious how the dark chocolate would fare with the different texture style for the peanut butter center.

The Justin’s Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups are also gluten free, organic, use fair trade chocolate, Kosher and packaged in biodegradable wrappers. They’re also vegan. I consider this a pretty big deal, lots of dark chocolate bars are considered vegan but very few “candy” bars are. (But note that they are processed on shared equipment that has been used for dairy ingredients, so they’re not for folks with dairy allergies.)

Justin's Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup

Many all natural products have brief ingredients lists, but Justin’s is quite elaborate, mostly because each ingredient needs a qualification:

Organic Dark Chocolate (Organic Evaporated Cane Sugar, Organic Chocolate Liquor*, Organic Cocoa Butter*, Organic Soy Lecithin, Organic Vanilla), Organic Peanut Butter (Organic dry roasted peanuts, Organic palm fruit oil), Organic Evaporated Cane Sugar, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Vanilla Flavor, Sea Salt.

* denotes Rainforest Alliance Certified products

I don’t know what the status of Palm Fruit Oil is on the list of palm oils these days. Palm plantations displace rainforest, but then again this is organic. Maybe some free range, wild-foraged palm fruit oil would be preferable.

Justin's Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup

The chocolate is silky smooth, just as the milk chocolate version was, but much more intense. In this case the chocolate flavors overpower the peanut butter flavors in many bites (mostly because of the inconsistent distribution of the chocolate, both of my cups had a full chocolate center). The cocoa flavors are woodsy with a slight acidic burn and tannic, bitter bite. It balanced well with the lightly sweet peanut butter center.

I liked the chocolate but I bought these because I thought they were peanut butter cups. Where’s my peanut butter!

I like that the peanut butter is less sweet than many other peanut butter confections, but I wanted it to be more buttery, it was like they used peanut flour instead of actual ground peanuts with all their glorious native oils. For this price I need a cup that delivers consistent ratios of peanut butter and chocolate. It’s a new product and maybe they don’t have things worked out, but the fact that the same swirling and high chocolate ratio occurred in both versions leads me to believe that this is either intended or permitted. Some folks might prefer it that way, so there’s a unique selling proposition for Justin’s. But it doesn’t rise to the level of Peanut Butter Cup Perfection.

Justin’s Nut Butters makes a variety of nut butters, like Honey Almond (which I love) and also a Hazelnut Chocolate (which I haven’t tried yet) ... so once they get their inconsistencies settled, I think that should be their next product developed. An Organic, Fair Trade Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Cup. Then we’ll talk about chocolate nut cup perfection.

UPDATE 3/14/2011

I picked up some new samples of Justin’s Organic Peanut Butter Cups at ExpoWest. They were given to me directly by Justin himself. The packaging is identical, but the cups are greatly improved.

Justin's Peanut Butter Cups

My main complaints about the cups were that the peanut butter was too dry and there was too much chocolate. New versions hitting store shelves addressed this. As you can see from the photo above, the peanut butter is more consistently distributed in the center and appears less crumbly and dry. The chocolate shell still has a crisp, well tempered bite to it, but the peanut butter portion is well defined and flavorful. It tastes like a little darker roast as well and perhaps even a little saltier.

On the milk chocolate version I have to update my rating to 9 out of 10. Justin really did rise up to the challenge he made on the wrapper, this is better than a Reese’s.

The dark chocolate version also gets an upgrade, but only to 8 out of 10. It’s vegan, so that’s a huge thing, but the chocolate is still bitter and has a strong olive and grassy taste to it that overpowers the peanut flavors. The textures were excellent and the ratios dead on perfect.

My last hesitation on this product line is still the price though, but they’re definitely worth it now.

I was a bit overwhelmed when talking to Justin that I forgot to mention my desire for the Hazelnut Cup (though he said he’d read the review). Instead of pitching that I told him I wanted someone to make an all-natural peanut butter that had an additional bit of cocoa butter in it instead of hydrogenated tropical oils to keep it emulsified. The cocoa butter would keep it from separating but also add that inimitable texture, (and if you used un-deodorized) a light malty taste and keep it spreadable.

Related Candies

  1. World’s Largest Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  2. Dark Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  3. Koeze Cream-Nut Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cluster
  4. Colt’s Bolts
  5. Factory Fresh Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  6. Boyer Smoothie


Name: Organic Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Justin’s Nut Butter
Place Purchased: Whole Foods (Park LaBrea)
Price: $1.99
Size: 1.4 ounces
Calories per ounce: 143
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Justin's Nut Butter, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Kosher, Organic, Peanuts, 9-Yummy, United States


Name: Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Justin’s Nut Butter
Place Purchased: Whole Foods (Park LaBrea)
Price: $1.99
Size: 1.4 ounces
Calories per ounce: 143
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Justin's Nut Butter, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Kosher, Organic, Peanuts, 8-Tasty, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:57 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewJustin's Nut ButterChocolateEthically SourcedKosherOrganicPeanuts8-Tasty9-YummyUnited StatesWhole FoodsComments (8)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Equal Exchange Dark Chocolate: 65%, 71% & 80%

Equal Exchange Dark ChocolateThe first experience I had with fair trade chocolate as Equal Exchange exactly five years ago. I was in love with their ethics and their product. Fair Trade as a concept means that everyone in the chain to create a product for sale gets a fair payment. It also means that working conditions are safe and that child labor or slaves are not engaged.

The bars are now much easier to find and the breadth of the program and the product line has expanded over the years. I was sent this assortment of their darkest bars: Ecuador 65%, Very Dark 71% and Panama 80%. First of all, they’ve redesigned their packaging to great effect. The wrappers are simple and compelling and distinctive in the now cluttered world of chocolate bars. The focus is on the product and the producers, the inside of the wrapper details Equal Exchange’s programs.

Each bar is 3.5 ounces and is certified organic and Kosher. Unlike some Fair Trade bars, all of the ingredients in Equal Exchange’s dark bars are Fair Trade content.

Equal Exchange Dark Chocolate

The Organic & fairly traded Dark chocolate from Ecuador (the bar on the top of the pile) is 65% cacao content. The bar looks crisp and perfect, right down to the snap when I broke it in half. Each bar is sealed inside an opaque plastic sleeve to keep it fresh.

This silky, 65% cacao content origin bar is reminiscent of baked brownies fresh out of the pan. Highlighting the work of cacao farmers in Ecuador, the bar’s sweet, fudgy richness is balanced by hints of citrus and floral notes.

This bar did have a crunch to it, the tempering was crisper than the other two bars. It smelled of toffee and stewed fruits. It was sweet on the tongue at first but had a lot of flavors going on immediately, a light tangy note of apricots and then some more fudgy flavors like the tasting notes predicted. It was sweet and didn’t have the puddly melt like the others but still had a very fine texture.

Equal Exchange Dark Chocolate

The Organic & fairly traded Very Dark chocolate is 71% cacao content but doesn’t list the origin beyond “Latin America.” The bar was nicely molded, shiny and with no voids or bubbles. It had a slight red cast to it.

71% has a great blend of flavor characteristics. It has a rich scent, very woodsy with coffee and cherry notes. On the tongue I was getting more green notes, like olives and asparagus plus a little hint of charcoal. It’s bitter but also has a silky melt that’s also a little sticky.

Equal Exchange Dark Chocolate

The Organic & fairly traded Extra Dark chocolate from Panama is 80% cacao content. This bar was more of a smoky brown and had less of the red color that the other two had.

This 80% cacao content bar is Equal Exchange’s darkest yet. Unlike many high cacao content bars that are dominated by a bitter or sour note, this bar is perfectly balanced in a way that allows the true chocolate flavor of the Panamanian beans to shine.

This bar smells distinctly like raisins, tangy and fruity with a little wine note to it. The flavor is the same: a strong tannin base but with berry and cherry notes. It’s a little tangy but with a great soft melt on the tongue and a light dry bite. For a very dark bar this is incredibly munchable, smooth and not too bitter or chalky.

I found myself drawn to both the 80% and the 65% for wildly different reasons, they were all distinct but those two fit my desire for rich chocolate at the moment. I liked the wrappers and the plastic sleeve that held its own (I was able to put the uneaten portions back in there without making a crumbly mess or melting it by handling too much).

Equal Exchange has also made some more “candy” version of their bars such as Organic Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt and Orange Dark Chocolate. I’ll have reviews of those soon. All of their chocolate is a pretty good value, retail for these bars is around $4.00 which is less than some of the more upscale bars but more than your standard Lindt or Ghirardelli.

They’re vegan, soy free and gluten free. They may contain traces of tree nuts, milk and peanuts.

Related Candies

  1. TCHO Fruity
  2. Sweet Earth Chocolate Cups
  3. 3400 Phinney: Fig, Fennel & Almond and Hazelnut Crunch
  4. Equal Exchange: Espresso, Mint & Nibs
  5. Equal Exchange Miniatures
  6. Divine Chocolate: Fair Trade
  7. Equal Exchange Chocolate


Name: Dark Chocolate: Ecuador 65%
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Equal Exchange
Place Purchased: samples from Equal Exchange
Price: $4.00 retail
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 156
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Green Halloween, Equal Exchange, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Kosher, Single Origin, 8-Tasty, Switzerland


Name: Very Dark Chocolate 71%
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Equal Exchange
Place Purchased: samples from Equal Exchange
Price: $4.00 retail
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 156
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Green Halloween, Equal Exchange, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Kosher, Single Origin, 8-Tasty, Switzerland


Name: Extra Dark Chocolate Panama 80%
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Equal Exchange
Place Purchased: samples from Equal Exchange
Price: $4.00 retail
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 163
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Green Halloween, Equal Exchange, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Kosher, Single Origin, 8-Tasty, Switzerland

POSTED BY Cybele AT 4:42 pm     All NaturalCandyGreen HalloweenEqual ExchangeChocolateEthically SourcedKosherOrganicSingle Origin8-TastySwitzerlandComments (2)

Friday, April 2, 2010

An Easter Dash - Reviews in Short

Easter DotsEaster Dots come in one of the happiest looking boxes I’ve seen in a long time.

They’re also crazy cheap, most of the time a theater box like this that holds 7 ounces is just a buck. When I looked at the flavors on this box I was a little confused about what made these an Easter version besides the box (Mike and Ike come in holiday boxes that are the exact same candy). The flavors are Blueberry, Lemon, Lime, Cherry and Orange. The flavors of the classic Dots box are Strawberry, Lemon, Lime, Cherry and Orange. So in this version the Strawberry has been swapped for Blueberry.

These were very fresh. Tootsie does a good job of sealing up the boxes well and Dots have a clear cellophane overwrap.

Easter Dots

Once I opened the box I found out the big difference, it’s the color. Easter Dots are bright and opaque little nubbins.

Well, maybe there was another difference. These seem to be just as smooth but have a “shorter” chew to them, so they didn’t stick to my teeth like Dots usually do. I liked the freshness of the flavors, though it’s a little bland it’s also soothing. The blueberry was pretty convincing though I wish that one replaced the cherry instead of the strawberry.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Divine Milk Chocolate Speckled EggsI’ve been searching all over for these for the past month and finally found them at Whole Foods yesterday ... not with the candy but at the end of the cereal aisle.

Divine Milk Chocolate Speckled Eggs are all natural and fair trade milk chocolate eggs with a candy shell.

They’re freakishly expensive at $4.99 for 3.5 ounces, far more than I’d be willing to pay on a regular basis. I really only bought them because I’d been searching so hard for them it seemed weird to find them and then get decide they were too expensive. The chocolate is made from beans from the Kuapa Kokoo cocoa cooperative in Ghana. Seems like Easter is one of those holidays where folks may want to pay more attention to the social responsibility behind the treats.

The stand up box is charming. Inside is a little clear cellophane bag with a little more than a handful of eggs.

Divine Milk Chocolate Speckled Eggs

They’re very similar to Cadbury Mini Eggs. The shape is more football than pear. They beautiful muted colors and a matte finish.

The shell is smooth and softly decorated. The shell is quite thick and crunchy. The chocolate inside has a silky melt, a little sticky with a good caramelized dairy note. I liked them a lot and will probably buy them again next year. Hopefully they can be found in larger packages for better value. (Also, Whole Foods could do a better job of putting them where people can find them. I went to three different stores and it wasn’t until the fourth circuit of the one at 3rd & Fairfax that I found them - even after asking a stockperson.)

Rating: 7 out of 10

Sour Patch BunniesThe Sour Patch Bunnies are like many other Easter versions of regular candies. As you can imagine these are little bunny shaped candies instead of being shaped like spiky haired children.

I liked the box a lot, it was easy to tell apart from the regular Sour Patch offerings. The only quibble is really the packaging. Like many theater box candies, inside the box the candy is inside a plain cellophane bag. As I mentioned above, the Dots are just tumbling around in the box and there’s a cellophane seal on the outside. For this version I have to open the box top completely to get the bag out, dump the candy into the box and then I’m faced with an opening that is really too large for dispensing.

Sour Patch Bunnies

They’re a little lighter in color compared to the Sour Patch Kids. Honestly, I prefer this. They’re colored enough that I can tell them apart and guess the flavor and that’s really all I need. Other than that, the shape was so vague, unless you told me these were bunnies I wouldn’t have known. Pink is the classic Swedish Fish flavor with a tangy coating. Green is lime, yellow is lemon and orange is orange. A biting sour coating, a chewy sweet jelly candy in the center ... they’re great.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Russell Stover Peanut Butter PastelleI bought this Russell Stover Peanut Butter Pastelle Rabbit online from Russell Stover. I just couldn’t find it in the stores and thought it was a unique product.

The rabbit is similar to the white chocolate one I tried last year (and didn’t like that much, so I wonder why I was curious about this one). It’s a peanut butter coating (like peanut butter baking chips) with a peanut butter filling.

The three ounce flat rabbit is nicely molded. The butterscotch color is also really appealing. It smells like vanilla pudding and peanut butter. The coating though is a bit waxy and stiff, it melts but not in a dreamy way that good white chocolate does. But it’s not too sweet, which is a relief as well. The filling is a crumbly peanut butter with a salty note and a dry grainy crunch. I kind of got into it. I’d prefer it in a smaller format though, maybe one of the smaller eggs they do.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

Brach's Classic Jelly Bird EggsBrach’s Classic Jelly Bird Eggs are cheap jelly beans. I don’t know what classic is, the package gives no indication what the flavors are.

They’re only 99 cents for a generous 9 ounce bag. Even at that bargain price, they’re not much of a deal. They’re pretty enough to look at and probably decorate with, but they’re inconsistent in flavor and execution. I also resent not knowing what’s inside. It’s not like the bag is tiny and has no room for information like the flavor array.

Brach's Classic Jelly Beans

White is pineapple. It’s sweet and floral but bland. Green is lime and rather strong but lacking zest. Purple is grape and is utterly stupid ... seriously, it tastes like sweet stupidity. Black is licorice. All of the black ones seemed to be smaller than the other jelly beans. Still, they were tasty and well done. Pink is bitter and just dreadful. Perhaps it’s strawberry. Red is not as bitter but still dreadful. Orange is sweet and empty. Finally there’s yellow, which is actually pretty good, it’s like a sugared lemon peel.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Brach's Spiced Jelly Bird EggsSo as annoying as I found the Classic beans, you’d think I would be happy with the Brach’s Spiced Jelly Bird Eggs which are quite clear on the front that they feature spice flavors.

I was hoping for rich flavors, but of course I know Brach’s well enough that I really won’t be getting much more than a decent looking product. The bag doesn’t promise much more than a good value, so I should probably adjust my expectations.

Brach's Spiced Jelly Beans

Red is a mild cinnamon, not as good as Hot Tamales and kind of tinged with some of the mint notes, but still pleasant like a cup of spiced chai. White is peppermint. I have to say that a peppermint jelly bean is a little odd especially since it’s so grainy but still fresh tasting. Pink is wintergreen which I really love except when there’s too much food dye like this one that has a weird bitter clove & plastic aftertaste - but at moments it’s kind of like root beer. Purple is clove and is actually mild enough for me to enjoy though true clove lovers will probably be disappointed. Orange is sweet and again lacking in any pizazz. Black is again licorice and pretty good (though it makes my tongue dark green).

I think the problem is that I’ve already had some pretty good spice jelly beans from Hot Tamales (Just Born) and there’s really no need to switch brands, the price is comparable, availability is the only issue.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Related Candies

  1. Halloween Dots: Bat, Candy Corn & Ghost
  2. Divine Fair Trade Chocolate
  3. Whoppers Reese’s Peanut Butter Flavored Candy
  4. Dots Elements: Earth, Air, Fire & Water
  5. Cadbury Popping Mini Eggs
  6. Hot Tamales Spice Jelly Beans
  7. Cadbury Mini Eggs
Thursday, February 11, 2010

Divine 70% Dark Chocolate with Raspberries

Divine Dark Chocolate with RaspberriesOne of the newest bars from Divine, a fair trade chocolate maker, is 70% Dark Chocolate with Raspberries.

The packaging is another iteration of their West African iconography in gold and red on a black background. The bars is 3.5 ounces (not available in a single serve size at this time) and is wrapped well inside the paper overwrap with a textured medium grade foil.

Divine bills itself as Heavenly Chocolate with a heart. They use mostly fair trade ingredients (in this case it was the sugar, vanilla and the cacao), are all natural and use non-GMO soy lecithin. Their dark bars do not use any dairy products and are considered vegan though are produced on shared equipment with milk, wheat and tree nuts.

Divine Dark Chocolate with Raspberries

The construction of the bar is simple. Dark chocolate with a layer of freeze dried raspberries sprinkled on the bottom.

Divine Dark Chocolate with Raspberries

Flipped over, the bar is quite beautiful, like all the Divine bars I’ve had. Nice gloss and snap, a rather red hue to it; I wasn’t sure if it was from the raspberry inclusions or just the natural state of the chocolate. It’s a moderately thick bar, thicker than a Lindt Excellence bar, but not as thick as something like Ritter Sport. The sections are 4 by 6 and pretty easy to snap apart.

It absolutely smells like raspberries with some woodsy and seed notes. The dark chocolate is strong, dark and slightly bitter. I was expecting a fruity chocolate, instead it had strong coffee and charcoal notes. The texture is silky with a dry finish and of course the raspberry bits created some texture. The raspberries are freeze dried bits, with lots of seeds. Chewing the seeds gives off grassy and sesame flavors while the pulp part is quite tangy and has great natural raspberry flavors.

Overall I liked the bold combination of flavors - this was not a timid bar. It was not a bar that I could munch on forever though. I had two pieces, then needed to rest for a while until I was interested in having some more. It wasn’t something I was craving at any point though. If they could do the same bar without the seeds, I think I’d prefer it.

Related Candies

  1. Kohler Chocolates Garden Ganache & Toffee Mountains
  2. Divine Fair Trade Chocolate
  3. 3 Musketeers Cherry & Raspberry
  4. M&Ms Razzberry - Limited Edition
  5. Cadbury Raspberry Bunny
Name: 70% Dark Chocolate with Raspberries
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Divine Chocolate
Place Purchased: sample from Fancy Food Show
Price: retail ~$3.00
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 162
Categories: Chocolate, Germany, Divine, Kosher, All Natural, Fair Trade

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:25 pm     Comments (5)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sun Cups

Sunflower Butter Cups ... saying it out loud it doesn’t even make sense, is it a flower or is it a candy? Seth Ellis Chocolatier of Boulder, Colorado has come out with a nut free, peanut free, gluten free, fair trade and organic candy. They simply call them Sun Cups.

Seth Ellis Sun Cups (Sunflower Seed Butter Cups)

Sun Cups come in milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Confusing sounding name aside, they’re sunflower butter (like peanut butter only made with sunflower seeds) in a chocolate cup. Just like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, except, well, not like them.

Each cup is .75 ounces and comes in the industry standard dark brown fluted paper cup. The packages I picked up from the Seth Ellis booth at the Winter Fancy Food Show were flawless and perfect. Even the glossy and bold packaging is made from a compostable film.

Seth Ellis Sun Cups (Sunflower Seed Butter Cups)

The Milk Chocolate Sun Cups smells sweet and milky. There’s a touch of sunflower scent, but mostly it’s a fresh note. The organic milk chocolate is silky smooth and has a strong European dairy note. It’s cool on the tongue as it melts. The sunflower center is creamier than a Reese’s, not exactly moist, but not crumbly and not oily. The center is made with sunflower butter mixed with white chocolate, so it’s a little stiff but has an amazing melt with just a hint of sea salt.

Seth Ellis Sun Cups (Sunflower Seed Butter Cups)

The Dark Chocolate Sun Cups smell like semi-sweet chocolate - a little bit woodsy and fruity. The chocolate is actually rather dark and bitter and though it’s vegan (no milkfat) the cups overall aren’t because of the dairy in the white chocolate & sunflower center. The sunflower butter isn’t very sweet, so the whole cup has a much more savory appeal to it. There’s a grassy note to the sunflower which reminds me a little of jasmine tea and tahini.

I thought I was going to love the dark chocolate more than the milk chocolate, but I found both compelling for different reasons. In the milk chocolate version the milk flavors and silky textures blend together well for a decadent and rather fatty feeling treat. The dark chocolate version is deep and complex and kind of requires a little bit of attention while eating to appreciate how it all fits together.

The fact that they’re gluten free and nut free (both tree & peanut) will set these cups apart from most others right away. The milk chocolate version will be easily gobbled up by kids with allergies and sensitivities without any feeling of them getting a compromise candy. Grown ups without allergies will still appreciate the social responsibility (organic & fair trade) behind them along with the tasty ingredients. I still prefer peanut butter, as it’s a more rounded flavor, but I can’t ignore how great these are.

They might be a little hard to find, though most Whole Foods will order if they’re in the system and not on the shelves. They should be in Whole Foods (Rocky Mountain, Northwest and Bay Area) chain-wide at Pharmaca, Sunflower Markets, Cost Plus World Markets, Jimbo’s in So Cal. I still haven’t found them in stores yet, but they should retail for less than $2.00 a package. Hopefully they’ll have individually wrapped ones around for Halloween later this year.

Related Candies

  1. Sunbursts Natural Mix
  2. Short & Sweet: Bites & Bites
  3. Super Sour Worms
  4. Colt’s Bolts
  5. Sjaak’s Vegan Chocolate Assortment
  6. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Line
  7. Chocolate Sunflower Seed Drops
Name: Sun Cups (Milk Chocolate & Dark Chocolate_
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Seth Ellis Chocolatier
Place Purchased: samples from Fancy Food Show
Price: retail $1.79
Size: 1.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 160 & 153
Categories: Chocolate, United States, Organic, All Natural, Kosher, Fair Trade

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:54 am     Comments (9)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Rococo Bee Bars

Rococo Bee BarsRococo is a small chocolatier and chocolate maker based in London. They grow their cacao in Grenada, in a partnership with the Grenada Chocolate Company. They grow organic Trinitario beans which are then turned into bars and fine chocolates at founder Chantal Coady’s space in London.

The design of the packaging and candy itself is charming, quaint and distinctive from other chocolatiers. The flavors she employs are also a distinctive palette of aromatics, spices and florals.

The chocolate is sold primarily in Great Britain, though there are a couple of shops that have mostly the bars in North America. When I was in San Francisco last time I found the line of Bee Bars at Miette Confiserie. The bars are expensive, so I opted for the petite versions - these are only 20 grams each but cost $3.50 (that works out to $39.50 a pound). The bars are about three inches long, so really just one portion.

The packages are beguiling with reproductions of antique French chocolate mold images lined up and printed in pastel colors like purple and olive green in the case of my bars and navy blue, pink and orange for other bars. I picked up Organic Plain Lavender (dark), Organic Milk 37% Cocoa and Organic White Cardamom.

Rococo Milk Chocolate

I was a bit surprised when I got home and opened my boxes that there is no inner wrapper. No foil, no cellophane, no overwrap for the box or even glue or tape for the tabs.

Still, my bar was in exquisite condition - glossy and beautifully molded. The bee bar, my guess, is named for the mold that has a little bee with outstretched wings on each segment. There are no honey ingredients.

The Milk 37% Cocoa Bee Bar is quite simple. It’s a little softer than a dark chocolate, though certainly doesn’t bend like a Cadbury bar.

It has the light scent of milk and sugar and a little musky hint or malt. It’s quite dark for a milk which appeals to me, though it still has that light cooling effect on the tongue that’s common in milk chocolate. The melt is silky and smooth though on the sticky side because of the sugar and 17% milk content. The chocolate notes are overshadowed by the milk for the most part, but it’s still a great texture and the fresh dairy flavors are a highlight.

Rococo Dark Chocolate with Lavender

The Lavender Bee Bar is made from 65% cacao and uses no vanilla, instead it’s organic lavender essential oil that gives this bar its pop. The fact that they use oil instead of flowers is different here. I’ve had other bars that use whole flowers to flavor the chocolate and while that does a nice job of imparting complex flavors, lavender buds really aren’t that tasty or smooth.

The dark chocolate is smooth, a bit dry and bitter. The lavender is woodsy with a hint of pine and a whiff of aromatics like menthol. I like the flavor of lavender, it reminds me a lot of rosemary - both go well with all kinds of chocolate.

Rococo White Chocolate with Cardamom

The bar that was most compelling to me was the White Cardamom Bee Bar. This one was wrapped - both in foil and then a paper-overwrap. The mold of the bar is also slightly different - it’s four sections instead of six.

The bar is beautiful, a light and creamy yellow with specks of spice. The ingredients list 28% cacao (that’d be cocoa butter) and 22% milk.

I love cardamom and love tasting it in candy. This bar utilizes it perfectly, it’s like a rich rice pudding. It’s a little sweet, but the deep nutty flavors of the cardamom, which is kind of like nutmeg, coriander and saffron all in one. I could eat this bar regularly. I wouldn’t mind a little vanilla in it, to give it some bourbon notes, but this is fabulous as it is.

Other flavor combinations I’m eager to try are Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh; Arabic Spices; Basil & Persian Lime; Orange & Geranium and Peppered Mint. For web orders in the US, it appears that Miss Del’s General Store in Clarksdale, Mississippi. At these prices they’re certainly not an everyday indulgence, more of a way to explore the world of flavors.

Related Candies

  1. My Bay Area Candy Adventure
  2. Boules de Miel (balls of honey)
  3. The Apothecary’s Garden: Herbs (and some Bees)
  4. Recchiuti
  5. Nougat de Montelimar
  6. Green and Black’s White Chocolate
Name: Organic Bee Bars: Milk Chocolate, Lavender Chocolate and Cardamom White
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Rococo Chocolates
Place Purchased: Miette Confiserie (San Francisco)
Price: $3.50 each
Size: .7 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, White Chocolate, United Kingdom, Fair Trade, Organic

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:31 am     Comments (3)

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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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