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Friday, August 14, 2009

Chuao Chocolate Blocks from LEGOLAND

Legoland Chocolate from ChuaoIn the last of my vacation candy theme week, I’ve got something that I didn’t actually get on my vacation last week. But it’s something that you might.

The Man went to LEGOLAND in Carlsbad, CA yesterday, and I asked him to check in the gift shop while he was there to see if they had anything LEGO-ish to complete my week.

He called me from the store and said, “Guess what chocolate LEGOLAND has?”

He just about dropped the phone when I excitedly said, “Chuao!” (It’s not like I actually knew that, but I know his love of Chuao and their proximity to LEGOLAND.)

So he picked up a nice package of the “not quite LEGO branded” blocks. (There’s no actual name on the package of the product, it never uses the name LEGO and it’s not on Chuao’s website, so I’m guessing it’s something that’s only available at the theme park.)

There were three varieties to chose from: all milk, all white or a half & half mix. Each sleeve holds 16 blocks.

Legoland Chocolate from Chuao

Each little block is sized to approximate real LEGO.

A true LEGO 8 block (two rows of four pegs) is 9.6 mm by 32 mm by 16 mm and are basically hollow.

The Chuao version takes some liberties and is 15 mm by 35 mm by 19 mm - which as far as I’m concerned means more chocolate!

Legoland Chocolate from ChuaoI noticed that the sides are not straight verticals, the block is slightly trapezoidal. This is likely an engineering issue - chocolate is rarely injection molded as plastic LEGO blocks are. In order to get most chocolates out of a stiff mold, a little angle can make all the difference.

Also, injection molding means that the item is molded in three dimensions, in the case of chocolate blocks, the bottom is not molded, just leveled flat by gravity when the chocolate is molten.

Each block weighed 10 grams (.35 ounces) ... see, being solid has its advantages.

As I mentioned before, the packaging was so spare and minimalist it didn’t even say what kind of chocolate this is so I’m going to guess. (Hopefully I’ll get a response from Chuao soon and can revise this.)

Legoland Chocolate from Chuao

The Milk Chocolate blocks were practically flawless. The molding was excellent with no voids. The color is a deep, milky brown ... so dark that I wasn’t sure if this was milk chocolate at first.

I suspect that this is El Rey’s beautiful dark milk called Caoba which Chuao is known to favor (though they may have a custom blend done for them).

The chocolate has a beautiful snap. Mine smelled rather milky, but that might be because it was intermingled with the white.

The flavors are dark but the melt is clean and only slightly sweet. There’s a wonderful smokiness to it with a slight background bitterness. It’s quite smooth and has a thinner melt that keeps it from feeling sticky or milky-cloying. It’s good munched up for an immediate bolt of flavor or a lingering melt on the tongue.

Legoland Chocolate from ChuaoChuao’s White Chocolate is dreamy.

The color is a crisp ivory. The molding is precise and the snap is good.

It smells like milky cocoa and pound cake.

The texture is pure, solid silk. It’s sweet but has a consistent melt that is neither greasy nor watery. The sugar is ultrafine so the vanilla flavor as well as some of the cocoa-ness comes through. It’s cool on the tongue so it feels like a great, refreshing summer version of chocolate.

I suspect that this is El Rey ICOA, which is a premium un-deodorized white chocolate.

The final thing to tell you about these adorable, well made and great-tasting chocolates is the price. It was $14.95 for the sleeve. Yes, that’s nearly $1 for each block. At this point I’m just going to buy El Rey or Chuao bars (which are more widely available at grocery and gourmet stores anyway). As it is, these are not kid treats ... they’re a grown-up way to revisit a childhood favorite. Since the only place to get them is LEGOLAND, if you’ve paid $65 just to get in the gate, may as well go for broke (and satisfied).

LEGOLAND - California
One LEGOLAND Drive
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 918-LEGO
(List of Legoland Stores)

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  6. Disneyland for Candy Bloggers
  7. Candy Blox
Name: Chocolate Blocks from LEGOLAND
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Chuao Chocolatier
Place Purchased: LEGOLAND (Carlsbad, CA)
Price: $14.95
Size: ~5.6 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, White Chocolate, United States, Chuao, Fair Trade, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:50 am     Comments (7)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sweet Earth Chocolates

Sweet Earth ChocolatesLast year I made a trip up interstate 101 from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Yes, it’s actually longer than taking I5, but I thought it would be interesting to stop at a few candy shops along the way. One that I was interested in was Sweet Earth Chocolate at about the halfway point of San Luis Obispo.

At that time they were operating out of a space in Splash Cafe in SLO. A few months ago they moved into their own candy kitchen and cafe space just down the street. (More about that here.) I was eager to see the expanded offerings from this unique confectioner that uses organic and fair trade chocolate.

Their new storefront is charming and inviting ... and large! You can get coffee drinks, sit and enjoy your purchases but I was there for the chocolate to take on my vacation.

Sweet Earth ChocolatesTheir candy cases had a nice mix of both comfort candies (chocolate dipped pretzels, house-made jellies, chocolate covered cookies, turtles and marshmallows) and truffles. What sets them apart from many chocolatiers is their line of vegan items. (Here’s the in store menu.)

The store is more than just chocolate though, there’s also information about how fair trade directly affects the communities that participate and some other fun and unique gifts.

Bakers will also enjoy access to fair trade baking chips & cocoa. For those in a hurry who don’t want to select their own box, there are also packages of pre-packed candy cups, chocolate covered goodies and of course their line of chocolate bars.

Sweet Earth Vegan Truffles

I picked up quite a bit of stuff. First, I selected a few items from the “comfort candies” section for me to munch on while on vacation. This included their chocolate dipped pretzels, toffee & chocolate dipped pretzels and some turtles. Since those weren’t for review I also got a box of nine truffles.

The truffles are well priced at 1.50 each though I found them a tad on the small size but mercifully free of the “too hot for the box” styles that chocolatiers have been using lately with artificial colors & cocoa butter ink transfers.

The Espresso truffle was one of those rare modern truffles that actually looks like a truffle. The small sphere smelled woodsy and sweet. The bittersweet chocolate shell gave way to a smooth center with a good pop of espresso flavor. A little acidic but a crisp finish with a little fruity twang. There were a few fibery bits of the coffee beans though at the end.

Sweet Earth Ginger CreamGinger Cream

This dark chocolate triangular piece holds a sweet if slightly grainy cream with a light touch of ginger.

I liked the texture and the woodsy flavor of the ginger. It didn’t have a warming burn, but a pleasant note of the root mixed with a not-too-sweet fondant-like cream. The dark chocolate shell was thick enough that there was no leakage and also provided a bittersweet background to the earthy flavors.

It was a good sized piece as well.

Sweet Earth Cardamom & GingerGinger & Cardamom Truffle

This was definitely one I was looking forward to. I love the combination of cardamom and chocolate.

The center of this truffle also had a bit of a graininess to it, I think, because of the crystallized ginger.

The cardamom was quite overwhelmed by the chocolate & ginger flavors at first, but emerged later and gave me a fresh & lingering aftertaste.

Malt Milk ChocolateMalted Milk Chocolate Truffle

I admit that I was confused by this one. I couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was when I got home. I don’t think it did well on the trip either, something about the central coast being very humid this time of year made the outside tacky.

So when I took it out to photograph it, I was puzzled. So I bit into it and yes, the flavor did remind me a bit of a Milky Way, but I still didn’t put it together until days later when I was trying to write this up and looked at the Sweet Earth Chocolates website.

Anyway, it was sweet and milky and yes, it did have a little malty hit to it. But the outside was like the sticky, stale inside of a seafoam candy so the whole thing was a bit chewy. Not unpleasant, but not “truffle-like.” I’ll give it another go though, as I’m always game for some malt.

Sweet Earth HazelnutMilk Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle

Sweet & slightly grassy tasting center with little bits of hazelnuts. Milky and entirely addictive.

This would make an excellent chocolate cup too, I would love a bigger bite ... or more of them. And maybe some in dark chocolate. Yes, a true winner. (I’m wondering if you can make a dark chocolate gianduia that’s vegan.)

Sweet Earth Vegan Truffle & Classic Truffle

Finally, I got two of the classic dark chocolate truffles. They come in a full cream version and a vegan version.

The Vegan Dark Chocolate truffle is cute, a small hand rolled sphere with a flurry of zigzags of chocolate for decoration. The aroma is dark and woodsy chocolate. The bite is soft and the center is smooth. It’s barely sweet and has a strong woodsy & tangy flavor that comes through ... then a note of coconut and a rather bitter & dry finish.

The dairy Dark Chocolate truffle has a similar look, with its decoration mostly parallel stripes. The center seemed just a bit softer but also a bit smoother. The tangy bite wasn’t there at all. The chocolate flavors seemed more pronounced, though the chocolate shell still participated with quite a bitter chocolate bite & dry finish.

Sweet Earth ChocolatesOn the whole, I find the Sweet Earth Chocolates 65% dark chocolate a bit on the astringent side. The dairy cream centers worked well with this and some of the flavors combined well to tip it more towards woodsy or berry/raisin.

What’s so refreshing about the shop & the chocolates is that they’re so approachable and fresh-tasting. I didn’t feel assaulted by political messages about fair trade and organics - for the most part the shop is about the wholesome enjoyment of freshly made chocolates ... that happen to be organic and fair trade.

I reviewed their mainstream offerings of foil wrapped candy cups last year.

If you’re in San Luis Obispo or passing through during business hours, give it a try:

Sweet Earth Chocolates
1445 Monterey St
San Luis Obispo, CA
Hours: 10 AM to 6 PM (call to confirm)
805-782-9868
Twitter: @slochocolate

Related Candies

  1. Divine Fair Trade Chocolate
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  4. Zotter Candy Bars
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  6. Terra Nostra Pocket Bars
  7. CocoaVino
Name: Fair Trade Organic Truffles
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Sweet Earth Chocolates
Place Purchased: Sweet Earth Chocolates (San Luis Obispo)
Price: $1.50 each
Size: unknown
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, Coffee, Ginger, United States, Organic, Chocolatier, Fair Trade, All Natural, Shopping

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:15 pm     Comments (1)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Javaz - Milk & Dark Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans

Javaz Milk & DarkSince the introduction of chocolate covered espresso beans sometime in the seventies not much has changed. Oh sure, sometimes they’re milk chocolate covered ... sometimes dark chocolate and even white chocolate.

At the Fancy Food Show in January I did get to try what I thought was one of the best revisions of the classic caffeinated confection: JAVAZ.

First, they’re all natural and use organic, fair traded coffee beans. Second, they use good quality chocolate. Third, they have a candy shell. But most of all, they actually roast the coffee for eating. That is, instead of roasting it for optimal brewing, it’s roasted with the idea that someone is going to crunch & consume it.

They come in two varieties: Milk and Dark.

Javaz Milk Chocolate

JAVAZ Milk are much larger than most chocolate covered coffee beans, so it’s a goodly dose of chocolate. I threw some coffee beans into the photo to show the scale.

They’re even larger than Peanut M&Ms.

They look like little bird eggs: a faint tan color with brown speckles.

The shell is thick and crunchy and the milk chocolate is sweet and has a strong dairy/milky flavor to it. The coffee bean at the center is crispy and light, I wasn’t getting the fibery, woody bits that some coffee candies seem to leave behind. The coffee beans don’t have that acrid, oily taste to them.

The whole thing tastes like coffee ice cream with crunchy bits.

Though there’s obviously caffeine in here it’s not as much as you might think: a 55 gram bag has about the same amount as a cup of coffee.

Javaz Dark Chocolate

JAVAZ Dark are decorated in the reverse of the milk ones. The shell is brown with beige speckles.

The chocolate layer here is dark chocolate, though not “pure” in the sense that there’s some dairy in there (sorry vegans, but the confectioners glaze spoiled these for you anyway).

The chocolate is quite sweet and the punch of the coffee bean is nice and balances that sugary-ness quite well. I might have preferred a little more coffee flavor.

They’re substantially crunchy, I can’t say that these are a quiet way to get a caffeine boost.

I like how thick the shells are and how easy it is to hold them in my hand or just throw a few in my jacket pocket without the protection of the bag. As long as they stay dry, they do just fine. (Okay, maybe that’s not the most sanitary thing, but I’m just being honest about my road-testing of the product.)

The coffee is sourced from Indonesia and uses only Arabica beans and benefits the Indonesia Relief Fund.

They’re made in the USA and are Kosher. The packages are a little expensive ($3.00 for 1.94 ounces), but I expect that’s because they’re just starting out ... volume usually helps to even these things out and they’re only sold in the small package. Right now I can only find them on Foodzie, though they’ve been at some food trade shows so might be in cafes and gourmet delis as well.

Related Candies

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  7. Coffee Beat
  8. Bali’s Best Coffee & United Coffee Candy
Name: JAVAZ Milk & Dark
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: How Do You Take Your Coffee?
Place Purchased: samples from HDYTYC?
Price: $3.00
Size: 1.94 ounces
Calories per ounce: 142
Categories: Chocolate, Coffee, United States, All Natural, Fair Trade, Organic, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:21 am     Comments (10)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Askinosie White Chocolate (Plain, Nibble & Pistachio)

Askinosie White ChocolateI was converted to the “white side” by Green & Black’s White Chocolate several years ago and now I understand that the mix of milk, cocoa butter and vanilla can be a wonderful thing.

I was more than intrigued when Askinosie, a bean to bar, fair trade chocolate maker right here in the United States came out with their white chocolate, mostly because it’s made with goat’s milk instead of cow’s milk.

But the fascinating aspects don’t end there. It’s single origin, contains no soy lecithin or even any vanilla.

Askinosie White Chocolate with Pistachios

The Askinosie Soconusco White Chocolate Bar isn’t white. It’s the color of butterscotch pudding.

It smells a bit gamier than other white confections - kind of like erasers and marscapone.

I was expecting a texture of pure bliss, after all, this is un-deodorized cocoa butter, so it would have the texture of chocolate, the earthier hint of the cocoa solids that were once there and then the wonderful base of goat’s milk to boost it up and moderate the necessary sugar.

Instead it’s a bit grainy but it’s a sugary grain. It still has a wonderful mouthfeel and is rather cool on the tongue. But it wasn’t quite a buttery solid goat’s milk that I was hoping for.

While I say that intellectually, I ate about a third of the bar pondering these few paragraphs.

image

The other two bars are far more interesting:

White Chocolate Nibble Bar - I thoroughly enjoyed my first Askinosie Nibble bars which were based on the Jose del San Tambo beans. All of the white bars are Soconusco beans of the Trinitario variety from Mexico. (Not my favorite in the dark version either.)

Like the dark nibble bar, the cacao nibs aren’t mixed in with the chocolate. Instead they’re just tossed on the bottom as the bar is molded. Personally, I prefer integrated elements. This whole “topping” thing means that the nibs aren’t completely surrounded.

That said, the nibs are fun. They obviously carry a huge amount of chocolate flavor punch in them. In this case they have a bit of a smokey and woodsy flavor to them and it really balances out the sweetness of the white chocolate. The texture variation is also remarkable. The nibs are crunchy, the white chocolate cool and the graininess I complained about earlier is unnoticeable.

White Chocolate Pistachio Bar

This was the star, the perfect combination of the above texture and flavor profile.

The addition of some lightly toasted & sparingly salted pistachios provided some crunch but mostly a grassy brightness. It balanced out the twang of the goat’s milk without making it sweeter, instead it just made it more flavorful.

Askinosie has also just launched a dark milk chocolate which is 52% cacao of the same Soconusco single origin, fleur de sel and goat’s milk.

Many people who suffer from lactose intolerance can digest goat’s milk without difficulty, so this new line of goat’s milk products from Askinosie, as well as the fact that they don’t use soy may be just the ticket for those with food sensitivities.

My hesitation with them, besides the fact that I haven’t seen them in stores, is that they’re very expensive at $10.50 a bar. (The regular dark chocolate bars are $8.00 to $8.50.)

Related Candies

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Name: Socunosco White Chocolate (Plain, Nibble & Pistachio)
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Askinosie Chocolate
Place Purchased: Askinosie website
Price: $10.50
Size: 3 ounces
Calories per ounce: 165
Categories: White Chocolate, Cacao Nibs, Nuts, United States, All Natural, Single Origin, Fair Trade

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:44 am     Comments (7)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Mint Round Up

I’m buried in mints! So here’s a huge roundup of all the mint items in my queue that I wanted to get through before Christmas.

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate MintsLike the Trader Joe’s Espresso Pillows I picked up a few months ago, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Mints come in a cute round tin and hold 2.45 ounces. Unlike the Espresso Pillows, these are not a very original product.

Inside the tin is a fluted liner that holds a large handful of soft, white candy-shelled mints. Each is about the size of a kidney bean. The tin says that there are no artificial flavors or preservatives. I think they shy from the “all natural” part because the white shell is created with titanium dioxide.

They reminded me of the classic Dutch Mints and luckily I had some of those around for comparison.

image

Jelly Belly makes a large variety of Dutch Mints. They come in different colors, these are all hot pink and individually wrapped, though you can also get them in the stark white, pastel mint colors or right now in the Christmas assortment of red, green and white. (And they’re Kosher.)

The Dutch Mint is the size of a garbanzo bean but my guess is the same mass as the TJ’s.

They’re both the same construction, a soft mint fondant with a thin layer or dark chocolate then a crispy candy shell.

Both are lovely and addictive. The Trader Joe’s retails for $1.22 an ounce. The Jelly Belly can go for anywhere from $.70 an ounce for the small 2.9 ounce bag to $.56 for a one pound tub (check out Cost Plus World Market).

Jelly Belly Dutch Mints get a rating of: 8 out of 10
Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Mints get a rating of: 7 out of 10 because they’re so expensive.

These also closely resemble the York Mints that also come in a tin.

Divine After Dinner MintsThe previous are great for toting around and especially nice if a restaurant gives you a few with the check. But if you’re entertaining, you might want to provide some other more chocolatey mint morsels.

I’ve always loved After Eight Mints, which are a flowing mint fondant in an ultra thin square. I used to love how they came in individual glassine envelopes, like a little file box of deliciousness.

Of course After Eights are made by Nestle now and not nearly as good as I remember them on top of the controversies that they’re made from questionably sourced chocolate. The Fair Trade movement has been working to bring families and communities out of poverty through fair payment for goods & services.

Divine Chocolate has been doing this since 1998 in the United Kingdom and recently expanded into the United States. Not only do they have tasty bars they also have addition treats like these Divine After Dinner Mints.

image

The mints are nicely sized for two bites at about 1.5” square. The mild semi-sweet chocolate is crisp and cracks well. The mint fondant center is creamy and minted only slightly so as not to overpower the chocolate. The dark chocolate has some berry and fruity tones that combine well with the cool peppermint flavors.

I’ve seen these at Whole Foods (at an endcap display for hostess giving), so they should be pretty widely available this season.

Divine After Dinner Mints get a rating of 7 out of 10.

Creme de Menthe Altoids

Creme de Menthe Altoids have been out for a few months, though it took me a while to find the variety that isn’t covered in chocolate. I realized that I might have seen them before, the green of the package is only slightly lighter than the Spearmint boxes. These were on sale for $1.50 to boot!

Basically the flavor of these is like a Peppermint TicTac. It has a powdery vanilla scent, softer than a harsh peppermint and perhaps just a hint of licorice.

But these are Altoids. Though they might start out mild, they do pack a much stronger kick later on. I like the flavor a bit better than the straight Peppermint if only because of the mix of aromas.

Creme de Menthe Altoids get a rating of 8 out of 10.

King Leo Soft Peppermint BallsQuite a few folks have been lamenting that Trader Joe’s discontinued their English Soft Peppermints. I’m pretty keen on the generic & mild butter mints I find at the drug store, but those were some pretty good mints.

Around this time of year, however, I see a lot of these See’s Peppermint Twists in candy dishes around the office. It took me a while, but I think I found out who makes them. There were two contenders: King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy or Bob’s Sweet Stripes.

I saw this box of King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy at the 99 Cent Only Store and thought I’d give them a whirl. They were a dollar for 3.5 ounces.

image

I thought they were “butter mints” and read through this to see how I came to that conclusion:

For over one hundred years, King Leo has made delicious peppermint stick candy using only the purest ingredients and old-fashioned care. Now we’ve taken that same quality and care and created new King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy. The same great King Leo taste folks have come to expect, now in a truly soft new candy [emphasis mine] Thanks to a special process we’ve perfected, these bite-sized treats are soft from the moment you open the box. [emphasis mine] No wonder everyone loves King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy so much.

So I was expecting a soft mint. Either crumbly soft or mushy soft.

These were neither. They’re soft as in rounded and smooth, but after that they were not butter mints until I sucked on them for a while. Which is kind of the opposite of “soft from the moment you open the box”. Annoyance aside, they’re peppermint candies. They are airy and dissolve nicely and of course none of those hard candy sharp edges. They’re sweet and a bit less intense than a starlight mint and really pretty to look at. Like those English Soft Peppermints that were really made in the Netherlands, King Leo are made in Mexico. Kosher.

King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy gets a 6 out of 10.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Starbucks Chocolate: Eggnog Latte Truffles

Starbucks Chocolate Eggnog Latte TrufflesThe Hershey’s & Starbucks marriage has moved quietly out of the honeymoon stage. I see the products around quite a bit, though I haven’t been tempted to buy any again since I tried their launch line of items.

Then I saw their new holiday truffles. They have three new variesties that I spotted at both Rite Aid and Target.

The new truffles are: Peppermint Mocha Truffles, Gingerbread Latte Truffles and Eggnog Latte Flavored Truffles.

I stared and stared at the two packages for Gingerbread and Eggnog and I couldn’t figure out the difference. Gingerbread was going to be a little more on the cinnamon side and eggnog was going to be more on the nutmeg side. Both are milk chocolate.

Even though they were on sale, I opted for just the Eggnog ones. I think nutmeg is a hugely underrated spice and I love the combination of milk chocolate and nutmeg. (Frances bought all of them though.)

Starbucks Chocolate Eggnog Latte Truffles

First let me say that I’ve never had a Starbucks coffee drink before. I’ve had straight lattes and cappuccinos and tried their Chantico hot chocolate before, but I’ve never had any of their flavored drinks. Like my aversion to sodas, I just don’t care much for sweet drinks. So I can’t compare the experience of this truffle to one of their actual hot Eggnog Lattes.

The narrow domed pieces are very attractive. Nicely molded and aromatic. I got an immediate whiff of chocolate and nutmeg with a little hint of rum flavoring.

The chocolate shell is shiny and nicely tempered. The chocolate is sweet but has a slight pop of coffee flavors. The sugar, cream and palm oil ganache center is creamy with a few little bits of spice in it. There’s a very slight hint of coffee from time to time, but for the most part this is a chocolate piece about the egg nog flavors, not espresso.

Overall, as I’ve found with egg nog in the past, this is pretty sweet stuff. The piece is nice, but as I’ve noticed with the other truffle boxes, I kind of want a variety. I did see a gift box at Target that had a mix of Mocha, Peppermint Mocha and Gingerbread Latte Truffles, but at $10 for less than 6 ounces it was a worse deal ounce for ounce than the stand up boxes. So I think I’m just going to keep my eye on it and hope it’s still there after Christmas. Or go to a real chocolatier and get something that’ll really roll my eyes back in my head.

As drug store chocolates go, they are all natural and Starbucks makes a point of saying that their coffee and chocolate are sourced ethically and grown sustainably (doesn’t say anything about the palm oil though). They’re certainly better than most other mass-produced boxed chocolates in that respect. Kosher.

Related Candies

  1. Choceur Coffee & Cream
  2. Starbucks Truffles
  3. Starbucks Chocolate
  4. Trader Joe’s Fair Trade Chocolate Truffles
  5. Dove Jewels
  6. Chuao ChocoPods
  7. Pocket Coffee
Name: Starbucks Eggnog Latte 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: Target (WeHo)
Price: $3.99 on sale
Size: 4.23 ounces
Calories per ounce: 150
Categories: Chocolate, Coffee, United States, Hershey's, All Natural, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:57 am     Comments (5)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

TCHO Fruity

TCHO just announced that they’ve opened a store in San Francisco. They’ve also expanded their “flavor” offerings to include Nutty, Fruity and Citrus along with the initial Chocolatey.

I got a hold of a later Beta of their Ghana (Chocolatey) as well as the Fruity through a friend who ordered it but didn’t like it.

Tcho Fruity

The Peru 0.11 M scent isn’t fruity. I expected berry notes or perhaps apples or pears. Instead it smells strongly of coffee and wood shavings. (Kind of like the break room at a sawmill!)

I have to say that I was impressed when I placed a square in my mouth this time. The melt is silky and creamy. The grain size is much smaller and a lot more consistent than the previous version I tried which was more like a variety ground on a stone wheel.

This is immediately tangy. The acidic notes are bright but very high pitched and puckery. I don’t get any real fruit flavors to go with it, just a tingly burst of the sourness and then the creamy background with some powdery green stick flavors. The balance of flavors was all off, like the whole thing was leaning to the left, about ready to tip over.

So while I appreciate the step forward in texture, the flavor was definitely a step back for me. It took several weeks for me to eat half a bar.

Tcho GhanaThe C Ghana D.99D is the Chocolatey variety that I tasted months ago in an earlier version. Now marked with the cacao percentage, this one is 70%.

As I’d hoped from the Fruity beta, this was much creamier and had a much more pleasing mouthfeel than the previous one I tried.

The immediate flavors I got though were absolutely different from the “Chocolatey” Ghana before. This was an overwhelming flavor of honey, cedar and a light tinge of herby balsam like rosemary or lavender.

The notes were confined to a very narrow spectrum. While the Fruity was high pitched with a couple of low resonant notes in the scent, Chocolatey was pure middle notes, like walking down a narrow hallway with the same pictures displayed over and over again on the walls. It felt repetitive and monotonous and had no finish to it ... it just abruptly came to a halt. (Though I admit I loved the initial honey flavor a lot.)

So while both have a much more pleasing texture than the previous test batch, and I can appreciate the differences in the beans without even looking at the labels ... I didn’t like either of these bars. I understand that they’re still in beta mode, I have to say that I’m glad that I didn’t pay for these samples.

Related Candies

  1. Askinosie Chocolate
  2. Stainer: Peru & Bianco
  3. Four 99%-100% Chocolate
  4. Friday’s San Francisco Candy Adventure
  5. Los Angeles may not be the best place for a Candy Blogger to live
  6. Treat Trip: Scharffen Berger Factory
Name: C Ghana 0.7 AH
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: TCHO
Place Purchased: gift
Price: gift
Size: 1.76 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, United States, All Natural, Fair Trade, Bay Area

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:00 pm     Comments (5)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Divine Fair Trade Chocolate

Divine Fair Trade ChocolateOctober is Fair Trade Month, which makes sense since Halloween is the number one candy holiday. A few years ago I’m pretty sure few people, especially candy fans even know what that meant, happily much of that has changed, both through education efforts and the simple ubiquity of the products displaying the logos. Fair Trade guarantees the growers of raw materials & makers of products a fair and liveable wage for their products, you can read more about it here. Luckily all sorts of fair trade products are becoming more available to regular consumers, even at big box stores like Target, grocery & drug store chains.

I’ve tried quite a few fair trade candies over the years, including Divine Chocolate. Divine is expanding more in the United States and has a broader range of products now than ever before. One of their representatives sent me a nice sampling of their products, so I’ll be reviewing them over the next month or so. The motto is Heavenly chocolate with a heart.

First, their standard 3.5 ounce chocolate bars. While fair trade chocolate isn’t hard to find, fair trade candy bars are. Yes a nice dark bar is all well and good, but sometimes I want a little more in my decadent treat (without enslaving any children in Africa for it either). With a retail price of about $3 a bar, it’s certainly no hardship for the chocolate aficionado. But of course the larger question is, how do they taste?

70% Dark Divine Fair Trade ChocolateI’m starting with the Divine 70% Dark Chocolate.

I tried this chocolate back in 2005 and while I can’t say whether they’ve changed the formula or way that they’re making the bar, I like it much better than I did then.

The packaging is lovely. Before it was a simple black wrap with their logo. The new package is a matte paper with a foil inner wrap. The decorative icons are fun and attractive, I spotted hearts, turtles, geese and something that’s either a comb or a Menorah.

The bar inside is wonderfully tempered. Shiny, even and no hint of bubbles or bloom. I like the thickness of the pieces and that the bar snaps easily into the little portions.

70% Dark Divine Fair Trade Chocolate

The scent is a little grassy and fruity.

On the tongue the cocoa butter melts quickly into a silky puddle. Flavors are middle of the road, there’s nothing difficult or loud about this bar. I get a little bit of coffee, cherries, olives, woodsy eucalyptus and very little acid. The finish is smooth and with only a slight bitter note but no dryness.

The high fat content makes this very munchable. I like that in a chocolate bar, though I know that some fans prefer a more intense concentration cacao.

99% of the ingredients are fair trade certified for this bar (this includes the sugar, vanilla and cocoa products - only the non-GMO soy lecithin is not).

Rating: 8 out of 10

Divine Milk Chocolate with HazelnutsThe Divine Hazelnut Milk Chocolate is completely new to me. I tried the 27% cocoa plain milk chocolate and was struck by how the milky flavors reflected the European-style.

I think this package is the prettiest of the three. I liked the brown wrapper with gold and cream colored icons, it feels elegant, playful and subtly conveys that this is a milk chocolate product.

The ingredients in this bar, like the dark one go for fair trade when possible, though this one only clocks in at 69% with the cream, soy lecithin and chopped hazelnuts as traditionally sourced.

Divine Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts

The bar is softer than its dark counterpart. Snapping it in half it’s clear that part of the reason is the plethora of crushed hazelnuts.

The bar smells milky, a little nutty and a little cheesy.

On the tongue it melts quickly but is a little sweet and sticky at first. Then come the flavors, the dairy flavors lean towards powdered milk, have a great smoky cocoa flavor and of course the hazelnut.

It’s not quite giaunduia, but it’s close. The bar overall is a bit sweet for me but fills that gaping hole out there for fair price fair trade candy bars that are more than straight chocolate.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Divine White Chocolate with StrawberriesI’ve fallen in love with real white chocolate. The Divine White Chocolate with Strawberries bar provides an additional confectionery twist. It has little “strawberry crisps” mixed in.

The cocoa content on this bar is a staggering 25%, which means it’s one quarter cocoa butter. Milk solids make up another 26%. (And the fair trade percentage here is 71%.)

Strangely enough the calcium content on a single serving is 16% of your RDA and 4 grams of protein. I wouldn’t call it a full serving of dairy, but it’s certainly not completely junk food.

Divine White Chocolate with Strawberries

The bar smells like Frankenberry cereal.

The little berry crisps dot the bar and look to be evenly distributed.

The melt of the white chocolate isn’t quite as even as the other two bars, it has a slightly fudgier grain to it, but it is smooth. The strawberry crisps are more than just little dried bits. They’re crunchy and tangy, with the floral scent of berries along with the high pitched tartness. But the tangy part isn’t intergrated into the white chocolate like the Meiji bar I tried recently.

If you have a soft spot for white chocolate and strawberries, I’d suggest giving this bar a try. I enjoyed it a lot more than the Frey but the Green & Black’s White Chocolate (plain) is still the gold standard for me.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

All of the bars are Kosher. I don’t know the full distribution of the bars but you can find some of them places like Whole Foods and other stores that carry natural products. Look for wider distribution soon as well as new products from Divine for the holidays. I saw some little foil wrapped milk chocolates themed for Halloween (available web only) on their site.

Related Candies

  1. Askinosie Chocolate
  2. 3400 Phinney: Fig, Fennel & Almond and Hazelnut Crunch
  3. Zotter Candy Bars
  4. Terra Nostra Pocket Bars
  5. Theo 3400 Phinney Bars
  6. Endangered Species Halloween Treats
Name: 70% Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut Milk Chocolate & White Chocolate with Strawberries
    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: samples from Divine
Price: retail ~$3.00
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 159, 153 & 153
Categories: Chocolate, Strawberry, White Chocolate, Germany, Divine, Kosher, all Natural, Fair Trade

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:19 am     Comments (9)

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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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