Wednesday, May 13, 2009
At the same time I bought the Sunspire Peppermint Pattie, I also picked up both of their Coconut Bars.
Sunspire makes premium candy with all natural ingredients, nothing artificial. In my experience with their products they tend to use evaporated cane juice instead of refined sugar and often use unsulfured molasses as a sweetener. They also eschew genetically modified sources so most of the products I’ve seen use a rice syrup when needed instead of corn syrup. Besides the malty, earthy flavor that molasses usually adds, I have no problem with sweet & satisfying candy being made from these elements.
Add to that Hershey’s decision to move manufacturing of Mounds, Almond Joy and York Peppermint Patties to Mexico, I thought it’d be cool to find an excellent American-made substitute for folks who want to buy more local. (Though in my case Monterrey, Mexico is a bit closer than Hershey, PA.)
Instead of the two piece style of Almond Joy or Bounty this is a long, one-piece bar, a bit thinner. The rippled milk chocolate enrobing is glossy and appealing.
The almonds in this bar are not whole ones popped on top like Almond Joy, they’re crushed & mixed in with the moist coconut flakes.
I didn’t really see the almond bits in there, but the color was a bit more on the cream-colored side than the dark chocolate & no almond version (see below.)
The bar smells pleasantly like coconut and unpleasantly like Hershey’s Milk Chocolate often does - a bit gamey & sour ... rather like baby vomit.
But I pushed on, because I actually like the taste of Hershey’s milk chocolate, even though I can’t take the smell of it for very long.
The flavor of the milk chocolate is tangy, it’s like acid reflux but in the convenience of a pre-packaged bar. It’s terrible. I can’t eat it. I tried several times, it’s just too awful for me to stomach. (I even waited a couple of days, just in case I was the one who wasn’t feeling well.)
Then, as some sort of deja vu, I lured Amy into my office to try it. (Remember, not only does Amy have no problem spitting things out, she also has a hate-hate relationship with Sunspire’s Sundrops.)
I understand personal preferences for certain flavors, it’s rare for any candy product to induce a verified gag reflex.
Rating: 1 out of 10
It’s a simpler bar, just a firm coconut center, lightly sweetened and some dark chocolate enrobing.
The enrobing on this one looked similar, though there were a few bloomed spots. As the expiration date was March 2010, I felt pretty safe eating it.
The chocolate is slightly bitter, not extremely creamy but has its own decent flavor. The center is firm and chewy, more like an uncoated coconut bar than something soft & moist like a Mounds.
This tastes like no compromise candy. All natural ingredients, not organic but at least not genetically modified or overprocessed. The ingredients are vegan however they were made in a plant that processes wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs and soy. Kosher.
The price is a bit steep and to be honest, if I’m going for a candy bar when at Whole Foods or similar stores, there’s very little that could pry me away from the Q.Bel wafer bars. But if I was in the mood for coconut, the dark bar is notable.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Monday, May 11, 2009
The first time I tried a Sunspire product, I thought it was terrible. I was also rather irritated that they thought that their candy coated chocolate lentils were better just because they were all-natural, when they actually had more “sugar” in them than M&Ms. (Not that I subscribe to the belief that sugar is unhealthy in moderation.)
I was at Henry’s Market over the weekend and all the Sunspire candy bars were on sale, so I grabbed a bunch ... because if there’s one thing that makes me reconsider my opinion, it’s a reduced price. (Oddly enough free samples have less influence.) This Sunspire Peppermint Pattie was $1.25 (they’re usually $1.69).
On the front it says that it’s premium dark chocolate - all natural / nothing artificial.
The little mylar wrapper holds a 1.4 ounce pattie.
It’s a rustic looking pattie, a little thicker than a York Peppermint Pattie but also smaller in diameter. Still, they’re the exact same weight as a York. (No, that’s not a trick of the light, the center is actually a light amber color.)
The ingredients are impressive, if only for the adjectives involved in simple ingredients:
So while the ingredients are pretty wholesome, they’re not vegan and not processed in a facility that’s gluten free (nor peanut/nut free).
But for me it’s all about the taste. I was a bit worried that the dark chocolate would be too sweet, what with two sweeteners listed before the cocoa solids.
The chocolate shell is pretty thick, it has a nice toasted cocoa aroma with a hint of the minty sweetness within. It’s nicely tempered and has a good break but happily the little bits adhere to the fondant center.
The chocolate is much like chocolate chips as far as texture. Not extremely smooth, but with good flavor ... just a smidge on the dry and chalky side of things.
The fondant center is smooth, with a slight but consistent grain to it but overall it has a cool dissolve on the tongue. It’s a cross between the texture of the York Peppermint Pattie and Junior Mints. The peppermint isn’t that strong and there’s a pretty noticeable whiff of molasses in the whole thing. It makes it all seem rather “hearty.” There’s also a lot more chocolate to this than a York has (so there’s also more fat and more calories).
My opinion of Sunspire is a-changin’ ... this is a really good product. Yes, more expensive but also made in the USA. (But if I had my druthers for non-York mints, I’d probably go for the Ritter Sport Peppermint bar ... except it’s seasonal.)
Monday, November 21, 2005
Here’s a perfectly good idea gone awry. There’s no reason there can’t be good, tasty, “natural” chocolate candies (I think that’s been proven more recently with things like Equal Exchange, Green & Black, Newman’s Own, etc.). This is an example of a weak candy line. Here’s why: First, the colors are dull and unappealing. They’re not colors that I want to eat (except for the yellow, they look like old-lady lipstick colors). They’re not strong or clean, they’re muddy looking and uneven. A grainy looking outside does not bode well for the inside.
The ingredients are basically sugar (natural with unsulfured molasses, blah, blah) then milk powder, then the chocolate ... that’s a long way down the list. And it shows in the final product. The addition of molasses is a little odd. It gives the whole thing a rather toasty burnt flavor, which I enjoy with my oatmeal but not in my chocolate. In fact, I can taste everything in these drops except for the chocolate. The powdered milk, overly sweet sugar and slightly grainy chocolate just combine for a depressing treat. The crunchy shell is too tough and again adds sweet without flavor and further distances me from any chocolately goodness. If it’s possible, the peanut ones tasted more like burnt sugar and milk powder.
With the same number of calories and fat as M&Ms, why am I eating these? I gave them to Amy to try and after much cajoling (because the package, colors and list of ingredients scared her off - and she was the one that wanted to go to Wild Oats on Saturday!) she did put one in her mouth. She chewed a couple of times and then spit it out in my trash can.
If you are a parent trying to find a wholesome treat for the kids, this isn’t it. It sets them up for a lifetime of disappointments, now that’s spoiling them. Just let them have some M&Ms in moderation (the Almond ones are actually not bad for you since the bulk of the candy is actually a very healthy nut). Or just let them have plain old semi-sweet chocolate chips. Dark chocolate really isn’t that bad as a food. Raisinettes? Really, anything but this. Don’t tease the poor kids by telling them this is candy.
Rating: 2 out of 10
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