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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Comments
  1. Those King Leo “soft” peppermint candy look like what we in Sweden call Polkagrisar which basically means polka pigs smile they’re the most common mint candy around here!

    happy and merry!

    Comment by Sonia Arian on 12/19/08 at 7:56 pm #
  2. I remember as a kid thinking that After Eight mints were the height of sophistication—one of those adults things that you might be allowed to try on holidays. I haven’t had one in years but I recall the chocolate being very dark with a good “snap” and the mint quite strong. My mother would put them on the table after dinner still in their little envelopes in a silver dish.

    Comment by JR on 12/21/08 at 5:20 am #
  3. The larger King Leo’s are great for this Baltimore thing - lemon sticks http://coconutlime.blogspot.com/2006/05/lemon-sticks.html

    Comment by Jamie on 12/22/08 at 2:58 am #
  4. The best soft mints I’ve found are available in CVS by Piedmont Candy under the brand Red Bird: http://www.piedmontcandy.com/
    These are truly melt in the mouth and the mint is not too strong. Incredibly addictive! CVS usually has them all year long at about $2.99.

    Comment by Gina Sigal on 12/22/08 at 5:03 am #
  5. Last year at Walgreens I found the King Leo Soft Peppermint Sticks and they were really great! I like the soft mints but the sticks are more fun to eat.

    This year unfortunatley I haven’t found them, only the sticks dipped in chocolate.

    Comment by Kimberly on 12/23/08 at 9:29 am #
  6. It isn’t any fun to buy King Leo candy since they got rid of the magnificent tins. Now where am I supposed to keep my crayons?

    We always just called those “puff candy” and at one point they came in odd flavours like butterscotch, lemon and chocolate. It was quite popular with dieting teenagers because each puff was something like 10 calories.

    Comment by Goody on 12/25/08 at 4:09 pm #
  7. Back when I was in like third grade, my friend got a box of the after eights and we thought you were only supposed to eat them after eight o’clock. So after dinner we snuck into the kitchen and grabbed a couple off of the top of the fridge… I also just got a box of those Trader’s mints and two of us had them gone in thirty minutes.

    Comment by Carleene on 12/29/08 at 7:12 am #
  8. In Woolworth’s, they used to sell a kind of mint chocolate that I don’t see for sale anywhere else. It was a candy that looked like a peppermint candy, round with flat sides. There was a very thin mint shell on the outside. When you sucked or bit into it, the rich, soft chocolate center was exposed and oozed onto the tastebuds.

    Since Woolworth’s closed, I haven’t seen it elsewhere and description of it just confuses candy sellers. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the candy myself. Could you please tell me its name and/or where I might go to find and purchase it?

    Comment by M. H. on 12/02/11 at 11:28 am #

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