Monday, April 12, 2010
Panda Soft Herb Licorice and Licorice Cremes
I picked up the Panda Soft Herb Licorice after seeing Gigi Reviews coverage of the product.
First, I like the box that Panda uses. It’s foil lined and completely sealed, after opening the tab top there’s a little plastic film that keeps the contents fresh. Then I just tuck in the double tab top to keep it soft. The contents were soft for weeks, though there is some toughening after that.
This version of Panda’s licorice bites are all natural black licorice tubes made with molasses and wheat flour with an added punch of 18 herbal extracts. They include peppermint, blackberry, plantain, torch weed, sage, star anise and thyme. Sniffing the box it’s like a tea shop: minty, woodsy and clean.
The pieces are soft but separate easily. I like the aerated tubes, it makes it easier to chew them if they do get a little stale. The color is nice, it’s dark but not artificially colored.
The taste isn’t licorice immediately and it’s not molasses either. It’s more like brown sugar in peppermint and chamomile tea. The licorice and woodsier notes come in later. It’s delicate and not as overwhelmingly dark and charcoal-like as Panda’s usual far. There’s a cool menthol aftertaste that makes this kind of like a mint.
There’s a little sticking to the teeth, but it’s not as bad as some other Aussie-style brands. Overall, I enjoyed it a lot. It’s mellow and might be a good “starter” licorice for folks who don’t care for the bitter, smoky and overwhelming licorice of Panda.
As a little change of pace I picked up Panda Cremes as well. The stand up bag holds the same amount as the box but has a zipper lock to keep it fresh. I have to admit that it’s not as eco friendly but did a better job of keeping these soft and fresh. A bonus is that the bag is collapsible, so it takes up less space the more you eat. The box is always the size of the box.
Cremes are the same shape as the bites but inside those little tubes are creme fillings. They come in three flavors: Banana, Caramel and Strawberry. I can’t say that any of these were ever really on my mind as great complements to the flavor of black licorice, but Panda usually knows what they’re doing.
The bag says that they’re all natural and suitable for vegetarians (but not vegans, as there’s some milk in there). The creme center is made from palm oil and there’s no indication of the source of it. A 39 gram serving (9 pieces) has 160 calories and 4 grams of fat (3.5 of those are saturated). In case you’re curious, 40 grams of the Soft Herb are 130 calories and no fat. It’s not like either is calorie-dense but still, it’s notable.
The package smelled like strawberries and banana, like some sort of smoothie or yogurt.
The Strawberry were easy to pick out as they were pink. The Caramel and Banana were the same color as far as I could tell.
The creme isn’t soft and flowing, it’s kind of crunchy at first - but at mouth temperature it softens up. It’s cool on the tongue and not too sweet. The Strawberry is fresh and floral. Banana is actually pretty fun, it’s strong banana flavoring but the sweet notes go well. The Caramel had a slightly darker note but the toasted sugar was missing or maybe overshadowed by the strength of the licorice itself.
I don’t think I need this much fat for something that didn’t really satisfy me the same way that a creamy chocolate product does. I think I’ll stick to the regular Panda licorice products. These are pretty enough to put in a clear jar and as compelling as Allsorts (especially if you’re not a coconut fan).
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