Monday, March 24, 2008

Starbucks Chocolate

Starburcks Chocolate Tasting KitI rarely go into a Starbucks, but I do drink their coffee at the office sometimes. I think my favorite blend of theirs is the Estima (which they don’t make available for our office, drat). At home I’m more likely to drink Trader Joe’s but I’m not a coffee snob, I’ll buy coffee at 7-11, McDonald’s, happily drink the stuff on an airplane and of course at many of the local coffee houses in Los Angeles.

I’m not a “coffee drink” person. I just like a cup of coffee with some milk in it for the most part, but I’ll drink a capuccino now and then. I think coffee is a flavor that’s good enough to be savored by itself. No need for caramel, hazelnut syrup or other intrusions of flavors. (I do drink Mexican Mochas in November.)

I was still eager to try the new line of Starbucks Chocolates and happily accept the offer from some PR folks for a tasting kit (shown here, which is not available for retail sale).

Starbucks Chocolate TrufflesI am kind of picky about my coffee and chocolate combinations though. I like my chocolate smooth, and I don’t usually want to eat my coffee beans. (I had a seriously dangerous chocolate covered coffee bean problem in college that led to an EKG and some stern words from a doctor about moderation.)

So I greeted the new Starbucks and Hershey’s chocolate venture with a little trepidation, mostly worried that both would bring the worst they had to offer to the products (Starbucks high prices and Hershey’s inflated prices for substandard quality or playing off the cachet of their Artisan Confection lines Dagoba & Scharffen Berger without delivering).

Starbucks ChocolateTheir new product line consists of chocolate bars and tasting squares. There is the standard dark and milk plus two infused with tea flavors (Passion Fruit and Chai) and then a Mocha dark chocolate and a Citron dark chocolate. As expected they also have chocolate covered coffee beans (in milk chocolate) and a line of four different kinds of truffle-style bonbons.

The venture between Starbucks & Hershey’s is a strange one. Starbucks makes the sourcing of their coffee beans part of their marketing effort, with a pledge that they pay above market rates to the growers. It’s not quite fair trade (though they do have the Estima blend that is certified fair trade), it has certainly raised awareness of the issue of growers of our non-essential items like coffee and now chocolate. In this case the package makes note:

Starbucks is committed to purchasing cocoa and coffee that are grown and traded in an ethical, transparent and sustainable manner. To learn more about our cocoa-purchasing practices, please visit us at

Starbucks Milk Chocolate Covered Coffee BeansIt’s unclear from that webpage if the chocolate in the Starbucks branded chocolate products was obtained within these principals or not. The package (on the other side) says “Manufactured for Artisan Confections Company Berkeley, CA 94710 USA under the authority of Starbucks Coffee Company”. (Emphasis mine) I’m still not sure who made these products. (Clay Gordon tried to get more info on this subject, but was unable, but I agree that the couldn’t be made at the Scharffen Berger space in Emeryville and I’m more inclined to believe they were made by the Dagoba folks.)

The good thing is that the risk with these is low for the consumer. They’re all well priced items, none more than $5.49 and available at local drug stores and discount chains. (I already spotted the full line at RiteAid.)

The ingredients on all the items are good, real vanilla, no PGPR though no indication what the cacao levels are on the products. (Well, also no indication of what the caffeine levels are on the coffee ones!)

Starbucks Milk Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans

To start, I tried the Milk Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans. They feature the Caffe Verona beans at the heart, sourced from around the world and prepared in the Italian roast style. Inside the little stand up box the glossy beans are sealed inside a clear cellophane bag. The size is 3.5 ounces and retails for $4.99 to $5.49.

They smell very sweet, the chocolate is milky and soft to the bite (so no flaking off). The combination of the crunchy bean at the heart and the chocolate coating is nice. A bit on the sweet side for me, when it comes to coffee confections, but still very nice. The consistent quality of the beans are a highlight. I ate at least a dozen and didn’t get a chewy or acrid one. (7 out of 10)

Plain Milk & Dark Chocolate from StarbucksAt the heart of all the confections, of course, is chocolate. The tasting squares are nicely wrapped little 5 gram pieces.

Milk Chocolate. They say it’s, “Sweet, silky indulgence; rich & rewarding” and I’m inclined to agree. It’s a much smoother chocolate than I’m accustomed to from Hershey’s or even Scharffen Berger. It has some strong vanilla notes and a good milky texture. (8 out of 10)

Dark Chocolate. They say it’s, “Deep, complex flavors; smooth and satisfying” and I think that was overselling it. It was rather sweet but still smooth. It lacked a depth of flavor, but it pairs well with coffee, has only the slightest acidic tang and has a good buttery melt. (7 out of 10)

They come in both 3 ounce bars or a mixed bag of tasting squares (that include the Mocha Dark Chocolate). Bars are $2.99 and the tasting squares are $4.99-$5.49 for 2.6 ounces (kinda silly, really to pay so much more for so much less).

Flavored Dark Chocolates from StarucksPassion(r) Dark Chocolate features a Tazo herbal blend of hibuscus & natural flavors. It has a very fruity scent and a grainy melt on the tongue. The little grainy bits are tangy and have a strong berry (and hibiscus) flavor to them with a tint of peach and passion fruit. It’s purely a personal thing but I thought this was dreadful ... from the texture to the combination of flavors, the sickly scent and the way it all overwhelms the chocolate. (4 out of 10)

Citron(r) Dark Chocolate is also a Tazo blend of tea leaves and lemon oil. This one smells pleasantly of lemon, but very little of chocolate. The texture is not as grainy as the Passion, but still not smooth. The lemon essence was strong, but had no citrus tang to it, thankfully. Still, no chocolate flavors came though, nor much of the tea base either.  (6 out of 10)

Drink Flavored Chocolates - Chai & Mocha from StarbucksMocha Dark Chocolate should epitomize this fusion of chocolate and Starbucks, right? It smells wonderfully rich, a combination of chocolate and coffee and a dollop of vanilla. It’s apparent looking at the square from the back that it has ground coffee beans in it, not just an infusion of flavor. It’s a bit grainy but crispy when chewed. It’s much like the chocolate covered coffee beans, but has a stronger chocolate flavor to it that isn’t quite overhwhelmed like the others. Still, I’m not one for the bits in there, but I admit that’s a personal preference.  (6 out of 10)

Chai Milk Chocolate includes Tazo tea leaves and natural flavors in milk chocolate. It smells quite rich, mostly of nutmeg, cardamom and clove. Though it looks grainy, it’s really quite smooth even with the little inclusions. It has a wonderful spicy mix of flavors without being too sweet. I’m a big fan of spicy chai but can’t stand how sweet it can be. This is a very nice mix, I almost like it better than the Dagoba bar (which has actual ginger pieces in it). (7 out of 10)

What I found most surprising about this collection of chocolate tasting squares branded by a coffee company was that three out of the six of them were tea infusions and only one was actually a coffee flavor. Their slogan for the line of products is, “when coffee dreams, it dreams of chocolate” but I think it should be, “when coffee dreams, it ends up with tea in its chocolate.” Some sort of self-loathing or something. (Or adverse reaction to cannibalism, of course coffee doesn’t want coffee!)

The curious part is that Starbucks is not selling these at their stores or even on their website. They’re a Starbucks experience without a Starbucks shop. Like the Choxie line at Target, I think they’ve done a nice job of finding the essential nature of what they have to offer, packaging them nicely and charging the appropriate amount that people are willing to pay for a personal indulgence.

I’ll have a roundup of the Truffles in a separate post.

Related Candies

  1. Caffe Acapella - Coffee Confections
  2. Joseph Schmidt
  3. Choxies in Boxies
  4. Dagoba Single Origin
  5. Scharffen Berger Tasting Squares
  6. Dagoba Chai
Name: Starbucks Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans & Chocolate Tasting Squares
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Starbucks (and Hershey's)
Place Purchased: samples from Hershey's
Price: unknown
Size: $4.99-$5.49 retail
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Coffee, United States, Hershey's, Kosher, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:13 am Tracker Pixel for Entry    

  1. I’ll bet they’re made by Scharffen Berger, which is produced in Berkeley and was purchased by Hershey a couple of years ago.

    Comment by Robin on 3/24/08 at 8:17 am #
  2. Here’s an article on the Hershey purchase of Scharffen Berger:

    Comment by Robin on 3/24/08 at 8:18 am #
  3. I also believe the tasting squares are made by Scharffen Berger, “made fors” notwithstanding. They’re too similar in size to the current Scharffen Berger tasting squares. However, I also believe that the Hershey-Starbucks partnership drew heavily on the experience of the Dagoba people to formulate the chocolate. This is based on no official information, however—just a hypothesis.

    The rumor circulating around Hershey (the location, not the company) is that the chocolate line may be sold at Starbucks locations in the future, and that the initial resistance has something to do with the fair trade and organic issues.

    Finally, if you have the chance to pick up the Caramel Macchiato Truffles before you taste-test the Starbucks truffle line, please do. I’d love to hear your thoughts on those as well as the four truffles in the sample kit!

    Comment by Frances on 3/25/08 at 10:35 am #
  4. I find that Starbucks is attempting to dabble in too many areas.  Isn’t coffee good enough?  Between the chocolate, cookies, coffee makers, music and mugs, I’m sure, pretty soon, they’ll have a clothing line.

    Comment by Doreen on 3/26/08 at 5:34 am #
  5. I was going to pick some of these chocolates up to review, but then I saw the price. I’ll pay whatever to get my Starbucks coffee (Venti White Chocolate Mocha), but for candy?

    I might have to try the milk chocolate since that was your favorite. It will be hard since my favorite candy right now is those new Indiana Jones M & Ms. Did anybody try those yet?

    Comment by Eric M. on 4/04/08 at 7:05 am #
  6. The milk chocolate truffles are awful if you are used to dark chocolate. I do enjoy Starbucks coffee; but when I found out the chocolate was from Hersheys that kind of turned me off on the chocolate. Hersheys chocolate to me gets a grade c as it seems they did something to the chocolate over the years. Or is it because I have had british chocolates? Though I would love a Starbucks t-shirt and pair of pants. lol.

    Comment by Anna on 4/15/08 at 5:54 pm #
  7. The chocioate although is soft and very meltable once in the mouth is not as sweet and choclately as I like it. The beans are varied in size and are easy to break with the teeth but not as strong tasting as I like it. If the intent was to make mocha flavor with these ingedients they failed. Both were to weak to taste like anything.

    Comment by Peg on 4/26/08 at 8:24 am #
  8. I’m a huge chocolate fan (figuratively and literally), and I like my Starbucks. But the Mocha Dark Chocolate Mocha bar I bought tasted like someone melted some pretty good dark chocolate and mixed it with coffee grounds. Sorry, *$, I like to drink coffee, not chew on it. Bleargh!!!

    Comment by ConstantIrritant on 5/27/08 at 8:37 am #
  9. I bought a couple of 1.2 oz bars today (Dark Chocolate).  I thought it was pretty good. $0.80 at Big Lots.  You know Starbucks is hurting when their products appear there.  May 2009 expiration date, so it wasn’t like it was old product or anything.

    Comment by Mark S. on 11/26/08 at 8:37 am #
  10. I just bought the chocolate cover coffee beans 2/$1.00 at Walgreens… they are not bad. My favorite though is the Mocha Dark Chocolate… I love the cruchy texture of the ground coffee with the dark chocolate… and I bought that at Big Lots~

    Comment by KJ on 2/12/09 at 2:04 am #
  11. where can I purchase Starbucks Peppermint chocolate truffles that I purchase at Christmas time.

    Comment by Mary Mason on 2/24/09 at 5:18 pm #
  12. I found the dark chocolate covered coffee beans to be the best I’ve had yet. I agree that it’s not as complex as it could be, but it seems to have a perfect combination of smooth chocolate and coffee beans.

    Comment by Joshua S on 12/31/10 at 7:33 am #
  13. that sounds good. i don`t drink coffee regularly but it`s nice every once in a while smile

    Comment by myah on 1/14/14 at 7:54 pm #
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