What’s the first thing you think of when someone mentions Iceland?
Ice, snow and cold? The reality: the climate is warmed by the Gulf Stream and is quite temperate. But it has it’s share of magnificent fjords, glaciers and permanently snow-capped mountains.
Large expanses of empty land? True to a great extent; 320,000 people living in 40,000 square miles make it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. And yes, Iceland is part of Europe, not the Arctic.
A tongue-twisting language with a lot of accents, umlauts and consonants? Well, Icelandic is a Germanic language, descended from Old Norse and Norwegian dialects.
But would you think about chocolate?
Nói Síríus thinks you should. The company (http://noi.is/English/About_Noi_Sirius), established in 1920, is the largest confectioner in Iceland, with 130 employees and a 30% total confectionery market share in that country. Most of their output involves sweets, such as the chocolate bars I found in one local shop (my Fresh Market store), chocolate-covered raisins, licorice, Easter eggs and jellied sweets, but they also import and distribute other products such as breakfast cereals.
If you’re concerned as I was about product quality, given the travel distance, don’t worry. I bought the four bars that were available: plain bars in the following percentages: 33%, 45%, 60% and 70%. The first surprise was opening the packages (For this tasting, I tried the 33% and 70%). Each package had two-150 gram (5.3 ounce) bars, which was a bonus for the price of $8 I paid for each package. Another bonus is the recipe printed on the outside of each package, in case you find you cannot simply eat all the contents.
The 33% should have been the lightest and creamiest, and indeed it was. Very smooth, slightly buttery and not very sweet, and sugar is listed as the first ingredient. It is a milk chocolate for adults, and it won’t send you running for a big glass of water afterwards. The 70% was slightly bitter with a slightly wood finish, but it’d definitely the kind of chocolate you’ll go back to.
The English-language version of the website is good when it comes to explaining what the company is about, but the product description is a little thin. There are online and brick-and-mortar sources, listed on the company’s website, where you can get Nói Síríus bars. Note that Whole Foods is listed as a source, but I have not encountered the product there. The Fresh Market (http://www.thefreshmarket.com/) is where I found my bars.And there is only one importer in the U.S., located in California (Nu-Breath Incorporated, 1-800-365-2177).
Sometimes, you get your chocolate wherever you can. Other times, you find it in the most unlikely places. Either way, it can be a good deal and great eating, along with some history. Pakka pér (thank you) Nói Síríus.
- You: Iceland’s tourist trade booming (edition.cnn.com)
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- Iceland Name Change?: DNews Nugget (news.discovery.com)
- Iceland in January? Absolutely! (havebaggagewilltravel.com)
- The Asphalt Jungle: Björk Chops (motortrend.com)
- Where to Purchase Substantial Quantities of Chocolate … and then some. (chocolatedecorating.com)