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Trouble brewing in British chocolate

Two recent announcements from the confectionery business, one from each side of the Atlantic, don’t represent any kind of surprise as much as they invoke a laugh or two.

The first is that the formula for the insanely popular Cadbury Creme Egg will change…sort of. The eggs will still use Cadbury chocolate, but not the dairy milk chocolate that has been part of the formula since their “hatching” in 1971. Mondelez International, a spinoff company of Kraft Foods (the parent company of Cadbury) announced this change last month, along with the tidbit that the number of Creme Eggs sold in the . multipak will decrease from six to five, while the price remains the same. The changes only affect Creme Eggs sold in the United Kingdom; U.S. consumers will see no change.

The other change will affect U.S. candy consumers, at least those who love their British sweets. The Hershey Co. has reached a settlement with Let’s Buy British, a top importer of British products, to stop importing British candy bars into the U.S. Hershey claims the reason for this is that too many of the British products looks similar to American products, which constitutes a patent infringement and also confuses Americans as to which product is which.  The owner of a New York City tea shop which carries a number of British imports had this to say on their Facebook page:

“May we politely suggest that if you think Toffee Crisps look like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups your eyesight is a much bigger problem than your chocolate bar confusion.

The change to the Cadbury Creme Egg hits at the heart of tradition. Love them or loathe them, almost 300 million of them are sold between the U.S. and the U.K alone at Easter time. Why anyone would mess with wild success in the interest of making (or saving) a little more money (Kraft Foods’ net income in 2013 was $2.7 billion) seems completely unreasonable, yet totally expected in this money-driven, quality-be-damned-and-compromised world.

And as for The Hershey Co. thinking Americans would be misled and confused by packaging; well, they could be right. We might be misled into realizing that the good stuff is what’s coming across the pond after all, not the watered-down, sub-par pseudo-chocolate they keep cranking out. So if you want to make your voice heard, just #BoycottHershey on social media. Or sign the petition.

And enjoy some of the good stuff I’ve had lately:

Soma 69% Peruvian: I stashed this one from my Canada trip, and even after long storage, it was still good. A compote of plums, raisins and berries makes this, along with all the other Soma bars, worth the ticket to Toronto. O Canada, you should be proud of this company.

Vanini 86%: Made in Italy from Amazonian beans, the inner wrapper has a long and detailed history of the cacao’s origins and uses. And speaking of uses, this is a good one. This cacao dates its earliest use to the Mayo Chinchipe culture, around 3,500 B.C. It’s a rich, dark, woody bar with shades of tobacco.

Pergale 72%: Sounds Italian, but it’s from Lithuania. It’s a fun bar; soft and chewy, with a flavor of berries and orange. It’s a little too sweet to consume in any quantity, but nice when you need a quick fix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Can Inexpensive Chocolate Be Good?

Moser Roth - chocolate from Aldi

Moser Roth – chocolate from Aldi (Photo credit: lightsight)

I visited an Aldi store that opened recently near my office, and of course, I had to find out if there was any chocolate on the shelves.

If you know anything about the Germany-based Aldi chain, you know it’s a discount grocery store that carries very little in comparison to most American supermarkets. No floral, photo, pharmacy, fresh bakery, salad bar or deli counter. Just the basic, mostly private-label choices of produce, prepackaged breads, dairy, fresh meats, frozen seafood, paper products and health and beauty goods.

I’ve written about the chain for another online publication, but not about their chocolate. I found two bars to try, and decided for the price (less than $3 for each eight-ounce bar), it was worth the risk. If they were awful, it proves that money can and does buy the best. If they were at least acceptable, it proves that quality can come at a favorable price.

The two bars I tried, Choceur Dark 45% and Moser Roth 70% were tasted at the same time of day (7 a.m., which is my normal tasting time) on two different days.The Choceur Dark is from Austria, and the best thing I could say is that it was pleasantly OK. The bar had shine, but no snap. The flavor was a little tangy, not as sweet as you would expect this percentage, but there just wasn’t much to distinguish it from any drugstore bar.

The Moser Roth was closer to what you’d expect from a high-end bar. Bitter, with a decently deep chocolate flavor, but nothing that would make you buy more of it, even for the price. It’s not bad, just not very satisfying.

Both bars contain vanillin, the artificially synthesized vanilla flavor, which certainly didn’t help the flavor profile. If you’ve eaten the highest-quality chocolate for a while, even a small amount of the poor or middle-of-the-road stuff is unpleasant to the palate. I understand the need for products like these. It’s an opportunity for people of limited financial means or those with a genuine lack of chocolate knowledge to obtain the best. Both are a step up from the mass-produced morass. Not a very strong step, but a step nonetheless.

 

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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A Chocolate Life is Always Worth Living

I’ve started a chocolate website before this, only to have it crash and burn because I did not have the time to make it work. Turns out that merely loving chocolate is not enough. You have to get other people to agree with your way of looking at it, too.

So I’m trying again. Welcome to A Chocolate Life. My purpose is to talk about the good stuff, the high-quality chocolate that’s sometimes hard to find amid the cheap fixes and three-bars-for-a-buck specials. It’s to discuss the chocolate clubs of the world, the chocolate news and views, and what’s happening with the world’s supply of chocolate. No recipes, and no novelty or gift items. If you’re looking for the latest in chocolate-covered bugs, or an opinion on whether it’s still OK to buy a box of Russell Stover for Grandma, this is not the blog for you.

Oh, and there will be highly biased reviews of bars I’ve tasted over the years. I’ve got plenty of those, plus a refrigerator full of bars waiting to be tried. On a trip to New York City last year, I came back with nineteen bars of chocolate. They are wrapped and stored in my choco-fridge. Yes, I am that serious. I hope that you’ll join me, even if you don’t have a mini-fridge with a $200 chocolate bar stash in it.

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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