Review of two chocolate selection boxes from the artisan chocolate tasting club Cocoa Boutique. There’s also a box of salted caramel chocolates from Benjamin Chocolatier via Yumbles. And there’s a bonus box from Chocodores, which specialises in fresh fruit chocolates.
Thankfully there seems to be a growing trend in the UK and elsewhere towards high quality independently produced food. Just as farmers’ markets have grown in popularity, online delicatessens offering artisanal products are also springing up; these delights are now much more accessible to those of us who don’t have a fantastic deli just around the corner.
It’s a great time to discover excellent products you’ve never heard of before. I’m all for it.
Cocoa Boutique – The First Review
Cocoa Boutique is a new chocolate club offering a monthly selection of artisan chocolates delivered by post. Each month a different selection is offered from a range of chocolatiers who are located in Britain and further afield. The boxes are sturdy and well finished with an elegant appearance. They are designed to fit through standard letterboxes, so need to return home to a delivery note when you’re tired and hungry. The boxes come with a description of each chocolate and a scoring card which you can use for feedback.
The selection I received for review contained chocolates from chocolatiers Barry Coleno, Pierre Ledent and Claire Hicklin. It was a good mix of dark, milk and white chocolates. There was plenty of contrast: from rich dark chocolate brandy truffles and strong dark chocolate coffee beans to creamy white chocolate buttons and pink champagne truffles. There were two of each chocolate, which theoretically makes it easier to share, although CT might disagree. In addition to these, there were also a handful of white, milk & dark buttons, some coffee beans and some chocolate covered honeycomb pieces.
If you like your chocolates teetotal, look elsewhere – there was plenty of alcohol sloshing around in the form of champagne, cassis, rum, brandy and Irish cream; the warming effect from these was welcome as the rain continued to lash down. As a general observation CT and I enjoyed most of these chocolates and found them to be rich, flavourful and not too sweet. The selection was interesting with a good range of fillings, textures, flavours and types of chocolate.
Note to CT. I’d be happy to receive one of these on a monthly basis – assuming you think I’m worth £19.95 a month!
A Few of My Favourites
- Milk Chocolate Almond Praline – the combination of roasted salty pralined crunchy almonds covered in milk chocolate was as good as it sounds, if not better.
- Cocoa Dusted Dark Chocolate Salted Caramels – need I say more!
- Raspberry with a Hint of Orange – raspberry and chocolate is one of my favourite flavour combinations. This one was particularly interesting as the hint of orange brought out the raspberry flavour without overpowering it.
- Milk Chocolate Honeycomb – small pieces of honeycomb covered in chocolate gave a good ratio of chocolate to sweet, sticky honeycomb.
Coffee flavour not being one of my favourites, I left these for CT to try. He enjoyed the Vanilla Irish Cream, found the Rum Cafe Cream pleasant but lacking a distinctive coffee note. Not everything was to his liking, however: the coffee beans had an overly strong smoky and burnt flavour possibly due to over roasting. I tried one and had to agree.
Cocoa Boutique – The Second Review
Oh the excitement. The pleasure of an unopened box of chocolates just waiting to be discovered. The expectation is doubled when I don’t know what the box contains. I have, occasionally, been disappointed, but these chocolates were from Cocoa Boutique and I have reviewed them before, so I knew I was going to like them. They arrived rather mysteriously; I was not expecting them and had had no correspondence about it, but I am not one to turn down a box of nice chocolates that has been posted through my door.
Cocoa Boutique is a chocolate club, so they are set up for parcels that can fit through a letterbox – I wish more would do that: better to be gratified instantly than to have to wait for a redelivery. This box was visually very pleasing and the enticing aroma of chocolate wafting up made me impatient to get stuck in.
Before even looking at the card to see what flavours awaited me, I followed the visual cues and went straight for the chocolate that appealed to me most. It was the Passion Fruit, a flavour I have a love hate relationship with when it comes to chocolate. Done well, it can be exquisite, but done badly it can taste synthetic and unpleasant. I was relieved to find, this fell into the first category. Paired with dark chocolate, it was sharp, fruity, aromatic and full flavoured, leaving behind a mixture of dark chocolate and passionfruit flavour that lingered on the palate for some considerable time after the chocolate had been consumed. I could quite see why this chocolate by Sun Trigg has won several awards.
Following this jump into the unknown and my lust being sated for a while, I was a little more restrained with my further tastings. I looked at the guide to see just what I had in store. There were some delicious sounding chocolates and flavour combinations, but my eye fell on the cocoa dusted salted caramel and as I would be addicted to these if my pocket allowed, this was my very next choice. The caramel was a little thicker than I’ve had before, but no less delicious for that and the salt erring towards subtlety brought out the flavour without tasting particularly salty. Note for CT: a box of these would be my idea of bliss.
Marzipan – just how I like it. It had a homemade feel and was almondy both in texture and taste without tasting of almond essence and it was not too sweet either.
Gazillionaires Shortbread – a fun idea, but sweeter than the salted caramel and like millionaires shortbread, just too sweet for me.
Double Praline – I enjoyed the two different flavours and textures stacked one on top of the other.
The Frothing Hot Chocolate was not only fun to look at, but contained a bit of a surprise – it was certainly very hot!
Other chocolates of particular note were: the Raspberry Champagne Truffle which tasted of both raspberries and champagne but were a little too sweet for me; a Lemon Meringue Whip which had the flavour of lemon meringue pie, but was also rather too sweet and a very good Cherry Brandy.
All in all, I thought this was a good box of chocolates and I’d be happy for someone to subscribe me to the service for a while – hint, hint! There was a good mix of dark, milk and white chocolate and a varied mix of textures and flavours to make this a box that can be indulged in by one single chocoholic. Why are you looking at me? Or it could be shared out amongst friends and familyas there should be something here to suit everyone’s taste.
Yumbles is one of these new food sites and its shelves are laden with the kind of stuff I like: sauces, spices, cheese, oil, antipasti, cakes and yes, chocolate. The site is growing rapidly and the range ever expanding. Shopping is made simple, with a clear, easy to navigate menu. You can shop by category, event, gifts for him or her or by collection.
I am delighted to be associated with Yumbles in the capacity of chocolate food explorer. I was given a small budget to choose something from the site. Strangley, I went straight to the chocolate section. It wasn’t easy making a choice as there were so many gorgeous items I wanted to try. And they were all good quality, real chocolate. Would it be chocolate Christmas tree baubles, a raw chocolate bar, chai chocolate almonds, rose petal drinking chocolate or a box of chocolates from the cocoa garden? In the end, it was none of these things. As some of you may have sussed by now, I have a particular weakness for salted caramels – you could say I’m a sucker for them.
Salted Caramel Chocolates by Benjamin Chocolatier
A box of twelve caramels containing three different flavours each using a different salt. The packaging was elegant simplicity in a sturdy purple box with matching ribbon; when the chocolates are finished (it won’t take long), the box can be used for other purposes. I loved the styling of the chocolates which were in the shape of cocoa pods.
They weren’t just a visual feast either, CT and I both thoroughly enjoyed them. I like a high caramel to chocolate ratio as I find chocolate can often overwhelm the caramel. Not a problem in this instance – Benjamin’s chocolates have a thin chocolate shell with plenty of caramel inside. The chocolate itself was good and rich with a high cocoa content. All of the caramels were lightly salted so as not to overwhelm the other flavours – overly salted caramels are, unfortunately, far too common.
Also available from Benjamin Chocolatier. £14.95
The call went out on social media; could I tell the difference between the salts, I was asked. Well, yes I could. It was hard to put a finger on what the differences were and even more difficult to describe them. I pass on the challenge and leave you to do a better job of describing them than I.
Muscovado Caramel with Malden Sea Salt – heady aroma of rich dark chocolate with a light caramel undertone. A bonfire toffee taste was the first thing to hit the tongue, followed by a medium saltiness and finished off with rich, dark chocolate.
Traditional Salted Caramel with Fleur de Sel de Camargue – a soft, but not liquid caramel with a mild saltiness that had a slight tang of the sea. Seaweed was the first word that sprang to CTs lips after he tried one.
Palm Blossom Caramel with Himalayan Pink Salt – the taste of raw sugar was very pronounced; it reminded me of jaggery. This one had a slightly more pronounced mineral salty flavour than the others.
Having heard a couple of reviews about these fruity chocolates, I was very keen to try some. After a bit of wheedling on my part, Sarah from Chocadores finally caved in and sent me four of these fresh chocolates.
They arrived in a beautiful gold box which is normally used for wedding favours. Unfortunately, the chocolates themselves had been a bit battered in transit so the decorations looked a little the worse for wear.
Attractive leafy transfers decorated the tops, each matching the colour of the fruit or herb featured inside the dark rectangular chocolate shells. None were overly sweet and they were all very fresh tasting. The flavours were intense with the real essence of the fruit and herbs coming through.
If offered only one of these, my preference would have been for the raspberry and rose. Now I’ve tried them, I have no firm favourite. Because they’re all truly delightful. They left my mouth feeling fresh and zingy for a considerable time afterwards. Of course having sampled only four, I’m very keen to try a few more in this range.
Powerful scent of mint, the taste of which lingered on the palate long after the chocolate had been demolished.
Delicately scented of orange, this did not taste like your average orange flavoured chocolate; it tasted of the fruit itself with wonderful chocolatey notes coming through.
Delicious, zesty and lemony, this white chocolate ganache reminded me more than anything of lemon flummery – completely delicious.
Raspberry & Rose
Another intense fruity flavour, this raspberry coloured puree matched the raspberry and rose colour scheme of the top. Rose was the first flavour to hit the tongue but with the intense fruity flavour of the raspberry rushing to catch up.