National Chocolate Week is a full on celebration of all things chocolate. Here you’ll find reviews of a veritable treasure trove of chocolate items that you might not have come across before.
Chocolate Week: Day One
Chocolate Week starts today! Of course every week is chocolate week in our household, but I’m actually referring to the official event which runs from 13th-19th October. You’ll be hard pressed to miss the numerous activities and promotions happening throughout the land. I’m celebrating by giving you a daily taste of what’s out there in the chocolate world and I’ll be posting every day this week. Here goes …
Chocolat Chocolat is a chocolate shop in Cambridge offering a range of luxury chocolate products. Founded in 1999, it now has an online shop in addition to its high street one. It specialises in handmade sheet chocolate sprinkled with such ingredients as French sea salt, Turkish hazelnuts and Dutch speculoos.
It also offers the ability to create your own chocolate bars. Now what a fabulous idea indeed. These are great fun and make an extra special treat for yourself and a great present for anyone else. You choose your chocolate base bar then add up to three toppings of your choice or, if it all gets a bit much, you can go with one of the suggested combinations.
The base bars come in a choice of: dark 70% or 55%, milk, caramel or white. Then it’s over to choosing your toppings which are far too numerous to mention here, but include, nuts, fruit, spices, herbs, flowers, confectionary and even gold leaf. A final touch is a gift tag on which you can compose your own message. The bars all weigh 100g and three bars cost £14.95.
My order got into a bit of a muddle as there was a website glitch whilst I was creating it. I was sent an e-mail detailing what I had ordered and to let them know if anything was wrong. It wasn’t quite what I ordered, but I was remiss and didn’t get back to them so I have no-one to blame but myself for the rather unlikely bars I actually got.
The packaging was simple but elegant; chocolate brown cardboard together with the turquoise and gold Chocolat Chocolat logo looks particularly stylish. In amongst the chocolate bars was a little label informing me who had made them.
A surprise miniature Dolfin bar was also included in the package, which put an even bigger smile on my face. Dolfin are one of the better Belgian chocolate brands which I first tried on a trip to Ghent a few years ago and I’ve not yet been disappointed by any of their chocolate. This was a nice touch which gave a subliminal message that I was in for a treat.
Pecan Nuts, Liquorice and Cinnamon
The toppings sat on a caramel milk 34% chocolate bar. I love cinnamon, so I was very happy with this, but I’m not entirely sure that I asked for liquorice on the same bar. Cinnamon is a dominant flavour and drowned out pretty much anything else. The nuts provided an interesting and welcome crunch.
Chilli and Caramelised Pistachio
This was a very tasty bar with the pistachios giving texture and a sweet crunch. I couldn’t however taste any chilli. Maybe my habit of eating chilli for breakfast has reduced my sensitivity. The chocolate was milk 34%.
This was delicious and surprisingly, for me, my favourite. It was a 70% dark chocolate bar and dark chocolate isn’t generally something I choose. The chocolate was smooth with fruity notes. It was not at all bitter and went down far too easily. The pieces of soft and sweet apricots punctuated the chocolate in a most delightful way.
Chocolate Week: Day Two
Heston at Waitrose
If, like me, you can’t get to the Fat Duck in Bray, you can always try some of Heston Blumenthal’s alchemical concoctions in chocolate form. Waitrose have teamed up with Heston to offer a box of twelve planet like chocolate orbs for their Christmas Collection. Heston’s Cocktail Chocolate Box will be available from Waitrose at £13.50, if it isn’t already.
As you might expect, these are not your average box of Christmas chocs. Not only are they inspired by cocktails, but the textures and flavours are a little unusual. They’re best suited to those of an inquisitive nature and an open mind.
The concept is fun and I enjoyed them as a one off experience. They’re distinctly alcoholic and you probably ought not to operate heavy machinery after eating one. I found the milk chocolate a little too sweet and this seemed to detract from the complex flavours.
This was a prototype box and it didn’t include a description card, so I had to guess which ones were which; I only managed two. I know certain of my readers will be most unimpressed with my limited knowledge of cocktails, but I had no clue what most of them are meant to taste like.
Heston’s Cocktail Chocolates
A fruity caramel with orange coloured and flavoured fondant running through the middle and a milk chocolate coating. I guess Negroni.
I guessed this one! A thin milk chocolate contained a Gin and Tonic soft milk chocolate centre. The botanicals left a clean and slightly bitter taste in the mouth which I really liked.
A fruity jelly with a pink frothy centre slap bang in the middle, enrobed in a thin dark chocolate shell. The alcohol hit to this one was a delayed reaction that was stronger after rather than during consumption. I couldn’t even guess as to its identity, but Cuba Libre didn’t fit anywhere else.
A green lime flavoured jelly like centre with soft caramel wrapped in a thin milk chocolate shell. I found this to be an interesting eating experience. I think I detected a hint of mint. My money is on Mojito.
A soft dark chocolate ganache with an oaky flavour wrapped in dark chocolate. This one was particularly boozy and warmed my throat nicely as it went down. I’m guessing Sherry and Whisky.
A lime citrus jelly and dark alcoholic ganache contained within a dark chocolate shell. Very nice it was too. Could be Caipirinha.
Chocolate Week: Day Three
So it’s Chocolate Week Day Three and still so much to look forward to. Today, we’re featuring artisan salt caramel truffles, chocolate bars from the Grown Up Chocolate Company and some chocolate mints.
When we arrived home from Ireland the other week, we found a very welcome box of salted caramel truffles awaiting us. They’d arrived in the post from a dear friend. She must have known how tired we’d be from a six hour drive in the early hours of the morning. We were definitely in need of a pick-me-up. Thank goodness Chocolate Week wasn’t too far away either.
Terre à Terre
These salt caramel truffles are from a company I’d not heard of before, Terre à Terre. But it was one my friend had been impressed with and thought I should know about. As it turns out, it’s a vegetarian café in Brighton which, in its own words, “is more about indulgence than abstinence”. I was very glad to hear this as there doesn’t seem much point in going out to a good café if you’re going to abstain.
The cafe caters for vegans and various allergy sufferers as well as vegetarians. The menus sound very tempting and if ever I’m in Brighton I’ll be making a call. If you’re not lucky enough to live close by, you can purchase these truffles from Terre à Terre’s online shop along with a number of other treats – chocolate and otherwise. A 130g box containing twelve good sized truffles costs £8.20.
So what were they like? Sturdy rich dark chocolate shells rolled in cocoa powder, but with plenty of room for the generous amount of salted caramel contained within. They had perfect liquid centres which weren’t too runny; they weren’t too salty either. All in all a beautiful combination. CT was very lucky to get a look in, even though they were meant for both of us.
The Grown Up Chocolate Company
When I first came across The Grown Up Chocolate Company on Twitter @grownupchocs, I was intrigued. This innovative British company specialises in “childhood chocolate classics with a grown-up twist”. Well I’m not sure about the grown up twist, but they have achieved the indulgence and decadence the company aspires to. These bars are pure fun and the company delights in being rather silly – quite childlike in fact. I heartily approve.
These 65g cardboard covered packs of unsophisticated delight contain two bars. Perfect for sharing, but not with the little monsters, apparently. I was sent two packs to try. I may not have revelled in the taste of both of them, but I certainly enjoyed the experience. These chocolate bars are well worth looking out for. You can buy them online for £2.50 a pack as well as at Ocado, Booths, Fortnum and Maison and various other independent retailers, both in the UK and abroad.
Glorious Coconut Hocus Pocus
This bar is a mixture of coconut, nuts, fruit and white chocolate, covered in milk chocolate. It’s gloriously chewy and really very tasty. Even though I could taste almonds, apricots and citrus peel through the coconut, this bar made me think Bounty Marathon hybrid.
White Chocolate Praline Wonder Bar
White chocolate is generally sweet enough, so I found this bar a bit overwhelming. It had plenty of texture, but was too sweet for me. I found it hard to get to the flavours through the sugar, which was a shame as it sounded rather good with its caramelised wafer praline, fudge and biscuits.
Beech’s Fine Chocolates
Another British chocolate company, but a much older one is Beech’s Fine Chocolates. Established in 1920, it specialises in classic British chocolates. I really enjoyed their chocolate bars which I reviewed a while ago. This time around, they sent me after dinner mints to try out. The mint used is English Mitcham Mint oil which is grown in the very English county of Hampshire.
Thin dark chocolate (55%) wafers containing crispy mint pieces which give a knobbly effect are perfect after dinner fare. I’ve found they’re also rather good before dinner. They’re refreshing with a good crunchy texture and just the right size to help yourself to a second piece without feeling too guilty.
I’m a bit of a sucker for mint creams, even though they are really rather sweet. These are no exception to the sweetness rule which is why the dark chocolate (55%) coating is particularly welcome. It takes the edge off the sugar just a little. The mint has a good flavour and the creams have a smooth texture. I found that one was plenty. For a while anyway!
Chocolate Week: Day Four
Fairtrade products have had a lot of bad press recently, but it’s an important concept to which I feel we should adhere. As far as chocolate goes, according to the Fairtrade Foundation, Fairtrade is enabling small scale farmers in Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana and the Dominican Republic to trade their way out of poverty.
This is done by not only giving them a premium on the price they get for their cocoa but giving them long term contracts which provide stability allowing them to invest in their farms and communities. For more information on how lives in West Africa have been improved by Fairtrade, you can read the report from Fairtrade International, published earlier this year.
Divine was one of the very first chocolate companies to adopt the Fairtrade ethos and they have remained true to their principles ever since. The company is unique for a British mainstream chocolate business in that it is part owned by a co-operative of cocoa farmers in Ghana. I’ve had the pleasure of tasting many Divine chocolate bars already.
Divine are one of the main sponsors of Chocolate Week. They have come up with two new chocolate bars as well as some new chocolate recipes especially for the occasion. I’m very keen to try both the 70% dark chocolate with mango and coconut and the milk chocolate with almonds. They have also helped organise a number of events around the country.
Living in Cornwall, means it’s not always possible to attend some of the food events I would ideally like to. A celebration of twenty years of Fairtrade held in London a couple of months ago was one such.
The diversity of products now out there carrying the Fairtrade label is really quite amazing. I remember when there was only tea, coffee and chocolate and they were hard to find. As I was unable to make the celebration, I was kindly sent a few of the products that were being showcased on the day. One of these was a bar of Divine chocolate.
Divine Milk Chocolate (38%) with Spiced Toffee Apple
I was just a little excited by this new bar on the block. It’s not a flavour combination I’ve come across in chocolate before. With the apple season fast approaching I wanted to keep this for a suitable appley occasion. Turned out this was Bonfire Night and I made these rather wonderful spiced toffee apple bonfire cakes.
But meanwhile, I had to try a little of it. A mixture of apple pie and toffee apples, this was as good as I was hoping it might be. Pieces of crunchy toffee and chewy cinnamon flavoured apple punctuates Divine’s signature high cocoa content milk chocolate. One piece lasts a satisfyingly long time and leaves fruity spicy notes in the mouth which are just perfect for autumn.
Divine has always decorated its outer wrappers with traditional West African symbols called Adinkras, each of which has it’s own special meaning. This was the first Divine bar I’ve seen where the Adinkras are imprinted on the chocolate itself.
Chocolate Week: Day Five
Chocolate Week is about a number of things, but right up there at the top has to be indulgence. Well indulgence and pampering was certainly what it was all about for me when I was sent some Rachel’s Divine Desserts and a load of luxurious goodies to accompany them.
The idea of a long hot soak in the bath with bubbles, candles, a Divine Dessert to eat with my very own spoon was an inspiring one. Sadly, I don’t have a bath. This was not going to stop me though.
The weather may be unseasonably warm, but rest assured, those autumnal storms are already upon us. The weather has been wet and very blowy and hunkering down for the upcoming winter is looking more appealing by the day.
A warm rose scented foot bath in candlelight whilst sipping a glass of prosecco did it for me. With tootsies snug in my bed socks I was finally able to indulge in a chocolate dessert. Who needs chestnuts roasting on an open fire when you’ve got all this?
I loved everything about this from unpacking the box and cool bag to eating the divine pots. Both desserts tasted truly divine and the fact they were organic made them even more special.
The bliss pack made for a delightful surprise as well as a bit of welcome luxury. The bed socks and bottle with its ‘drink me’ label I found particularly cute. But pride of place has to go to the spoon engraved with my name, Choclette.
Rachel’s Divine Pots
These were two very different desserts and I was happy with both. In fact I couldn’t decide which one I liked best. Ten out of ten from both me and CT is high. And yes I did share.
Divine Chocolate Pot
A beautifully smooth creamy unctuous dessert with a strong robust chocolateyness that helps counteract the sweetness. De luxe comfort food at its best. The weather outside was frightful but the chocolate pot was delightful.
Divine Vanilla Pot
This is quite different to the chocolate pot and has the consistency and flavour of a crème caramel. As someone who is very fond of this dessert, but never makes it, I was one very happy bunny.
Cocoa Runners and National Chocolate Week
I hope you’ve enjoyed these #NationalChocolateWeek tasters from Cocoa Runners. I most certainly did. And just in case you missed them, here are the chocolate reviews I posted earlier this week:
Keep in Touch
Thanks for visiting Tin and Thyme. If you ever try any of these National Chocolate Week chocolates, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Have you any recommendations? Do share photos on social media too and use the hashtag #tinandthyme, so I can spot them.
If you’d like more chocolate reviews, follow the link and you’ll find I have quite a lot of them. All delicious, of course.
Thanks to my lovely friend A and the other listed companies for the chocolates. I was not required to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own. Thank you for your support of the brands and organisations that help to keep Tin and Thyme blithe and blogging.