Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and it doesn’t seem right not to cover some of the fabulous chocolate offerings out there for this special day. I’ve taken the burden from you and reviewed a few. There’s a selection from Miss Witt, who’s an award winning artisan chocolatier. There’s also some chocolate bars from Madécasse and some treats from Godiva.
Chocolate by Miss Witt
I first came across Chocolate by Miss Witt when visiting CT’s mother in Lymington on the edge of the New Forest. You can read all about it on my Unexpected Find in the Forest post. Suffice it to say, that I’m not likely to miss an opportunity to pay a visit to her pop-up-shop at Lymington’s weekly market if the occasion arises. And arise it did last Saturday.
Miss Witt is a true artisan chocolateier and makes an intriguing range of handmade chocolates. Unusually, she eschews cream and butter for the virtues of spring water, yes, her chocolates are all made with water ganache.
It was a bitterly cold day and Miss Witt was well wrapped. CT managed to polish off a fair few of the tasters as we chatted. My attention, however, was focused on hearing of the latest developments in the world of New Forest chocolates. A number of stores in Lymington are now stocking her products. I came away clutching a collection of chocolate goodies to try in the warmth of my own home.
Miss Witt’s Earl Grey
A valentine’s special consisting of six elegant chocolates in grey and white. The centres are a dark or white chocolate ganache made with spring water and Earl Grey tea which are enrobed in dark or white chocolate accordingly. The dark chocolate is dusted with silver flecks and the white is topped by a cornflower.
Containing no cream or butter, the silver chocolates are completely dairy free, much to the delight of the local vegans. The ganache is soft and smooth in texture and has a distinctive but not overpowering floral and citrus bouquet.
CT and his fertile imagination thought this very refined – equivalent to drinking Earl Grey in a bone china cup. He is not one to lavish praise unnecessarily, but he really liked these. “I don’t need fifty shades of Earl Grey, a single one from Miss Witt will do”. The white chocolates are much sweeter and the subtle notes of bergamot struggle to be heard above the white noise of vanilla.
Miss Witt’s White Hot Chocolate Sticks (33%)
After hanging out the washing on an icy winter’s day here, my hands were so cold I almost couldn’t feel them any more. It was time to try one of Miss Witt’s hot chocolate sticks. What a fabulous idea. All I had to do was follow the instructions: place in a mug, heat 200 ml of milk, pour over and stir. It worked a treat and melted quite beautifully.
I topped it with a little bee pollen for effect, but when I tasted the chocolate I realised I must have tuned into the flavour of the white chocolate even before I’d tried it; it not only had a creamy texture but it tasted of honey too. Being white chocolate, I thought this might have been too sweet for me, but it was totally delicious and I downed my mug rather too quickly. It did the trick too; by the time I finished it, my hands were back to normal.
Miss Witt’s Limited Edition
Miss Witt is always coming up with new flavour combinations, so you never quite know what you might find when you visit her pop-up-shop on Saturdays. I found it hard to make a decision on what to try as everything looked good and sounded interesting, but the Cinnamon Brulée just had to go into my box.
Cinnamon Brulée – white chocolate ganache flavoured with cinnamon and horlicks and enrobed in rich dark chocolate. Can you see why I couldn’t miss it?
Rosemary & Sea Salt – I’ve made rosemary truffles before, but never thought to add sea salt to the mix – I missed a trick. This was a fantastic combination, made even better by an almost liquid centre; it tasted more like caramel than milk chocolate ganache. Wrapped in 70% Saint Domingue dark chocolate, this was one of the best chocolates I’ve tried in a while. I hope it becomes a more permanent member of the collection.
Lavender & Sea Salt – there is always a bit of a worry that lavender might be overdone in food and end up tasting like soap. The lavender used here was a little overplayed, but it was tempered by the sea salt and made for quite a delicious mouthful. The salt also helped reduce the sweetness of the white chocolate.
Berries & Tea – a rich and robust winter chocolate, flavoured not with soft fruit, but with juniper berries and Earl Grey tea. Now where did I put that G&T?
A Shooting Star – a winner of the Great Taste Awards, this is a permanent weapon in Miss Witt’s armoury. It deserves to be. A dark chocolate ganache containing blackcurrent purée and flavoured with tarragon and star anise, it is enrobed with 70% Saint Domingue chcocoate. The flavours are subtle and are not vying for individual attention, but marry well together to create a true taste of summer – very welcome on a cold winter’s day. A hint of blackcurrent lingered long on the palate leaving me feeling rather wistful and wishing I had another one or two.
Sea Salt Caramel – I do love a good sea salt caramel and although I found this one a little on the salty side, the patriot in me was proud to note the presence of Cornish Sea Salt. The salty sweet caramel milk chocolate was tempered by the 70% Saint Domingue dark chocolate in which it was encased. Very similar in appearance to the rosemary & sea salt, this geodesic dome was flecked with white rather than blue.
I’ve heard a lot about Madécasse in recent months and all of it has been good. It’s a company that ticks all but one of my chocolate boxes. As the name suggests the chocolate comes from Madagascar, a country rich in habitat, but poor in economic terms. Unusually it is not just the beans that are grown there, the chocolate is made there too. 70% of the world’s cocoa beans are grown in Africa, but less than 1% of chocolate is actually made on the continent. This is a shocking state of affairs as the real money to be made from chocolate is manufacturing it, not growing it.
Madécasse is certified Fair for Life. This means that fairtrade principles are adopted through the whole chocolate making chain, from cocoa farming right through to packaging – bean to bar at its best. The missing box, in case you were wondering, is that the chocolate is not organic. However, the cocoa trees grown in the shade of taller hardwood specimens does help to protect the precious habitat, home to 15% of the world’s plant and animal species.
But ethics alone are not enough to sell chocolate, it needs to be tasty and good value for money too. These 75g bars, currently available in Waitrose, Booths, Selfridges and Whole Foods, hit both of these targets. The cocoa content is high for milk chocolate and at 44% you can really taste it. The cocoa beans used are a rare heirloom variety that are particularly flavoursome – I thought so anyway. Suffice it to say, I am now hooked. At £2.99 they’re not cheap, but they are both affordable and very good value for delicious ethical bean to bar chocolate. They are also, in a small way, helping the people that really need it, the people of Madagascar.
Milk Chocolate 44%
Buttery is a key characteristic of this delicious chocolate. It smells of butterscotch, but it was the tang of buttermilk that first hit my tastebuds. Both seem to be present. There are fruity notes too that could be sour cherry. It’s creamy but also quite rich with a very slight granular texture. It has a real wow factor for me and CT was rather keen too. This is chocolate to savour.
Espresso Bean 44%
CT, who is a coffee chocolate aficionado got rather excited as the strong aroma of coffee assailed his nostrils. I’m not really a fan of coffee flavoured chocolate, but I could quite happily have eaten this bar all by myself. There’s an awful lot of coffee in Brazil and there’s also plenty of coffee in this chocolate or do I mean on? The mocha topping, made of crushed cocoa beans and cocoa nibs, makes for a distinctive feature which gives added interest to the smooth textured chocolate. As he munched, CT could see himself in a late night cafe, peering through the thick blue smoke and sipping on a strong black coffee.
Established in 1926, Godiva is now well known for its luxurious Belgium chocolates and has shops in the most fashionable parts of Europe’s capitals. For those in the UK unable to get to London, they do, of course, have an online shop. I have used Godiva white and dark chocolate pearls to create these Amaretto Pots au Chocolat, but I’d never tried their chocolates until this most gorgeous heart shaped box arrived at my door.
You Have My Heart
A pretty heart shaped box containing eleven chocolates with nine different flavours. The box is one of those sturdy ones that you want to hang on to. You can keep it to store nicknacks in or reuse it as a gift box.
Rather annoyingly, there was no menu card included, so it wasn’t always easy to tell what the chocolate fillings were. However, I can say they were all delicious and the fillings were interesting and by no means run of the mill. Pralines featured of course as did rich dark truffles, but there were also fruity fillings and buttery ones too. There was a good mixture of dark and milk chocolates, some sweeter than others. Many of the chocolates had layers with different textures and flavours which made for a diverting experience.
The shapes were fun and one chocolate featured Lady Godiva, whose good deeds inspired the company’s name, riding on her horse. If this box doesn’t grab your fancy there are plenty of other Valentine delights on offer – just hop over to the Godiva site and have a browse. Order by 12th February for delivery for the big day.
I’m not going to describe all of the chocolates in the box, but here are my three favourites.
- A hazelnut praline which had three distinct layers as well as a whole roasted and salted hazelnut – all covered in thick milk chocolate. I would have been happy with a whole box of these alone.
- A fruity raspberry caramel confection enrobed in dark chocolate which was possibly my favourite. It was both chewy and zingy and not too sweet.
- Then again a milk chocolate filled with a sandy textured almond mousse was very moreish indeed. Sadly, or perhaps luckily, there was only one.
Keep in Touch
Thanks for visiting Tin and Thyme. If you try any of these chocolates I’d love to hear about it in the comments below or via social media. Do share photos on your preferred social media site and use the hashtag #tinandthyme, so I can spot them.