This has been a month absolutely full of freebies for me. I am grateful for everything sent my way, and accept it knowing that I am hugely privileged to be offered it. Thank you to Sainsbury’s, who have included me in their food blogger network, and who offer me things to try all year round, not just at Christmas! This is a blog post about some of their new chocolate range, which they sent me to try. The opinions contained therein are those of a small group of friends who tried each bar, and are, of course, honest.
When I stepped forward to test Sainsbury’s new chocolate range, little did I know I’d be sent a sack of chocolate. I was expecting a bar, or maybe two if I was lucky – here’s what arrived:
That’s right – nine bars of chocolate. Nine sharing-sized bars of chocolate, no less. So, what else was there to do but to have a chocolate tasting night? We set ourselves up to taste test – are you ready for a top chocolate tasting tip? The best things to clear your palate are lime juice and plain crackers. So, in between chocolates, we had a squeeze of lime and a little bite of plain crispbread (which did the trick just as well as a cream cracker), to allow us to start afresh. We sampled the six bars you can see in the back row of the picture above – the three in front are filled, and more on them later…
Now, I took photos on the night, but when I came to look at them I could see that very few of them were blog-worthy. My phone camera is good enough, especially in good light, but for indoor, night time photography it’s just not up to the task. Not to worry, I thought – I’ll just re-take the chocolate photos.
Except that I totally finished my favourite bar yesterday without snapping any further shots of it.
So, I present to you now, a miracle of photo editing:
That bottom left chocolate was there THE WHOOOOOLE TIME.
The top row are all Belgian chocolate, and the bottom are all Swiss. We compared each variety like for like, in an international battle of chocolate. Here are the notes I scribbled down as we went along:
Beligian Milk with Caramelized Biscuit Nuggets
Good crunch and crack when breaking and biting.
The biscuit ‘nuggets’ are really crumbs – they taste good, but the flavour is overwhelmed by the chocolate.
Swiss Milk with a Hint of Hazelnut
Breaks up less evenly, more inclined to crumble.
Very creamy, with a satiny finish
Pleasant mouthfeel (I’m not even kidding, we did say mouthfeel. We were seeing who could come up with the best words).
Rich and luxurious.
Quality and indulgent.
Winner: Swiss – by a huge margin. We all loved the Swiss milk (as evidenced by me horsing the rest of the bar), it was an easy winner.
Belgian Dark with Orange
Not too bitter, not a heavy bitter aftertaste.
Orange balances the bitterness
Orange overpowering (some conflict in opinion here).
‘Commercial taste’ again.
Smooth and rich.
Bitter (again, some conflict in opinion).
Good crack when breaking.
Winner: Swiss – again, hands down. There was, as you can see, some debate over these. I’m not a great fan of dark chocolate but both were sweet enough for my taste, with 72% cocoa solids, but one of our panel found them too bitter.
Creamy and smooth.
Melts in the mouth.
Good snap when breaking.
Winner – in a last minute turnaround, Belgian! Again, this was unanimous, the Belgian white had far more flavour and better texture than its Swiss counterpart.
The filled chocolates, I took home to try on my own. We were chocolated up to the max after out tasting session, so the task of trying the rest fell to me. Here are my thoughts:
Swiss Milk Chocolate with Dark Caramel Filling
Ah. Here we hit a bit of a snag.
The whole bar had been subject to some kind of squishing forces while in the post to me, and the caramel was more contained in the wrapper than in the chocolate. On the plus side, it shows that the wrappers really are air tight (or, at least, caramel tight). I got a taste of the bar, though it was a messy affair, and I have to say that the caramel is lovely. It is sweet, of course, but it has a hint of bitterness and a depth that you don’t usually find in caramel-filled chocolate.
Swiss Milk Chocolate with Marc de Champagne Filling
This champagne filling is a creamy fondant, with a surprisingly strong hit of booze. I rather liked it – it’s like a chocolate liqueur without the risk of the liqueur spilling out of the shell and down your front before you can drink it. I’ve never liked that about liqueur chocolates. Again, it is sweet, particularly when coupled with the creamy milk chocolate, so a couple of squares is sufficient to hit the spot. It’s not, as they say, a session chocolate.
Swiss Milk Chocolate with Praline Filling
This was my favourite of the three. For someone who doesn’t like nuts, I’m surprisingly partial to a praline. This one is sweetly nutty, with a smooth texture, and again a square or two (or three) is enough for one go.
We have reached the end of our quest – it was a tough job, but someone had to do it. Overall, the Swiss Milk Chocolate with a Hint of Hazelnut was my favourite, the Swiss White my least favourite, and the rest came somewhere in between. The Belgian chocolate bars are all labelled Fair Trade, which is an additional point in their favour. At the end of the day, these fill the gap between what I jokingly referred to earlier as ‘session chocolate’ – chocolate you can eat and enjoy a lot (read: perhaps too much) of – and artisan chocolate. As much as I know Sainsbury’s would like to, you can’t mass-produce something that will look, smell and taste like a small-batch, high-end chocolate.
It was a lot of fun to hold our own chocolate tasting session – I can recommend it, it’s good to play at being foodies, and try to out-do each other with foodie vocab. Don’t forget the limes and crackers.