Chocs away

Chocolate is the most popular sweet treat in the world. Globally, over three million tons of cocoa beans are consumed each year, mainly in Europe and the USA. The vegan options used to be limited to bars of dark chocolate (with 70% minimum cocoa solids), but now there are numerous varieties available. Inevitably, some of the newcomers are expensive but price doesn’t always indicate quality. Easter eggs are a perfect example of this with several vegan versions appearing this year. None of the ones I sampled were very good, or worth the extortionate price tag. Most Easter eggs are ludicrously expensive, and manufacturers know that the packaging allows them to bump up the price. The Divine dark hazelnut praline hollow egg costs £5 for just 90 grams of chocolate. The egg itself was very thin, and definitely wasn’t very divine. The NOMO (no missing out) dairy free egg was equally disappointing; NWB (not worth buying) would be a more accurate description.

My sister sends me a box of ‘luxury’ vegan chocolates every Christmas and birthday. Usually, it’s either Hotel Chocolat or Booja Booja, and the latter is preferable. The Booja Booja ‘gourmet selection box’ is limited to six flavours, all of which look and weigh exactly the same. You have to cross reference with the menu plan to ensure you don’t get one of the unpleasant ones, which includes ‘almond salted caramel’ and ‘fine de champagne’. My favourite is the delicious hazelnut crunch truffle, but each truffle weighs just 10 grams and works out at about 90 pence, so I’d have to be in a very extravagant mood to buy a box of their chocolates. However, I’d never splash out on anything produced by Hotel Chocolat. Their latest vegan assortment is called ‘Sleekster’, which is described as: “unbelievably vegan, made without milk, yet as staggeringly creamy as our regular milk chocolates. A ground breaking collection of 33 melt in your mouth chocolates”. Unfortunately, none of them have any sort of melt in your mouth characteristics and are so hard they are more likely to break your teeth. It gets worse with the descriptions of the individual chocolates, such as this for ‘Rosemary & Nutmilk’: “Pow! A burst of intensely tart pressed berries unleashed by 70% dark (chocolate). Embraced by Nutmilk for a mellow creamy finish.” I’m guessing that the idiot who composed this pretentious drivel was too busy reading his Batman comic, and hadn’t actually tasted it. However, I have and my one-word verdict is “Yuk!”. Perhaps the confectioners at Hotel Chocolat simply don’t understand the idea of conflicting flavours, or come up with these ridiculous combinations but don’t subject them to any sort of taste test. Another corker is the ‘Gianduja Bombe’: “Melts in the mouth like butter. Super smooth hazelnut praline and 70% dark.” The reference to butter in a vegan selection is bizarre, and it neither melts or is super smooth. Rather, it felt like an old-fashioned gobstopper that would thwart the bone crushing jaws of a crocodile.

For sheer chocolate joy (and value for money) I recommend Tesco Classic Dark Chocolate, succinctly described as “bold and velvety, skilfully blended with 74% cocoa for a rich taste”. This has a superb melt quality with an excellent ‘snap’ and costs only £1 for a 100 grams bar, proving that you don’t have to splash the cash for so-called gourmet chocolate.

Paul Freestone

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