After a week of strange and wonderful flavours (and a huge amount of sugar) it seems fitting to close my Japan Week with something a little more sophisticated, and I am very lucky to have been given this rather lovely little box of handmade treats from Awaji Shima, an island in Hyogo province which (I am reliably informed) actually produces the oranges used to make these chocolates.
As you can see from the packaging, these are definitely a more upmarket product. No huge text sprawled over the wrapper, no funky illustrations, just a simple ballotin wrapped in textured ivory paper which conceals a gold box.
Inside we find pieces of candied orange peel dipped in proper, real, actual Belgian dark chocolate, which probably makes these rather expensive to buy. We’ve seen versions of this before on Chocablog, most notably the truly awful efforts of Kshocolât, so I knew I wasn’t in for any amazing new taste sensations, but on the other hand, the contents of this box were definitely the most grown up thing I’ve sampled all week, so I was quite excited.
Poking my nose into the box for that all-important first sniff, I was rewarded with a healthy blast of rich, dark cocoa aroma with a subtle undercurrent of citrus from the candied peel. Once bitten the chocolate has a tendency to want to part company with the peel, so I allowed it to melt on my tongue before I tackled the peel. It’s classic Belgian dark chocolate – slightly bittersweet with a good dark flavour. Small pieces of sugar from the peel mingled with the melting chocolate before I bit into the peel to find out what the overall flavours were like. Each piece has been cut in such a way that there’s enough soft fruit under the peel to give a great mouthfeel. The soft, zesty citrus of the orange mingles with the chocolate to proiduce a slightly tart combination. After the chocolate and soft underside of the peel had gone, I was left with a sliver of slightly chewier orange peel to play with. The flavours of these Japanese oranges are not as sweet as expected. Imagine the finishing notes of a proper dark English marmalade and you’re getting close. These are certainly nowhere near as sugary as I had expected, and I found the combination of flavours beautifully balanced, with the tart orange finishing things of in a most satisfactory manner.
These little slivers of citrus and chocolate prove that good quality chocolate can be found in Japan, and that as a nation they’re not all addicted to sugar. Of course it would be foolish to make that assumption anyway, but after a week of wacky KitKats and overly sweet milk chocolate it was lovely to discover that fine chocolate makers are at work in Japan. I look forward to sampling more products like this (although it’s hard to say when that might be).