This year, Hotel Chocolat and Thorntons sent us similarly sized boxes of chocolate hearts, so rather than do two reviews, I thought it would be fun to put them head to head and see who comes out on top – and who leaves broken hearted.
Let’s start with the packaging. For a Valentines gift, that’s really important. This isn’t just a gift, this is a gift for the person you love, so a cheap looking box just isn’t going to cut it.
The Hotel Chocolat box (above) is, as you’d expect, rather pretty. Lots of pink, a pretty design, and – importantly – a nice solid feeling construction.
The Thorntons box on the other hand, doesn’t show the same design flair. A red box with clear plastic cut-outs showing the chocolates inside, which just feels cheap and flimsy compared to the Hotel Chocolat box. A clear win for Hotel Chocolat here.
Once you get inside, the Thorntons box redeems itself a little. While I’m still not a fan of the clear plastic, the arrangement is quite pleasing with a larger heart surrouned by 12 smaller ones.
I still prefer the Hotel Chocolat box though. The arrangement isn’t particularly exciting, with 15 hearts arranged into three simple rows, but somehow the plastic just feels… higher quality.
Now we get to the actual chocolate. A quick glance at the blurb on the back of the boxes reveals an all too common story:
Hotel Chocolat: Dark chocolate: 70%, milk chocolate: 40%, white chocolate: 29%
Thorntons: Dark chocolate: 60%, milk chocolate: 30%
Looking at the ingredients, the Thorntons box seems to contain more sugar and vegetable oil than the Hotel Chocolat box, although it’s difficult to do a direct comparison here because the fillings are different.
While the Thorntons hearts are simple described as “a selection of chocolate truffles, pralines and caramels”, the Hotel Chocolat ‘Melting Hearts’ have individual descriptions – ‘Chocolate Mousse’, ‘Coffee Praline’, ‘Milk Praline with Cocoa Crispies’, ‘Macadamia and Coconut’, ‘Orange Praline’, ‘Gianduja’, ‘Caramel Praline’, ‘Pistachio Praline’ and ‘Sticky Toffee and Banana’.
As you can see, size-wise, the individual hearts are very similar (Thorntons on the left, Hotel Chocolat on the right). Each Hotel Chocolat heart is decorated with a coloured stripe or dot, while the Thorntons hearts are a little more plain.
The real difference though is the taste though. Eating one heart from each box and the quality of the Hotel Chocolat product becomes quickly apparent.
The Thorntons hearts are sweet and buttery and all quite similar. The Hotel Chocolat versions are rich, full of flavour and much less sweet. The cocoa flavours really shine through. The same goes for the fillings. Although none of the flavours are particularly strong, everything about the taste and texture of Hotel Chocolat’s hearts says ‘quality’.
Of course, some people will say this isn’t a fair comparison. For a start, at £11 for 170 grams, Hotel Chocolat Melting Hearts are more than twice the price of the £4.99, 210 grams Thorntons version. But that difference in price becomes very obvious when you compare the two side by side. Not only are you getting a significantly higher quality product with Hotel Chocolat, but you’re also getting more variety in a package that just looks and feels nicer. I know which I’d rather get as a Valentine’s gift (and that’s a hint, by the way).