After I reviewed the Cocoa Bean squares in March, I received an email from one of the sisters who run the company (Emily) asking me if I’d like to try a few more of their products. I’m sure you can hazard a guess as to my response.
As a result of that email, I have been the (very lucky) recipient of a fairly well stocked cardboard box containing a plethora of yummy looking Cocoa Bean and Skelligs products, which I now have the job of sampling so that you, our dear readers, know which ones to buy.
First up is this little wallet of five 20g bars of assorted milk and dark chocolate, each of which has a very distinct flavour. As you can see, we have three dark (Sea Salt, Gin & Tonic and Lime Zest & Black Pepper) and two milk (Rose & Pistachio and Irish Honey). Each sleeve has a little background pattern relating to the contents – fish, little honeycombs, lime leaves, roses and bubbles on the G&T. Very subtle and once again, a fun, fresh look to the packaging.
The bars themselves are also a little different. Instead of being divided conventionally (squares, rectangles etc.) the Cocoa Bean ladies have opted for a rather neat way of reinforcing the brand, using the logo and company name to divide each ‘strip’ of chocolate into both a square AND a rectangle.
So how do they taste?
Well, each bar has a little description of what’s in store printed on the back.
The Sea Salt bar is described as ‘playful chocolate’. “The salt crystals enhance the sweet and savoury flavours of the chocolate and then crackle and crunch intriguingly as the chocolate melts on your tongue”. I’d agree about the salt content – the addition of salt to 70% cocoa chocolate is a fantastic idea. The contrasting sweet/tart flavours work beautifully with each other. A big hit with both myself and my tasting buddies.
The Gin & Tonic bar uses juniper berries and lime zest to recreate the flavours of the classic drink. It’s a popular flavour at Cocoa Bean, and one they’re obviously proud of. The first flavour to hit your palate is juniper, but the balance with the citrus of the lime is perfect – at no point did I find myself wanting more or less of either flavour. As the wrapper says, perfectly acceptable at any time of day.
Lime Zest & Black Pepper is relatively new to me, but I have recently reviewed a Lindt Bar with these very flavours. Emily (who now reads Chocablog regularly) mailed me to say that she had no idea Lindt had done a Lime & Pepper bar, and I wonder who was first? There’s no comparing the two anyway, as the Lindt bar was a truffle filled confection and this is a thin slab of 70% cocoa dark chocolate. Once again, both flavours are in evidence, well balanced and working well with the smooth, rich chocolate.
The first Milk chocolate bar I tried was the Irish Honey bar. I followed the suggestion on the wrapper and let the chocolate slowly melt in my mouth so I could ‘indulge in the lingering sweetness’ and it was lovely. The honeyed sweetness is quite different to a sugary sweetness, the two flavours flooding the mouth and leaving you wanting more. This was a huge hit with the younger tasters.
Last up was the Rose & Pistachio bar – “an exotic Turkish Delight inspired seduction”, and boy, is it ever! As a young lad I was rather partial to a Fry’s Turkish Delight or two (or three, or four) and the first sniff of this bar took me right back. Popping a small sliver onto my tongue and closing my eyes transported me back to pre-teen Turkish Delight scoffing days, with the tiny fragments of pistachio nut enhancing the mouthfeel and flavour superbly.
After tasting these bars I think it’s not unreasonable to liken them to Dolfin’s little taster bars (as reviewed by yours truly elsewhere on this very site). Like Dolfin, Cocoa Bean have created a selection of bars which blend unusual flavours with chocolate in a subtle and harmonious way. The quality of the chocolate always shines through, and the choices of flavours all sit together beautifully. It would seem that the Belgians have a little competition! Highly recommended.