I’ll confess, I actually had to look up the word ‘bezant‘ to discover its true meaning. For those who are as uneducated as me, it’s a form of medieval gold coin. But I’m glad I took the time to look it up, because the illustration in the Wikipedia article is, coincidentally, of the coat of arms of the Duchy of Cornwall which features 15 bezants.
And if I’d taken the time to read the PR material that came with the chocs, I would have known that the 15 bezants symbolise the ransom paid by Cornish people to secure the release of the Duke of Cornwall during The Crusades.
For those that don’t know, the Duchy Originals is a company run by Prince Charles (the current Duke of Cornwall) on his estate – The Duchy of Cornwall – so it makes perfect sense to make chocolate in the shape of bezants.
As you can see from the photo, Duchy Originals were kind enough to send me a box of each of the four available flavours, which are:
Organic Milk Chocolate with Spanish Orange Oil
Milk chocolate and orange is such a tried and tested combination, and I’ve had so many variations on the theme – most of which weren’t that great – that I was quite prepared to dislike these.
In actual fact, I quite enjoyed them. Firstly, the chocolates actually look appealing. They’re rounded and curvy on the front and flat on the back, with a shiny finish. They’re not too thick, so provided you don’t go stuffing 13 into your mouth in one go, they’re not going to become sickly.
The 34% milk chocolate is smooth and tasty without being overly sweet, and the orange is subtle, but unlike the Hotel Chocolat chocs I reviewed a while back, you can actually taste it.
Organic Milk Chocolate with Ground Arabica Coffee Beans
Coffee, like orange, is one of those flavours that it’s all to easy to get wrong. Often, the coffee is either completely overpowering, hardly noticeable, or else it has a grainy texture like instant coffee.
But in this case I think we have another winner. There’s hardly any coffee aroma, but when you bite into them, you’re greeted with a flavour more like a rich coffee cream. Despite being a thin, solid milk chocolate, it taste like real coffee.
There is a bit of graininess from the coffee beans, but personally I think that adds to the effect. I really enjoyed these.
Oragnic Dark Chocolate with Mitcham Mint Oil
As you can probably tell, they’re going for the tried and tested flavours here. Coffee, orange, mint… no fancy experimental “mongoose and olive” flavour from Duchy Originals. That just wouldn’t be British!
The look of the 72% dark chocolate here is just as nice as the milk chocolate bezants. It’s bright and shiny and tempting looking… just a darker shade. And it tastes good too – not too sweet, not too bitter – but the mint flavour is really quite subtle. It’s a little too subtle for me, and it felt a little like these were missing something.
Organic White Chocolate with Madagascan Vanilla Extract
Vanilla and white chocolate is another tried and tested combination, and again it’s done quite well here. They are a little sweet, but there’s a fair amount of vanilla and creaminess in there too, with the result that the overall flavour taste a little like a good quality vanilla ice cream.
One thing I found a little odd was that the ingredients list the Madagascan Vanilla Extract as “approved non-organic ingredient”. Now obviously I have no objection to non-organic chocolates, but I’m not sure how the box can call these organic chocolates when one of the main ingredients isn’t organic at all!
Still, I did enjoy these. They’re much sweeter than the others, so I wouldn’t want more than a couple in one go, but they are very pleasant.
I’m really quite impressed with these. Clearly they’re meant for sharing, and I think if you’re having a Christmas party, then buying a box of each is the way to go. That way there’s some for everyone.
But there’s a twist in the tail here. You see Duchy Originals don’t actually make anything – they just license the brand to other companies. And in this case, the chocolates are made by House of Dorchester. We have reviewed four of their products in the past, and our opinion has been universally negative.
So I don’t know whether House of Dorchester have turned a corner or if they’re just better at making chocolates for other people, but I enjoyed all of this Duchy Originals range, and would recommend giving them a try.
I had a response from Duchy Originals regarding non-organic ingredients in chocolates labeled as organic. This is what they said:
Under Soil Association standards in order to be Organic, more than 95% of a product’s ingredients must be organic. In fact, our Chocolate Bezants contain over 99% organic ingredients, as the natural flavours we use are less than 1% of the total ingredients.
Because flavour profiles vary greatly and change with the different foods that they are used with, it is allowable under Soil Association standards to use non organic flavours. The use of flavours in chocolate is particularly problematic due to its high fat content and many other organic brands also use non organic oils in their chocolates.
The natural flavour ingredients used in our chocolates are as follows:
The Mitcham Mint oil is from a UK mint farm and an organic alternative is not available.
This oil was chosen over an organic oil as the flavour was far superior and the oil was from a known source and not a blended as the organic orange oils we tried were.
During product development we sampled the product with both organic and non organic Madagascan vanilla flavours and the one that was superior in flavour delivery was a non organic variant.
We obtain the flavour from organic rainforest alliance Arabica coffee beans sourced from single estates, these are separately slow roasted in Dorset before being ground and blended.