A couple of years ago I bought a tin of Van Houten drinking chocolate while working in the Middle East, and I was rather impressed with it. Indeed, I was rather sad when it inevitably came to an end.
I was mildly excited when I spotted this bar while on holiday last month. Could their solid chocolate bars be anywhere near as good as the drinking chocolate had been?
These days I tend to read wrappers a lot more carefully than I used to. Some of the better quality manufacturer’s offer tasting notes (some have turned their packaging into a combination of information sheet and work of art) but even the lowliest of confectionery will have some information about ingredients, even if there’s no mention of cocoa content. It turned out that I was in for a bit of a shock – Van Halen, sorry Van Houten is owned by Hershey’s, and this bar was made in the People’s Republic of China. Could it get any worse?
The answer to that was yes, it could get worse. You could be made to eat some of this stuff. There are no less than four different oils (palm, shea and illipe oil plus castor bean oil) in this bar, and no mention of cocoa content whatsoever. I didn’t even know what illipe oil was and had to refer to Wikipedia for information. (It’s a fast-growing tropical tree with seeds that produce oil that is used in cosmetics, foods and detergents. Yum.)
So, expectations thoroughly shattered, I braced myself for a taste.
The chocolate smells like the cheap ersatz chocolate my Polish grandmother would give us in the 1970s. There’s hardly any real cacao aroma at all. It’s just a bit flat and dull, and that’s more or less how it tastes. It’s more like the idea of chocolate than actual, real chocolate, and it has an undertone of wrongness to the flavour that meant I was never going to eat more than one piece. The aftertaste is mainly greasy sugar with hardly anything of note lingering on the palate.
I suppose if I had to find one positive thing to say about this bar, it would have to be “It didn’t taste as awful as Hershey’s normally does.”
Hardly a glowing recommendation now, is it?