Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hägeland Dark Chocolate Pear & Almonds

I recently bought a few Hägeland chocolate bars because they reminded me of another brand that I tried in the past - which I will discuss later this week. But I specifically bought the Pear and Almonds bar because it is unusual to see pear flavoring in a dark chocolate bar, so I was curious. Since today is hot and sunny, it seemed like the right kind of day to taste the refreshing flavour of pear.
The almonds in this bar are slivered and create crunchy little flakes that add a nice texture to the chocolate. It also adds a slightly nutty flavour. The pear flavour is subtle, but a little on the sweet side, especially since this dark chocolate only contains 57% cocoa solids, so it is already a bit sweet.  Also, the ingredients list shows that all the flavouring is natural and from actual pear powder, so I give the manufacturer a big 'thumbs up' for keeping its chocolate natural. As for the chocolate, it is just sort of your commercial chocolate with okay quality.

Overall, the chocolate bar is good. If you like a sweeter dark chocolate, you may like this one. I am not a big fan of fruit-flavoured chocolate, so it isn't my thing, but if you are into fruit and chocolate, it may be yours!

Here are the package details from the chocolate bar that I tasted today:

Hageland Premium Belgian Chocolate Dark Chocolate Pear & Almonds, 3.5 oz (100g)
Made in Belgium, Imported by: Sco Koladen, LLC (Hayward, CA)
Ingredients: cocoa mass, sugar, almonds (8%), pear granule (3.5%) [inuline (fibre), pear powder (5%), natural flavoring pear type], cocoa butter, butter oil, emulsifier: soy lecithin.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sugar free mint chocolate brings "cool" and "refreshing" to a hot day

Earlier today I was sifting through my chocolate tasting cupboard, which is getting a bit low.  This is slightly depressing since summer weather is now upon us and I may not be able to order any more for months!  But I saw a huge collection of mint chocolate bars.  I have been waiting to have a party to taste all of the mint bars that I have on hand, but with the sluggishness of pregnancy and a busy job, I haven't gotten around to inviting anyone over for my tasting party.  So I decided to crack open a few minty-fresh chocolate bars today.

And since I feel guilty every time I put something sweet in my mouth lately (pregnancy guilt! Always worrying about the baby in my belly...), I thought, why not taste the "sugar free" mint chocolate bars today?  Of course, I have not eliminated any guilt because I always question whether or not sugar substitutes are better to eat than sugar - or worse - and if worse, how much worse for the baby? (See, it's easy to question everything when you are pregnant.) But I decided I would try just a few pieces of each and try not to worry about it.  After all, it's not like I eat sugar-free chocolate everyday. 

So today I am tasting two mint chocolate bars.  The first is the very widely distributed Russell Stover Sugar Free Dark Chocolate Mint bar.  I have seen it in the stores many times, but never actually tasted one.  The second chocolate is a Canadian-made "no sugar added" mint dark chocolate by Daniel Le Chocolat Belge, a great little chocolate manufacturer from Vancouver. I have tried some of their other chocolates in the past and have loved them, particularly their organic line of chocolate. 

I started with the sugar free mint Daniel Le Chocolat Belge.  It was a minty, refreshingly sweet bitter chocolate and rather good.  What I love about this chocolate is that the package is comparable in size to other larger chocolate bars (75 grams or 2.6 oz per package), but it is broken up into 8 small individually wrapped pieces of chocolate. This can help you to achieve some sort of portion control while eating your chocolate (which is good since there is a warning on the package that eating too much - because of the maltitol - can cause a laxative effect.  So portion control is key when eating this sugar free chocolate!). 

Daniel Le Chocolat Belge also advertises that their chocolate uses the finest cocoa beans, all natural ingredients and is preservative free.  This can be identified by reading the short list of only six ingredients with natural vanilla and organic mint oil being the only flavourings used in the chocolate. To me, this shows that they pay attention to quality and are health conscious while making the chocolate.

Russell Stover's Sugar Free Dark Chocolate Mint bar is slightly sweeter and smoother and has a cool layer of soft minty milk chocolate between the already very thin outer layers of dark chocolate.  The texture of the chocolate is great, and the thin design makes it refreshing to eat (it is reminiscent of an After Eight). I like it very much, however, I do have some issues with the ingredients list. For starters, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil is used.  Hydrogenated oil is known to be unhealthy for us.  Also, "vanillin", which is artificial vanilla flavour, is also listed and "milk fat" has been added, I'm guessing to add softness to the milk chocolate centre. So clearly the manufacturer cares more about taste than the consumer's health.  Although unhealthy chocolate is not my thing, I guess some people don't worry about that. Or they just don't read the ingredients list. But I might not worry about it either if I couldn't have sugar and this was one of the only chocolate bars that was commercially available to me.

Both chocolate bars tasted good, but I'd recommend that if you like sugar free mint chocolate, check out the Daniel le Chocolat Belge website.

In the end, today is the perfect day for mint chocolate. It added a cool and refreshing element to an otherwise hot and sticky day.

Here are the package and ingredient details from the two chocolate bars that I tasted today:

Daniel Le Chocolat Belge - Mint, No Sugar Added, 75g (2.6 oz)
Vancouver, Canada
Ingredients: Cocoa mass, maltitol, cocoa butter, organic mint oil, soy lecithin, natural vanilla.  may contain nuts, peanuts and milk.  Excessive consumption may cause a laxative effect.

Russell Stover Sugar Free Dark Chocolate Mint, 3 oz (85g)
Kansas City, MO
Ingredients: consist of dark chocolate (maltitol, chocolate (processed with alkali), cocoa butter milk fat (milk), soy lecithin (an emulsifier), salt, vanillin/an artificial flavor and sucralose), chocolate candy (maltitol, chocolate, cocoa butter, sodium casenate (milk), milk fat, soy lecithin/an emulsifier, sucralose, natural and artificial flavour, and salt), partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, and peppermint oil.  Allergy information: Products have been produced on shared equipment  with peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and wheat.  Excessive consumption may cause a laxative effect.