Among the very first reviews I wrote on this site were The Grown Up Chocolate Company’s Salted Peanut Caramel Cracker and Crunchy PralineWonder Bar. I loved them both and they’re both among the highest scoring bars on here- they were packed with flavour, very fresh and a joy to eat. So it was with real excitement that I learnt that The Grown Up Chocolate Company also ran a chocolate tasting club, similar to that of Hotel Chocolat.
The Grown Up Chocolate Company Tasting Box:
After initially having a spot of bother buying a box from their website (which was my fault- I’m an idiot with computers), I spoke to their very helpful MD, James, who went one better than helping me buy one…and sent me one of their monthly variety boxes for free to review. So thanks to James for that.
Before I start off on the chocolates, I’l just fill you in with a few snippets of info- firstly, this review could well be a long’un! There were a number of chocolates to review and so much to write about… love them or not, I don’t think anybody could call The Grown Up Chocolate’s products boring! Secondly, when I spoke to the company last month, their monthly variety box happened to be Olympic themed, so not only are there some cool flavours, but also a ‘Mystery Bar’. More on that later though.
The box was perfectly sized to pop through my letterbox and looked simple but elegant, but it was after opening the box up that things really got exciting. Within the cardboard box were so many shapes, sizes, colours and textures. As a subscriber to the Hotel Chocolat tasting club, I’m in a position to compare the two, and they were poles apart- the best way I can describe the difference is with an analogy. If the two boxes were parties, Hotel Chocolat’s box would be a formal, black-tie dinner party, whilst The Grown Up Chocolate Company’s would be a street party. I say this as a Hotel Chocolat ‘fanboy’ (and regular customer) but this box was more colourful, interesting and exciting to look at.
In the box were fourteen different flavoured chocolates (and two of each variety amounting to 28 bite size chocolates), as well as two green coloured pastilles, a piece of fudge, a large ‘mystery bar’ (which you’ll see in the photo above) and a full sized chocolate bar as well.
Similarly priced to Hotel Chocolat, a few of the chocolates are smaller here (in that they’re a little thinner than their Hotel Chocolat counterparts), however you get the full sized bar, the large ‘mystery bar’, fudge and pastilles on top of the large chocolate contingent…so for value for money, I think that The Grown Up Chocolate Company edge it here.
Anyway, enough of that. I’l move on to the chocolates themselves now- individually of course as they each deserve their moment in the spotlight. The photo of each chocolate will come first, with my thoughts underneath.
Arriba- I loved the Olympic design on the chocolate here- it was nice attention to detail and it adds that little bit extra to the chocolate. The texture of the chocolate was fantastic- a firm and solid shell contrasted terrifically with a gorgeously soft and smooth inside. Initially very creamy, the chocolate then melted away on the tongue and left a pleasant chocolatey aftertaste. This was a nice chocolate.
Baklava- Based on the popular dessert from countries like Greece and Turkey, I’m not entirely sure what was in the Baklava chocolate but it was delicious! The inside was a soft truffle but also had some nut as well as a layer of sticky caramel. The taste was beautifully buttery, sweet and had a nutty element which came through strongly over the top of the chocolate and caramel. The flavour combination was much like a classier, nuttier Daim Bar- buttery and sweet with some crunch.
Earl Grey- I’m a big tea drinker (very stereotypically English in that regard!) but I’ve never much enjoyed tea flavoured chocolates so it was with a bit of trepidation that I popped this into my mouth and took a bite. After the (as usual) chocolate richness has died down from the soft middle, I got the herby flavour at the back of my throat from the tea. I didn’t hate it but the tea element was a little strong for me personally- though that is more a reflection of the fact that I prefer a plain chocolate to one with tea in it! If you like tea flavoured chocolates, you’ll probably love this, but it wasn’t for me.
Ecuador- This was a cocoa rich dark chocolate. At 70%, it wasn’t overly bitter, carrying a little acidity alongside the ‘earthy’ flavour that The Grown Up Chocolate Company had promised. As dark chocolates go, this was decent but not outstanding. There was some flavour development beyond the rich chocolate but this isn’t an award winner from the box, more of a solid team player. For any cricket fans…this is a Tim Bresnan rather than a KP!
Ginger- The flavour here was pleasant- a sweet milk chocolate shell, with a centre of blended chocolate and ginger. The balance between the two components was very well judged for me, with the chocolate melting away very smoothly leaving VERY flavour dense ginger pieces on the tongue which could be crunched away at. It was kind of like a ginger nut biscuit crumbled into a milky chocolate in both texture and flavour.
Hazelnut Truffle- ‘Milk chocolate made with Turkish Hazelnuts’ was the description here from The Grown Up Chocolate Company, but that doesn’t come close to conveying how good this was. The centre was predominantly a truffle but had a beautiful whole hazelnut at the heart of the chocolate. The whole nut was great- it was obviously very fresh; you could tell that from the crunch it had. On top of the nut, the truffle was essentially a much more refined Nutella. Creamy, nutty, sweet… fantastic. The only thing I wasn’t sure about here was the coating… I’m not entirely sure what the white dusting on the chocolate was! The Hazelnut Truffle was lovely though.
Honey Truffle- With by far the ‘wettest’ chocolate centre, the Honey Truffle was an enjoyably different texture to the smooth, soft consistency which was present with the majority of the chocolates. With a moderately dark coating and a very, very sweet middle, this was the classic contrast between sweet and semi-bitter. The honey was a little too sweet for me, much as I liked the texture.
Jamaica- The Jamaica chocolate was bloody thin. I picked it up out of the box and was astonished at the thickness (or lack of) of it. There wasn’t a lack of flavour though, with a fruity sweetness giving the centre a very ‘tropical’ feel. There wasn’t a lot else going on though- it had a nice fruitiness but coupled with some plain tasting milk chocolate it didn’t stand out which was a shame.
Java- I liked the Java chocolate a lot. The middle was luscious- it was velvety smooth and luscious on the tongue. There was an extra flavour dimension to it as well, as the inner chocolate had a caramel edge which gave the Java that little bit extra ‘wow’ factor. The best feature of the chocolate though was definitely the texture- sometimes I have a little giggle when people eat something like Galaxy and describe it as smooth and creamy… compared to stuff like the Java, it’s like licking a jagged rock!
Kiwi Pate De Fruit- This was an obvious eye catcher after opening the box. When you open any box of chocolates, seeing a green crystal that looks like it has come from a Harry Potter scene or something is a surprise but an exciting surprise. The texture just didn’t work for me though, although I get the feeling that the Pate De Fruit is a consistency that you’ll love or hate- the outside is (as you might be able to tell from the picture) very crunchy with a crystallised look to it, whilst the inside was surprisingly soft. I had expected it to be chewy akin to a fruit pastille but it was more of a jelly inside. The flavour was more of lime than Kiwi I thought but was actually very good; refreshing and not overly sweet.
Madagascar- You’ve probably got some déjà vu here. This shares the same design as the earlier Arriba chocolate, but was a 67% chocolate rather than the less rich Arriba. Firm on the outside, soft on the inside, this had a beautiful melt- terrifically smooth as so many of the chocolates here were. The dark chocolate itself had a lot of fruity notes to it…this was a good chocolate.
Orange- First of all, I picked the little orange nubbin from on top of the chocolate off and ate it alone. I wouldn’t normally do that, but it looked very intriguing…and after putting it into my mouth, it exploded with flavour. I don’t know what sorcery The Grown Up Chocolate Company used to squeeze that much tangy goodness into a little sweet the size of a pea, but I was impressed. The chocolate itself had a jelly centre with a very thin coating of dark chocolate enveloping it. I thought the orange element here was enjoyable; zesty and fruity…but the chocolate as a whole, even with only a VERY thin coating of dark chocolate, was too bitter.
Papua Truffle- This cannon ball looking chocolate was my least favourite in the whole box. It was much too one-dimensional and lacking flavour development. There was an initial bitterness from the chocolate shell…and then nothing. I was expecting something to ‘kick in’ flavour wise and was left disappointed when all I got was a plain chocolate. I think, if I had eaten this chocolate on its own, I would have thought it was ok…but next to some of the fantastic concoctions in this box, it was just boring for me.
Pecan Fudge- I mentioned earlier about how cool it was to get a few ‘extras’ thrown in to the Tasting Box alongside the basic chocolates, and this was something I had my eyes on as soon as I got the menu. I like my fudge, and pecans are probably my favourite type of nut, so this had the makings of a winner. After pausing to savour the attractive maple scent from this fudge, I took a bite. And then another bite. And then it was gone. This made me sad- because the Pecan Fudge was lovely. Crumbly fudge which melted very easily worked brilliantly with uber crunchy nuts embedded within the fudge. The flavour was of extremely sweet maple, but the fudge somehow didn’t become too cloying…the biggest compliment I can give here is that I would have believed that this had come from a specialist fudge company.
Raspberry and Pepper- More nice flavour variety here, with a smooth and creamy ganache (I think) centre of tart raspberry with just a hint of pepper. The balance was perfect in my opinion- the raspberries totally dominated the flavour until just a jot of pepper came through to temper the fruity sweetness with some savoury herbiness. The milk chocolate casing was, as ever, excellent.
Thyme and Blackcurrent- The final ‘regular’ chocolate to review, this sounded a lot stranger than it actually tasted. Another soft and smooth centre, the fruit flavour and herby thyme were surprisingly subtle. I had expected them to be rather blatant but it was the dark chocolate covering which was just as prevalent here. It was ok- nowt better, nowt worse.
American Marathon Bar- The full sized bar mentioned earlier, this was utterly, utterly delicious! It reminded me a lot of their Salted Peanut Caramel Cracker which I’ve reviewed before and currently has the highest rating on the website. Inside the milky chocolate coating were whole, vibrant peanuts (so crunchy like the bar had been made the day before or something) runny, golden caramel and a luscious buttercream/truffle mix, which tasted like it was a blend of chocolate and peanut butter or something. Making bold claims isn’t in my nature, but this was seriously one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my life. Sublime.
Mystery Milk Chocolate Bar- I mentioned this at the start of this (now epically long!) review. Basically, this bar has a mystery ingredient which is representative of a country in this Olympic themed box. To my taste buds though, this bar simply tasted like a more refined Galaxy- very creamy and with a pleasantly smooth melt. It went down very easily but I couldn’t taste anything extraordinary (this is probably when I find out it had chicken or something bizarre in it!) If I had to hazard a guess, I would think that it might have had alpine milk from Switzerland or Germany in it to give it that creaminess.
Above are my scores for each of the individual chocolates reviewed above. You’ll see a couple of rarities- 10 out of 10’s. They were for the American Marathon Bar and the Hazelnut Truffle, which were simply outstanding.
All in all, this was a cool box of chocolates. Nearly every single component was exciting to look at, smell and eat…which is exactly why you would subscribe to a monthly/occasional tasting club like this.
What sets this apart from buying a bog standard box of chocolates is the quality of the ingredients- you can really taste how fresh and lively everything is…it is the polar opposite to stale, boring boxes of chocolates like Milk Tray and All Gold and that stuff. The Grown Up Chocolate Company have a couple of fantastic stand alone bars I’ve eaten, and if this is the quality of their boxed chocolates, I’l be buying these in the future.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this ridiculously long review…and you’re still awake!
Box/Experience as a whole: Rating- 8.6/10.