Thursday, September 23, 2010

Whittaker's Dark Caramel and Dark Ghana Peppermint

So, it's been a little bit since the last review.  Turns out unexpected and slightly major dental work will drastically reduce one's ability to consume candy, who would have guessed!  It didn't help that for two days my mouth would only open a few centimetres.  But that's behind me now, on to better things.... like rich dark chocolate!

These two blocks were purchased for me by my brother E on a recent visit to New Zealand.  Okay, I'll admit it, I specifically requested he see if he could find them, I've been able to source some of Whittaker's chocolates in Australia but not these two and they were the ones I was most interested in.

But first, a little history!  Whittaker's Chocolate has been produced since 1896 according to their website.  The original founder, James Henry Whittaker sold handmade chocolate and confections from a horse and cart to the locals in Christchurch, by 1913 a base of operations had been created in Wellington and plans to expand across New Zealand had been formed.

During 1931 Woolworths Australia expanded into New Zealand and were selected to carry some of Whittaker's products, on a side note Woolworths and Big W were the two locations I was able to find some in Australia, a very limited range based on what I can see on their website.

Today Whittaker's roast their own cocoa beans for their chocolate and produce chocolate, toffee chews and fruit bars in their range.  The website lists the Peanut Slab as the most popular product, I haven't tried it though my friend Annie had a spasm last time we were in a chocolate store and she saw them.  I'm guessing she likes them.

Gooey caramel filling
However back to the chocolate at hand, I'm a softie for a good bit of dark chocolate.  I'll often pick it over milk, especially when I want a good hit of chocolatey endorphines.  Whittaker's Dark Caramel really delivers on the dark chocolate flavour, it's a sweet smelling bar that actually smells sweeter than it tastes.  Rich cocoa notes and a fruity note come through if you allow it to melt on the tongue.

The caramel filling was intriguing, it's not like any caramel I've tried before.  Light, and syrupy it was a really pleasanty contrast the the strong chocolate flavours, it toned down the coffee notes in the chocolate and was a really nice balance.  Think a strong cheese and and sweet fruit, the create harmony on the palate.  This bar was largely the favourite in my family, only ER wouldn't try them, she doesn't eat dark chocolate.

The Dark Ghana Peppermint was a real treat and the one I was most looking forward to.  It's a single origin chocolate, meaning all the beans are sourced from Ghana, like coffee this creates a particular flavour that is specific to the region due to different growing conditions, plants, soil quality and so on.

I've tasted single origin before and I really can assure you there is a difference. I've heard of single plantation chocolate which I'm dying to try, particularly as cacao plants are notoriously temperamental so making a chocolate bar from a single plantation shows commitment.

Single origin chocolate is not something that I would recommend as everyday eating, it has greater complexities than a regular bar of chocolate and really if you're going single origin the point is to taste the region within the chocolate.  In this case I'd say Ghana tastes smoky with a sharp and surprising berry quality.  Based on the Dark caramel I wasn't expecting anything quite so zinging, it was nice and the peppermint fondat that was smoothly flowing and delicately flavoured cut the fruity notes in the chocolate extremely well.
Flowing pepperminty filling.

Both bars came to me in excellent condition, bear in mind they were purchased in New Zealand, then endured however long in my brother's luggage, a plane trip back to Australia and a trip through customs before arriving in my hands.  Both were shiny and had zero damage, both had a nice snap and good bite to them, which are all things I want in a bar of chocolate.

The Final Verdict: 4 - Whittaker's makes some delicious products, both of these were worth the effort and time.  The Dark Caramel probably won out as the favourite, given the unexpectedly good caramel that was hidden inside.  However the Dark Ghana Peppermint definitely had the better tasting chocolate.  If I could get these in Australia both would be purchased again in a heartbeat.

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