Hey folks, it’s february and I really appreciate all of you, for reading my reviews and making this blog feel worthwhile. Chilli is my love and my passion but it’s you, dear readers, who give my writing meaning. And so, with that in mind, I’d like to share my valentine’s day chocolates with you.
Chocolates which are, of course, very on brand for my site ;).
This year’s come to me from Somerset Chilli Garden – Not to be confused with The Somerset Chilli Co. – and were actually sent to me a little in advance of their public release. Since a friend of mine happens to live nearby and put me in touch, back when they were still just prototypes.
What I have now, however, are the finished release. Just a little bit early, in order to give you all a good look at what’s inside, before you buy.
Here’s how the open box looks:
Some honestly quite pretty chocolates, just thrown in, haphazardly, with no real protection or presentation. Just a cardboard box with a little glittery tissue paper.
There are no significant breakages, since this little box was shipped to me inside of a very heavily padded, reused shoe box, but it really doesn’t look great. And looks are a big thing, when you’re selling to the romantic gift market.
But let’s not judge their quality right away. Let’s see what’s inside first. And let’s start with Their Lemon Chilli White Chocolate:
It’s white chocolate, drizzled in yellow and filled with a citrussy, white chocolate gnaché. One which gets its subtly peppery, lemon flavour from chunks of of candied, yellow ají limo. More commonly known as the lemondrop chilli.
In short, it’s a spicy twist on a classic chocolate truffle flavour, using the perfect pepper for the job and taking on an almost icing-like flavour, along the way.
As well as a surisingly hot
burn, at the back of my tongue and in my throat. Sharp, like the baccatum chilli that it is.
Then there are the Almond Caramel Chilli Chocolate Cups, wrapped in dark, maroon foil. Which open up to look something like this:
Fairly unassuming, really. Just solid chocolate, generously dotted with fragments of peppers and nuts.
Yet, once again, it works. The nuts and the caramelised sugar come together to provide a crunch and toasted taste, reminiscent of particularly good rice crispy treats, while the slight sweetness of that sugar is offset by the bird’s eye chilli‘s subtle bitterness. And its dry, more front of the mouth
heat is a perfect match for that dry flavour.
Whereas, in lighter, orange-coloured foil, we see something very different:
These Orange Habanero Hearts, with a liquid core of what tastes like honeyed marmalade. The mildest of the bunch, at only a high
heat, despite using the strongest chilli.
And that chilli is also a only a small part of the flavour, yet it accentuates the lightly perfumed taste of the chocolate’s orange peel shreds and pairs very well with those golden honey notes, too.
Honestly, this one’s probably my least favourite, of the bunch, just because of the mixed textures – firm chocolate, thin, gooey centre and small, chewy shreds of peel – but that certainly doesn’t make it bad.
All four are tasty and the last of the bunch is this:
Their Raspberry Pistachio Chilli Chocolate Gnaché. A particularly fiery blend of smooth, soft chocolate, tangy, pink berry and fragrant, red chilli, which peaks at the low end of a
heat, across the middle of the tongue. Duller than I’m used to, from a habanero, but it’s definitely got that chinense flavour.
It’s quite an an unusual strain, actually. Fragrant, as I mentioned, yet with a soft, red, peppery taste. Not a floral one.
It’s the “paper lantern” variety, which I talked about all the way back in my lantern fruit gulab jamun racipe. And, while it wasn’t a perfect fit for that recipe, it works very nicely with the pink berries in today’s chocolate.
I don’t get a lot of the pistachio but everything that I do get is great.
Somerset Chilli Garden have done an amazing job at blending relatively normal, well-loved chocolate flavours with the perfect, complementary chillies. A different pepper for each and every flavour.
Their knowledge of their craft is excellent but, sadly, I can’t say that the overall experience is as perfect as their use of chillies. Because, not only does their presentation leave a lot to be desired but so, too, does the craftsmanship of their chocolate.
I’m used to a very high quality of cocoa product, in my reviews, because I feature artisan products and the small companies involved have usually either put the time and effort into mastering their tempering techniques or outsourced to someone that has.
Somerset Chilli Garden’s chocolate lacks the glossy texture that we’ve seen from those other producers, so I knew from the moment that I opened the box that they’d lack the divine, melt in the mouth quality of Grim Reaper Foods’, Doctor Burnorium’s, Daddy Cool’s, Screaming Chimp’s and even Prices Spices’ bars. I don’t feel like what they’ve crafted, here, is any different to what I, myself, could make with their recipes.
Yet, at the same time, those recipes really do work well. They do make great flavours and they do make amazing use of their peppers. I’m still fond of their work and, if you’re not quite as used to high-quality chocolate as I am, you’ll probably enjoy this box a lot.
So, yes, I still see today’s product as a viable valentines gift, for chilli lovers. I just see some room for improvement, come next year.
And, for this year, make sure you get in touch right away, if you want to get a box in time. Postage is likely to take two or three days, judging by my experience. Just so you know.