One of the big problems chocolatiers face during the summer is keeping people buying chocolate throughout the warm months when there are few excuses to by chocolate other than birthdays and Father’s Day. Somehow, though, Hotel Chocolat manages to bring out new collections that really do grab the attention of a good few hundreds of thousands of people. I was going to jump into the most delicious looking of the collections they sent me, but I thought I’d work up to those and start with what I call ‘personal treat’ chocolates – those ones you’d buy for yourself because you’ll be enticed by their filled chocolates when it comes to gifts for others.
Over the past few years Hotel Chocolate have created some absolutely wonderful summer chocolates. Their fruity and zingy puddles come to mind. Now, I’ll never shy away from saying my heart and head lie with origin chocolate, but there’s just something utterly satisfying on a hot day munching on some of their fruity chocolate. With this selection of 35g flavoured bars they’ve found some middle ground, part playful chocolate and part playful delight. For your tenner you’ll get five of them, one each of Raspberry & Pomegranate, Orange & Elderflower, Mint & Chilli, Earl Grey & Lemon and a Banana & Caramel.
The first of these, the Raspberry & Pomegranate had a very refreshing flavour and a curious texture – most probably from the successful attempt to mimic the texture of the pomegranate using crystals produced from the fruit. There were also crispy pieces from the raspberry which gave that section of the bar a completely different texture. I know it must be hard to produce interesting seasonal chocolate in significant quantities, but I think they’ve certainly achieved something delightful here.
I generally don’t get on too well with orange-flavoured chocolate and that part of the Orange & Elderflower bar didn’t match the heights of the previous, whilst I thought the elderflower milk chocolate part was nicely original and punchy. Of course that milk chocolate is fairly sweet but it most definitely works against the slightly tart elderflower.
The guys at Hotel Chocolat combine my two favourite ingredients with the next: mint and chilli. When you open the wrapper you’ll be hit with a very powerful flash of mint that will linger. On tasting that mint is slow to get going but as the chocolate melts you’ll know it’s just a tantalising foreplay for the chilli that will kick in moment later and gently satisfy the back of your throat. It’s far less powerful than most chilli chocolate and that’s a good thing. I suspect that most of their customers don’t want their taste buds blown off, but merely want them entertained – and this bar certainly does that.
Lemon chocolate is another that I know I shouldn’t like, but actually do – especially when it’s incredibly hot. It just reminds me of the time on holiday when I found lemon Cornettos. I’ve never seen them since but sitting in the hot Mediterranean sun lapping up one of those is an incredibly fond memory. Hotel Chocolat can’t provide the weather, but they can provide a mild tanginess combined with some very creamy chocolate. Again this is one to have with a cool drink in the garden whilst reading the newspapers on a late Sunday afternoon.
The Banana and Caramel was always going to be a sweet affair but the banana milk chocolate was fair less sweet than I anticipated. Only at the end of the melt did it start to accelerate. Other than that it had a very realistic banana flavour which seems to be uncommon with chocolate produced in this quantity. The caramel part of the bar also adds some interest, but not anywhere as near as the banana part.
I shouldn’t have enjoyed these as much as I can, mostly because I love their Rabot Estate chocolate. But when you mix the heat with fruity, sharp chocolate that is far less sweet than you expected then you know you’re onto a winner.