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Posts Tagged ‘Theo’

Theo’s 3400 Phinney range has fared rather well on this blog. The Hazelnut Crunch and Coconut Curry bars are up there* with my favourite milk chocolates of all time, I absolutely adored the vegan Fig, Fennel and Almond dark chocolate, and Theo’s gorgeous packaging designs make me smile and say “Aw!” every time I look at them.

I figured it was about time I chatted about another of Theo’s dark chocolates. Sadly, this one ain’t vegan, for those of you of a mind to know such things. You see, thar’s butter in that thar sweetie, me hearties**!

Theo Nib Brittle Dark Chocolate

Theo Nib Brittle Dark Chocolate

The more I look at the lady on this packaging, the more I’m inclined to think she’s a bit of a tramp. Look at that cleavage! And that sideways glance! You can almost see, in her eyes and bowl of rocks, her devious plan to steal that Llama from its Llama girlfriend. Hmm. And now I can’t stop thinking about how if you say “nib brittle” really fast, it starts to sound like a part of human anatomy.

Wait, isn’t this meant to be a chocolate review? Someone tell me to get my mind out of the gutter. Surely it doesn’t matter that the female mascot is an illicit llama-lover, if the chocolate itself tastes good?

Theo Nib Brittle Dark Chocolate

This chocolate is comprised of cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa nibs, butter, corn syrup, water, salt, and ground vanilla bean. The majority of these ingredients are organic and almost all are fair-trade, which means you can indulge with a clear conscious (so long as you don’t mind a bit of llama-lovin’). (Hannah, seriously. Stop it.)

The aroma of this chocolate is pleasantly chocolatey with red fruit notes, although it isn’t as intense as, say, Valrhona or Amadei. Aesthetically-speaking, the bar is a lovely dark black-brown with a plethora of caramelised nibs peeking out at all times.

When I took my first bite, the first thing I noticed was the incredible crispiness of the nibs, which comes from their crackly, sugary, salt-and-vanilla-flecked caramelised coating. The flavour of the brittle often seems more caramel-sugar than earthy, assertive nibs, but there are certainly moments when the nibs’ woodsy coffee notes push through.

Theo Nib Brittle Dark Chocolate

At first this chocolate bar seems rather tentative in flavour, yet if you give it a moment to gather its confidence, you’ll be rewarded with a taste that draws hot fudge sauce, molasses, honey, red plums, earthy cocoa and caramel into a cohesive and delicious whole.

Oh, and sometimes this Nib Brittle chocolate tastes like a piece of toast that’s been topped with butter and sugar and caramelised under the grill. Which, I have to say, is a far pleasanter mental image to hold onto than that of a female floozy eloping with a llama.

* Where is up there? Saying something is “up there” (in order to proclaim its amazingness) is rather a strange turn of phrase, don’t you think? Or perhaps I am simply confuddled from marking essays. I wish I could talk about that on this blog, but I can’t, even though I’m marking for another university. Strangled noise.

** In case you can’t tell, I do an awesome pirate.

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It’s the return of the gorgeous Theo designs! The last time I showcased a chocolate from Theo’s 3400 Phinney range, I was in raptures. The Hazelnut Crunch remains one of the best milk chocolates I’ve had, although admittedly the scrumptiousness was more about the salty-toffee-roasted-nuts than the chocolate itself…

I’ve allowed this particular Theo chocolate to jump the review queue (I ate it only days ago, whereas I still have chocolates from my travels to talk about) because of a certain Broadway-and-butter-loving New Zealand lass: the ever-creative Laura of Hungry and Frozen. In her response to my self-designed chocolate with curry powder, edamame, and pomegranate granola, She Of Little Faith expressed a desire – nay, a need – to be convinced of the harmonious nature of curry and chocolate.

Laura, this is for you.

Theo Coconut Curry Milk Chocolate

Theo Coconut Curry Milk Chocolate

People, not cats, this time!

From the moment I freed this chocolate from its paper cage, I knew the “curry” of the title was not going to be a subtle flavour softly pulling at my mind like near-forgotten song lyrics hiding at the edges of consciousness. No, this curry flavour was going to be more like a six-year-old tugging at his/her mother’s shirt while she talks to a fellow parent in the carpark after school. (“Mum. Mum. Mum. MUM. Mum. Mu-u-u-mmmm. Mum. Mum.”*)

How did I know the curry was going to be whizz-pow, not softly-softly? Two things. First, the aroma burst forth with strong and heady notes of toasted curry – turmeric and fenugreek were the first to emerge. Second, the chocolate’s use of yellow curry powder was physically apparent, not only in a slight tinge to the chocolate itself but on the paper in which it was encased. Wherever the chocolate had touched the paper, the paper was yellow. Like magic. See Exhibit Below:

Theo Coconut Curry Milk Chocolate

It was all yellow...

The aroma was ridiculously enticing. I felt bubbly with happiness even before I broke off a square and placed it between my lips. When I did so break and place, my pleasure only increased. The spices are not backwards in coming forwards and, unlike the more common chilli in chocolate, are hot rather than spicy. For anyone tentative around curry-heat, beware. This chocolate creates a definite burn at the back of the throat, a burn that lingers and tantalises and makes you (or at least me) go back for more.

I noted cumin, then decided that turmeric, fenugreek, and cardamom were the leaders of the spice pack. I thought of tikka masala, ground coriander, deliciousness… I peeked at the packaging to read that the bar’s yellow curry powder incorporates coriander, turmeric, mustard, cumin, fenugreek, paprika, red pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. Yep, this ain’t no wallflower curry.

Theo Coconut Curry

Lots and lots of coconut.

The coconut contributes to the curry flavour (you know, as in a curry with coconut in it…), but it also adds to and highlights the chocolate’s sweetness. This is a milk chocolate, after all, even if at 40% it’s at the darker edge of the milk spectrum. The coconut makes the chocolate very “bitsy”, texture-wise, so if you don’t like crunch, you may not like this.

I, personally, love Theo’s Coconut Curry Milk Chocolate. I can imagine that the strength of the curry powder could be a turn-off for many people – it’s an odd combination to get your head around, the first time you try it, but I came around so quickly that I think I’ve got whiplash.

I really wish I could get this in Australia.

* Do you remember doing that? I do. The only part I can’t remember is whether I truly thought she couldn’t hear me, or whether I knew she was ignoring me and that this attention-tug-of-war was a battle of wills.

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Once more, I’m jumping my chocolate review queue to talk about yesterday’s chocolates rather than, for example, the chocolates I had five weeks ago in New York. But what can you do? The first of these was quite delicious, and the second constituted another shock to my dark-chocolate-loving system, so I decree that they deserve speedy recognition. 

Also, they both have pretty packaging. 

The Tea Room Organic Milk Chocolate Bar Infused with Black Masala Chai Tea

The Tea Room Milk Chocolate Bar Infused with Black Masala Chai Tea

I love this packaging. Is it tea? Is it chocolate? It's busy, but it works.

I had never heard of this chocolate company prior to two days ago, when I spotted a few of its bars at a Wegmans in Virginia. As the charming L.FoodieFulbright and L.MiteMaster can attest, I did my little chocolate-happy-dance, right there in the aisle, whilst popping two flavours (the second of which will be reviewed another time) into my shopping basket. 

In 2009, The Tea Room won a Fancy Food Show Silver Award for Excellence for its Green Earl Grey Dark Chocolate, yet as I’m not a fan of Earl Grey tea, I’m here reviewing the Milk Chocolate Bar Infused with Black Masala Chai Tea. Along with black tea, the spices “infused” into the bar are cardamom, cinnamon, pepper and clove, with each of these components being certified organic. 

The Tea Room Milk Chocolate Bar Infused with Black Masala Chai Tea
Very smooth and glossy, so that’s a tick.

The Tea Room captures well the flavour of chai tea, from the tea’s milky sweetness to its complex blend of spices. The spices here each contribute to the chocolate’s overall flavour without any one becoming overpowering. However, each spice does, on occasion, fleetingly assert itself. It is almost as if each spice likes to poke out its head from time to time and wave at you, before disappearing back into the sweet, milky amalgamation that is the overall flavour. In addition, the pepper creates a vague hint of heat on the palate, thereby providing a welcome, if subtle, counterpoint to the honey-and-vanilla-ice-cream sweetness of the milk chocolate itself. 

 Theo Hazelnut Crunch

Theo Hazelnut Crunch
It’s the return of the lovable Theo designs!

Oh boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. This chocolate almost forced me to switch allegiance from the dark to the milk side of the chocolate fence, but I think I’m still mostly in the dark camp. Perhaps just my left leg is crossing the line? 

This is amazing. Buttery crispy caramelly toffee salty crispy nutty buttery toffee salty nutty roasted salty amazing. I wish I could write something cleverer and more in keeping with the literary skills of someone who just wrote a 28,000-word thesis, but I have looked back at my tasting notes, and they’re all but illegible. Moderately inappropriate for any potential younger readers, too. 

Theo Hazelnut Crunch
So much salty crispy toffee hazelnut goodness.

With the rather banal name of “hazelnut crunch”, I thought this Theo bar was going to be little more than chopped-up hazelnuts and milk chocolate. It’s so much more. The little nubbins of goodness that (as you can see) stud the bar are not just bits of hazelnut, they are speckles of salty, darkly-roasted hazelnut brittle (at least, that’s my guess. I’m no Theo chocolatier). 

Theo Hazelnut Crunch
Odd composition, yes. But see what I mean about the hazelnut brittle/toffee deliciousness?

The combination of the buttery saltiness, the darker, almost burnt edge to the toffee, and the flavour of the roasted hazelnuts makes the smooth milk chocolate seem like a binding agent rather than a focal point – and that is fine by me. 

 In fact, it makes me feel better about the whole scenario, as I can keep my dark chocolate allegiance intact by justifying that my love here is all about the “hazelnut crunch”. Everybody wins!

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Seattle chocolate company Theo produces several different lines of chocolate, including a single origin range, “classic combination” bars, some rather fantastic-looking caramels and, of course, the gorgeously-packaged 3400 Phinney chocolates which, to my mind, are the most interesting of the lot.

In the sad and desolate times that were my pre-blog years, I tested out quite a few chocolates from the 3400 Phinney stable. From memory, I loved the Nib Brittle (but I always love cacao nibs), thought the Chai Milk Chocolate could be stronger in spice, found the Bread and Dark Chocolate interesting with a nice crunch, and gave a big tick to the Coconut Curry Milk Chocolate. This last was certainly not lacking in spice oomph and had a distinctly savoury edge, yet once my tastebuds knew what to expect, I loved it (even more than Vosges’ similar Naga bar). While in New York, however, I chanced across one of Theo’s newest 3400 Phinney bars, the vegan…

Fig, Fennel and Almond Dark Chocolate

Theo 3400 Phinney Fig Fennel and Almond Dark Chocolate

Aww, lookee the cute graphics!

This is a deliciously rich, dark and complex bar with a delightfully crisp snap and glossy red-black appearance. The fennel is present in the aroma but is not overpowering, and this follows through into the taste. Certainly there is a slightly herby quality to flavour, but this is mixed in with the nuttiness of the roasted almonds, the deep sweetness of the dried figs, and the woodsy and tobacco tones of the chocolate itself.

Theo 3400 Phinney Fig Fennel and Almond Dark Chocolate

Almonds for calcium!

The almonds provide crunch and the figs both chewiness and crunch, the latter presumably from figs’ tiny seeds. I adored this chocolate, and for anyone who feels tentative about fennel, I assure you it isn’t overpowering. You can trust me on this – fennel is akin to anise, anise is akin to liquorice, and I do not like liquorice. Therefore the fennel is not icky.

(Is that not a lovely equation from someone who hasn’t taken Maths in years?)

Two thumbs up for this chocolate. It is dark, smoky, buttery, sweet deliciousness. Moreover, it is vegan, gluten-free, and made from a mere seven easy-to-pronounce ingredients: cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, almond, figs, fennel and ground vanilla bean (no el-cheapo fake vanillin here!), all of which are Fair Trade certified, if that floats your boat.*

And look! I found an old photo of one of the other bars, so here is more cuteness (again suited to all you cat-folk out there):

Theo 3400 Phinney Bread and Chocolate

Meow!

*If that does float your boat, I have a 28,000 word thesis on ethical consumption just waiting for such wonderful, eager readers as you lot… It includes many references and pages dedicated to chocolate. No, really, it does.

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