Saturday, July 24, 2010

UHA Uji Matcha Azuki Milk CuCu

CuCu Matcha Candy

Without shame, I'll admit that the pictures of gorgeous marbled cubes on the front of this bag drew me in. Of course, the matcha flavor didn't hurt at all, since it never takes much convincing to make me buy matcha sweets. These were under $3 at a Japanese import grocery store.

The little cube dog on the bag said Cute Cube which is probably the origin of the name, CuCu. The candy is supposed to be a medley of Uji matcha, Hokkaido azuki, and condensed milk.

Cucu Matcha Candy

The candies were shaped like dice, and though they weren't quite as pretty as the picture on the bag (the actual white stripe was rather dull), they were still lovely candies. The matcha flavor was strong and immediate, with buttery and rich hints of condensed milk. There were some hints of azuki flavor, but they served the matcha well.

They never got sharp like some candies can, and they maintained their rounded cube shape throughout the entire smooth melt. The packaging was super cute, too, but I wish the wrappers were clear so that I could admire the marbled cubes in my candy dish. These were delicious, and I had no trouble eating 2 or 3 in a row. It's yet another example of matcha done well by UHA.

Check out another review at The Candy Bowl.


UHA website

Friday, July 23, 2010

Kabaya Hello Kitty Strawberry Milk

Hello Kitty Strawberry Milk
Press Sample

Don't judge a book by its cover doesn't really apply to candy, but maybe it should. I tend to gravitate towards Hello Kitty products, so I was really excited to see this bag in my sample package from Half the bag is Kitty's face - the candy must be good.

My expectations only got higher when I opened the bag. As shown in the following photo, the white, round candies were individually wrapped in clear plastic so that each piece looked like Hello Kitty's face. It is definitely some of the cutest and cleverest packaging I've seen since I started this blog 2 years ago.

Hello Kitty Candy

The candy was a different story. The concept was rather complex; there was a crisp and chewy outer sugar coating, then an inner layer of intensely sweet white chocolate, all surrounding a hard and crunchy strawberry-flavored center (like the center of a Gobstopper) with candy pieces inside. It was a little overwhelming, and not at all what I imagined.

Instead of tasting like milk, the white chocolate layer tasted like sugar, and pairing it with a crunchy sugar coating didn't help. The center was so hard that it hurt to chew, and the strawberry flavor was pretty typical, but it was hard to pick out from all that sweetness. It's the white chocolate layer that ruined it for me, because if it was just a candy shell around the strawberry center, I think I would have liked this candy much more.

Kitty Candy

Because the design was so clever, I rated these a little higher than I would have based on taste alone. The packaging is that cute. The candy just didn't suit my tastes at all, but one of my friends really liked them and graciously finished the bag for me.


Kabaya website

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thorntons Chocolate Bars

day 168

These bars were a gift from my boss, as a thank-you for watering her plants while she was away. I'm not sure it was fair, because all I had to do was water a couple tiny pots and she gave me all this chocolate! I'm not going to argue, though.

Thorntons chocolate isn't available in the United States, so whenever my boss and her husband return to the UK, they stock up. It's not a brand I've seen in import stores, either, so this was my first time tasting Thorntons. These three bars are Cappuccino, Whipped Fudge, and Mint.

Thorntons Cappuccino

The first bar I tried was Cappuccino, and the first thing I noticed is that it was incredibly soft! It wasn't that it was melted, it was just that the white chocolate coating and the center were light and airy. It had a strong coffee scent, and the center had a strong cappuccino flavor, with a smooth, almost minty coating. The flavors went together well, and overall it wasn't too sweet but a nice and balanced bitter. It melted in my fingers, because the center was almost like whipped truffle ganache. I saved half to take home, but it got a bit melted during the 15 minute drive from work. I should probably mention that my air conditioning is broken... B

Thorntons Fudge Bar

Next, I tried the Whipped Fudge Bar. It smelled like fudge, and had a vein of caramel running through the center. This caramel was the best part of this bar! It was oozy and sticky, and just the perfect level of sweetness. The fudge center was gritty, and it had the texture of faux cookie dough. It felt a little heavy for something with "whipped" in the title, and it was a bit too sweet, but since I'm a sucker for cookie dough, I didn't mind. My husband wasn't too fond of this one, though. B-

Thorntons Mint Bar

I saved the Mint Bar for last, and it was worth it. The bar smelled so very minty, and it delivered. There were crunchy peppermint bits in the center of the bar that reminded me of crushed candy canes. The chocolate on the outside was firm, and it was a fantastic pair for the creamy, cool mint ganache-like center. It was a lovely bar, and my favorite of the three. A-

Thorntons website

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Trader Joe's 85% Cacao Bar

Trader Joe's 85% Cocoa

I have to drive almost an hour to get to a Trader Joe's, but I love the store. They carry so many interesting products that I just can't find in my area (even with our fancy grocery store). Last time I was there, this bar, The Dark Chocolate Lover's Chocolate Bar, was an impulse buy.

Unlike the Hageland bars I've been loving recently, the Trader Joe's bar contains soy lecithin - spoiling an otherwise bare-bones list of ingredients. Soy lecithin, for better or worse, can alter the flow properties of chocolate and replaces more expensive ingredients. It's hard to complain because Trader Joe's prices are very low for a reason, but it's definitely possible to make affordable chocolate bars without filler ingredients.

Trader Joe's 85% Cocoa

It was very hard for me to place the scent of this bar, and all that I could come up with was that it smelled a bit toasty and nutty. The first bite was very bitter, and it was a bit crumbly to chew. As it began to melt, the bitterness gave way to an intense, fruity flavor.

There was no aftertaste and no oily feeling in my mouth once the chocolate was gone. I've found that many dark chocolate bars have a similarly clean finish. The chocolate was not too acidic and the flavor was pleasant, but a little flat. The fruitiness never went anywhere, and I found myself wishing for a little more depth and complexity.

Read more reviews at Chocablog and Annmarie Kostyk's blog.


Trader Joe's Website

Monday, July 19, 2010

Meiji Strawberry Cheesecake Kinoko no Yama

Strawberry Cheesecake Kinoko no Yama

These special edition Kinoko no Yama and Takenoko no Sato boxes really aren't a good deal. I don't know how much they cost in Japan, but in the United States, they are usually one of the pricier snacks in Japanese grocers, often over $3 a box.

For that price, there really isn't that much inside. This package might have had 6 or 7 individually wrapped pieces. That's probably good for portion control, but it's beginning to get to me in terms of value.

Kinoko no Yama Strawberry Cheesecake

It had a potent strawberry smell with a hint of cheesiness. There were actual strawberry seeds embedded in the chocolate, and the strawberry flavor was pretty authentic. The cheese taste was subtle, a little yogurty, but recognizable.

The cookie/chocolate balance in the larger size held up better than the Takenoko no Sato that I tried recently, but the chocolate did feel a bit overwhelming and sweet on the finish. In general, though, I'd say these were better than the average strawberry cookie snack.


Meiji website

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Orbit Perfect Peach and Berry Red

Orbit Perfect Peach
Orbit Berry Red

Despite my recent lack of Orbit gum reviews, I have continued my quest to try every flavor. Orbit has made that rather difficult lately, with the barrage of new flavors released in the past few months. I've tried them all, but some of them slipped through the review cracks. Don't worry, things are under control at Gum Alert!

But I did review two of the new flavors, Perfect Peach and Berry Red. I liked the bright packaging, and both seemed like good flavors for summer. I haven't seen much peach gum, so I was especially excited for that one.

Orbit Perfect Peach

Perfect Peach smelled sour and juicy, and the initial flavor was pretty strong and fairly authentic. I was reminded of a sour, not quite ripe peach. The gum felt cool but not minty. The chew was nice and bouncy without being too tough, but most of the flavor was gone within a few minutes. B

Orbit Berry Red

Berry Red smelled so much like medicine. It didn't taste as quite as strong as it smelled, thankfully. The gum was tangy and juicy, with a false mixed berry flavor that reminded me of bubble gum. Again, the texture of the gum was good, but it lost flavor quickly. The gum was chewable, but too medicine-like for me to buy again. C-

Orbit website

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tohato Matcha Caramel Corn

Tohato Matcha Caramel Corn

The kind people at noticed my penchant for matcha, so this matcha Tohato caramel corn was just one of several matcha products in the samples they sent.

Tohato is a Japanese snack company, and Caramel Corn is one of their best known snacks, along with Tyrant Habanero. The two product lines are practically polar opposites (except that both are crunch snacks); Caramel Corn is sweet and sports some cute packaging whereas Tyrant Habanero is spicy and features Halloweenish "scary" faces.

Tohato Matcha Caramel Corn

This matcha caramel corn was made with kuromitsu (brown sugar syrup), which has a flavor like mild molasses. I could smell the kuromitsu, alone with hints of matcha. It was a light and crunch snack, and I could really taste the bitterness from the kuromitsu. It went very well with the green tea flavor, which also has a slight bitterness. To balance out the molasses and tea flavors, there was a moderate dose of sweetness.

The finish had a bit of fruitiness, and it really reminded me of a sugary cereal (maybe Froot Loops). The texture was like a cereal, too, and it even cut the roof of my mouth. Everything about these was light and addictive, although they left a slight oily film in my mouth. Despite the film, I ate half the bag in one sitting. I'd advise you to either do the same or share them with friends quickly, because after only a few hours open (rolled up with a rubber band), they had started to go stale.


Tohato Caramel Corn website

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pure Green Apple Gummies

Pure Apple Gummies

What more can I say about Pure gummies that I haven't already said? Instead, I think I'll blog about my childhood penchant for apple juice. It was my beverage of choice every time I flew on a plane or rode in a train, from age 7 to 17.

Really, I didn't fly that often, but the memory just stuck. As a result, I've always associated apple juice with the excitement of traveling. I haven't drank apple juice in years, but even things that smell like it give me the urge to travel.

Pure Apple Gummies

The open bag smelled like apple juice, and yes, I felt the urge to take a train to Montreal or fly to Disneyworld. The gummies were sour, and they had a nice, tart apple flavor.

As with all Pure gummies, the flavor was very authentic. Apple fans would probably really love these. See, even though I like apple juice and apples, apple candy has never really been my thing. Still, these were very tasty, but not my favorite Pure flavor.


Pure Website

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Calpis Marshmallows

Calpis Marshmallows

Calpis products call out to me whenever I see them, but this is one of the weirder ones. These marshmallows came in a strip of four bags for $3.39 US, which seemed a little pricey, but just unique enough for me to purchase anyway.

Although I like S'mores and Rice Krispie Treats, plain old marshmallows aren't really my thing. Maybe it's the overwhelming sweetness, maybe it's the texture, maybe it's the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man's fault, but I've never been a big fan. It feels good to get that off my chest.

Calpis Marshmallows

The marshmallows were round, about an inch in diameter, and smelled like Calpis. Unsurprisingly, the marshmallows were sugary and sweet and didn't seem too different from normal marshmallows. The package promised a jelly center, and there was one, but it was more like a gel.

This gel was the source of the Calpis flavor, and even though it was nice and tart, it was overpowered by the sweet marshmallows. These just ended up being mildly citrusy marshmallows, but they weren't bad at all. Everyone I shared them with enjoyed them, I was surprised that I didn't mind them myself.


Calpis website

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Chocolaterie Chocolates

day 132

My sister and her husband went on a trip to New York City and the surrounding area recently, and sometime between sightseeing and attending a taping of The Colbert Report, they bought some chocolates at a shop in Nyack, New Jersey and brought them back home.

Chocolaterie is run by Annette van Loon, a Dutch woman who moved to the United States but missed the chocolate of her homeland so much that she decided to open a European chocolate shop. I've done my best to match the flavors my sister and brother-in-law brought back to the guide on the website, but I could be mistaken.

Buttery Chocolate

Papillon (French for butterfly) was Fair Trade Certified, and it had a very buttery filling surrounded by a nice, bitter chocolate. The honey and ginger flavors in the filling were subdued, but it was definitely a nice piece. B+

Aztec Spicy Truffle had a dusty brown sugar coating over sweet dark chocolate, but the ganache was quite spicy. Along with the chili flavor, there were hints of ginger and liquor. Despite the sugar coating, the level of sweetness was just right. A-


The Brandy Truffle had a sweet and milky white chocolate coating, balanced with a milk chocolate inner layer. The filling wasn't distinctively cognac, but it had a very tasty liquor flavor. B

The Rum Truffle was simply fantastic. The filling was ultra boozy and distinctively rum, and the chocolate coating was perfect with it. I'd love to eat this one again! A+

Heart Truffle

The Ginger & Honey Heart was another nice quality dark chocolate piece. The ginger flavor seemed stronger than in the Papillon, and the honey gave it a slightly deeper flavor. B+

One of the truffles was a bit stale in the middle. I'm not sure what happened, but it had a sugary grit throughout and I don't believe it was supposed to. That truffle was excluded from the rating.

Overall, I enjoyed the liquor chocolates and truffles the most, and was pleasantly surprised by the punch of the Spicy Aztec. If I'm ever in the area, I would definitely stop by to try other kinds!

Chocolaterie Website

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mentos Fuji Apple

Fuji Apple Mentos

These days, it seems like Mentos are more known for their reaction with Diet Coke, but I can't help but remember the goofy ads from the early 90s (or the parody music video by the Foo Fighters) where ordinary citizens solved their problems with breath mints.

This Korean flavor of Mentos was provided by The English slogan for Mentos is The FreshMaker, but the Korean website included a few others, like That's so Mentos and Be fresh with world best seller Mentos. If freshness is your goal, a fruity flavor like Fuji Apple probably isn't the best choice, but it's an orange Tic Tac situation: these are candies, not breath mints.

Fuji Apple Mentos

The candies had an intensely powerful and realistic apple juice flavor, but the strength did hurt the authenticity just a bit. Still, the Mentos were very juicy and tart, and it was easy to knock back several in one sitting.

These would probably please anyone with a favorable opinion of apples, and though I can't say for sure that they taste like the Fuji variety, I was impressed that these tasted like apple without tasting like cider. Still, I can't imagine a worse breath mint, so you may want to pop some regular Mentos afterward, just in case.


Mentos website

Monday, July 12, 2010

Matcha KitKat Bar

KitKat Bar Matcha

Despite having tried pretty much every matcha offering from Nestle Japan since 2006 (they haven't changed much), I can't say no to green tea, so the matcha KitKat bar was a natural choice for me in my most recent order from NapaJapan. It's gotten too hot to ship chocolate, but I'd been saving this for a day when I needed a pick me up.

Another reason I saved the bar was its large size; 263 is a lot of calories to eat at once, especially compared to a normal 4 finger KitKat. I ended up splitting it with my husband.

KitKat Matcha Inside

The bar smelled the same as the smaller matcha KitKats, and at first, I loved that there was a ton of matcha chocolate. After a couple bites, though, it was too much of a good thing. The large size really made the white chocolate overwhelmingly sweet.

Still, the matcha flavor was good. It was subtly floral and mild in the chocolate, but stronger and almost like real matcha powder between the wafers. It was subtly floral, as usual, but I must say that the miniature version is much better. There was just too much chocolate and not enough wafer in the big bar.


KitKat website

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Lion Kuma Chara Candy

Kuma Kyara Candy
Press Sample

The cute factor is something that greatly influences my shopping habits. These bear candies were provided by, but had I seen them in a store, I would have at least considered buying them because the bag is so cute.

There were four flavors: caramel, salt caramel, almond caramel, and honey caramel. When I was little, caramel hard candies (like Werther's Originals) were boring and for grown ups, but the bear shapes make these a little more kid-friendly.

Kuma Kyara Candy

Caramel was buttery, smooth, and surprisingly rich and milk for a hard candy. It did taste a bit like a Werther's Original, but because of the bear shape, the edges got sharp fairly quickly.

Salt Caramel, a trendy flavor from a couple years ago, smelled and tasted salty, and it was a nice variation from the regular caramel. It was salty throughout the whole melt, with the same creaminess.


Almond Caramel was very buttery and milk, and though it had tasty hints of roasted almonds, I would have liked a stronger almond flavor, perhaps with some cherry notes. As it was, it was hardly distinguishable from the regular caramel.

Honey Caramel immediately tasted like honey. It had the same creamy texture and melt, but the floral honey flavors went well with the caramel and really set this one apart. It was my favorite of the bunch!


May I just point out that the best part is the little round tail? How cute! Rather than rate these separately, I've given them an overall grade. These would probably please fans of caramels, hard candies, or bears.


Lion Website

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hageland Costa Rica 71% Dark Chocolate

Hageland Costa Rica

Remember Hageland, that surprisingly tasty line of chocolate bars available at Wal-Mart? Curiosity overtook me, and I bought the Costa Rica bar for myself a few weeks ago. When it comes to dark chocolate, anywhere around 70% cocoa suits me well, and the brand had already proven itself worthy.

Like all Hageland bars, the ingredients were minimal (cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla) - perfect for a good chocolate bar. The Costa Rica bar was made with Trinitario cocoa beans, which are a hybrid of the common Forastero and rare Criollo beans. Because of this, chocolate made from Trinitario beans are said to have better flavor than that made with Forastero beans. I'll have to add a direct taste comparison to my list of things to do!

Hageland Costa Rica

The chocolate had a sweet cocoa aroma with hints of anise and allspice that really reminded me of root beer. It tasted a little fruity, and the cocoa flavor was subtle and delicate. The chocolate was very mild in general, and it even tasted a bit toasty.

The texture was glorious; the melt was cool and not at all sticky. I enjoyed this bar, but not as much as the Chocolove 70% bar that I tried last month (though I couldn't find any info on what type of "premium" beans are used to make it). Still, Hageland has yet to disappoint, so I'd recommend this brand to anyone who hasn't tried it.


Chocablog also reviewed this bar late last year.

Hageland Website

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Meiji Strawberry Tartlette Takenoko no Sato

Strawberry Tartlette

Notes for this review have been sitting around since Japan's most recent strawberry boom. It seems to come around every year, but despite seeing the same KitKats every year, these Takenoko no Sato were new to me.

For me, the question was, "Will that little ring of white chocolate around the bottom of the cookie really change the taste enough to distinguish these from any other strawberry Takenoko no Sato?"

day 143

I'm not sure I've had a tartlette before, but these had a nice, tart, fairly authentic strawberry flavor. The slightly salty crunchy cookie did remind me a bit of pie crust, but it took a little imagination.

What stood out was the slight yogurt flavor (probably to mimic the cream in the picture), and that extra bit of tartness did make a difference. However, I've said it before and it still stands true - the crunchy/chewy balance just doesn't translate to the big, special versions.


Meiji website

Friday, July 2, 2010

Metromint Peppermint, Lemonmint, and Chocolatemint Water

day 162

Metromint was something I first saw on the show Unwrapped on the Food Network. The secret method by which this water is infused with mint and flavors without adding any calories piqued my interest, but I thought it'd be yet another product on that show I'd never see.

To my surprise, the fancy grocer down the street carried several varieties of this yuppie water. I got these flavors on sale for 3 for $5, but I don't remember what full price was.

Peppermint (not pictured) had a supposed chill factor of -9 degrees below regular cold water, and it was quite chilly. The mint reminded me of toothpaste, and it certainly seemed like a good thing to drink after eating something with a lot of garlic. The mint was cool and refreshing, but as a result, it seemed incompatible with a lot of foods (think drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth). By itself, it was a nice substitute for gum or a mint, but I can't see myself drinking it often. B

Lemonmint had a chill factor of -4 degrees, and it smelled a bit like a cough drop. It tasted like one, too. The water was a mild mint with just a hint of lemon, and even though the flavors seem at odds, it worked. This water was milder than the peppermint, and was quite refreshing. B

Chocolatemint smelled weird and a bit like a peppermint patty, but it was surprisingly good. Somehow, without any sweeteners (natural or otherwise), it tasted sweet. The water was lightly minty (just -2 degrees on the chill factor scale) with hints of cocoa, and overall, it was literally a very cool drink. B+

Metromint website