So I haven't posted for the last couple weeks, and the reason is that I was in New Zealand! I brought home several chocolate bars, and today I'm reviewing three varieties of Whittaker's, a brand found in seemingly every supermarket and service station in the country. This chocolate is cheap, doesn't contain any weird fillers (except maybe “flavor”), and makes some crazy huge bars: The 72% and Mocha bars are 250 grams—most of the bars I review are 85 or 100g—the Peanut Slabs came in a pack of three chunky 50g bars, and if I recall correctly each item was under $5. Because I'm discussing all three varieties in one go, the photos and reviews appear after this introductory section.
Corporate Info: The original Whittaker started working with chocolate in 1896, and Whittaker's final product is made in Porirua, near New Zealand's capital of Wellington. But yes, as with other chocolate companies it sources its ingredients all over the world: Ghana (cocoa beans), Southeast Asia (cocoa butter), South Africa (peanuts), and so on. With the exception of one fair trade milk chocolate bar, you've still got the usual chocolate industry stuff to deal with, though they do say they're trying. In addition to what I've reviewed here, Whittaker's produces an intriguing assortment of studded slabs, flavored “blocks” (the giant bars), toffees, and single-sized servings.
72% Cocoa Dark Ghana
Ingredients: Cocoa mass, cocoa butter, sugar, soy lecithin, vanilla flavor
8.3g sugar/25g serving (33.2% by wt.)
Appearance: Big. Also glossy and medium in color.
Smell: Pleasant, nose-filling, chocolatey. Like hot cocoa and raisins.
Taste: Enjoyable. A little sour but not too much, kind of chalky but not weirdly, a little fatty but not unpalatable. The experience is like eating a Hershey's Kiss—it's mild but not impressively creamy or unpleasantly neutral, and if I weren't paying attention I could eat this all day.
62% Cocoa Dark Mocha
Ingredients: Cocoa mass, cocoa butter, sugar, soy lecithin, flavor, roasted ground coffee beans
9.4g sugar/25g serving (37.6% by wt.)
Okay, yeah, for this review I did cheat on the sugar level. I was in another country, people! The Peanut Slab below would be even worse if the sugar weren't drowned out by peanuts.
Appearance: Darker than the 72% above, dark like medium-roast coffee.
Smell: Coffee, but again nose-filling and pleasant. There's nothing challenging about this chocolate, but also nothing “off”--it smells like a coffee shop, like coffee beans that aren't too dark-roasted. Nice.
Taste: The coffee grounds give the chocolate a uniformly gritty texture, which is fairly fine and therefore interesting rather than annoying. Flavor still reminds me of walking into a coffee shop; if you like that sensation, you'll like this bar.
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter [47% total cocoa solids], soy lecithin, flavor, roasted peanuts
17.1g sugar/50g serving (34.2% by wt.)
Appearance: These stubby little bars are the size of an outdated candy bar-style cell phone, the size of the palm of your hand (my fairly small hand, anyhow) and thicker than what you're used to, but they're totally packed with whole roasted peanuts.
Smell: Mmm, chocolate and peanuts, a classic.
Taste: A great ratio of chocolate to peanuts. Lots of textural interest with the whole nuts and slightly chalky chocolate. At 47% cacao this is definitely sweeter than the 72% bar above, but eating them separately they don't taste all that different: Same Hershey's Kiss texture and quality, and I suspect a less dark chocolate works better with the peanuts. Again, I could eat the whole 50g (nearly 2oz) bar in one go.
Conclusion: Whittaker's is good mass-market chocolate: Simple, cheap, and addictive. There's nothing virtuous about it, and if I lived in New Zealand I'd be searching out the fair trade options (I've got some for next week), but for now I'm enjoying my Whittaker's.