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I stumbled across The Chocolate Factory when I was searching for chocolate businesses to include in my nifty chocolate finder tool. The Yorkshire-based chocolate company boasts shops in the picturesque villages of Thornton le Dale and Hutton Le Hole, and both are hugely popular with tourists, securing the company a top TripAdvisor rating. There's a good reason for this too, as brothers Chris and Gareth East founded the business back in 2002 to offer tourists better (and tastier) gifts and souvenirs than tea towels and postcards.
Soon after opening, the company began creating filled chocolates and bars, investing in moulds and equipment along the way. The chocolates are produced in house, by hand, using Belgian chocolate couverture, fresh cream, and real alcohol rather than synthetic flavourings.
Then 2020 arrived, and what a year it's been so far. Coronavirus prompted a national lockdown and non-essential shops were shut down. As you can imagine, this has had a devastating impact on many firms across the country, especially small businesses that rely on tourist footfall.
I chatted to Chris and asked him about how The Chocolate Factory has adapted to this new normal that plagues us for the time being. Like many other small businesses, the Internet has offered an essential lifeline. The brothers tried e-commerce back in 2003 but the shipping and payment options were leagues apart from what they are today. Their website has never been as important as it is right now, today, so they've set up a new webshop to sell its chocolates to customers across the country.
Chris sent me a video of their quaint chocolate shop and it looks lovely, with a counter of fresh chocolates and shelves of their popular bars and hollow chocolate models. But how does this hands-on shopping experience compare to its online cousin? I decided to find out and so I placed an order for a box of 18 filled chocolates. The brothers list their flavours on their website so I made a list of the nine chocolates I was keen on trying, and requested two of each. The Shopify platform is a doddle to use as a customer so placing an order was quick, easy, and hassle-free.
A couple of days later and a knock at the door could only mean one thing – chocolate time! The chocolates arrived, tightly sealed inside a cardboard shipping box. Inside, the box of chocolates was wrapped inside bubble wrap to keep them safe.
The sturdy brown cardboard box, featuring The Chocolate Factory logo in silver-foiled print, looks lovely and is ideal for sending as a gift to friends or relatives. It's a lift-top box and is definitely something you'll want to try and reuse somehow rather than recycle. The chocolates were packaged into paper cases, and a couple of layers of waxed paper leaves sat on top, meaning the chocolates couldn't bash around during their ride through the postal result. This meant the filled chocolates arrived in the same condition they left the chocolate shop.
The Chocolate Factory Selection Box Review
I ordered a pair of nine flavours so I could try a selection of The Chocolate Factory's freshly made filled chocolates. I've taken photos and shared my thoughts on them below. No ingredients list or nutritional information was available inside the box or on their website, so I'm not sure what goes into these chocolates. The website does state that all their chocolates are gluten free. As a side note, the company also produces a range of diabetic chocolates and dairy free chocolates.
Bonus points go to The Chocolate Factory for including a menu card in the box. I know I'm not the only one who loves to find a menu card inside their chocolate selection boxes. I like knowing which chocolate shapes pair with which flavours, and while I could have referred back to the website, I appreciate having this information in front of me as I eat. Besides, if this were a gift I was sending to my computerless grandparents, this wouldn't be an available option.
- Aroma: Sweet and buttery.
- Taste: The caramel flavour starts off quite gentle, especially when paired with the milk chocolate. It intensifies briefly, along with the sweetness, and then fades quickly at the end.
- Verdict: It was pleasant, but I wanted to see more of the caramel flavour come through, either through a slightly darker caramel or perhaps a carefully salted caramel.
- Aroma: Buttery and creamy.
- Taste: The creamy aroma follows through into the taste. Suddenly there's a rush of creamy nuttiness that vanishes in a flash, leaving a sweet finish.
- Verdict: I liked this one but it was over too quickly. Thankfully I bought two of each one so I could enjoy this one a little longer.
- Aroma: Buttery, with a noticeable lack of almond or alcoholic notes.
- Taste: One bite and you know this is a boozy chocolate! A rush of alcohol hits you right from the start, and this subdues into a gentle warmth towards the end. The chocolate helps to add sweetness and creaminess to balance the alcohol. At the end, you're left with a sweet aftertaste with hints of almond too.
- Verdict: If you like boozy chocolates then you'll absolutely love this one. It contains lashings of Amaretto rather than a a stingy quantity, or a synthetic alternative, delivered on a rich chocolatey platter.
Dark Coffee Cream
- Aroma: Buttery notes.
- Taste: This filled chocolate contains a dense fondant with a sweet, classic coffee flavour. It starts a little bitter thanks to the dark chocolate shell but is balanced out by the sweetness of the filling.
- Verdict: This is a classic coffee flavour dark chocolate bon bon. If, like me, you love coffee and chocolate, you'll like this one.
- Aroma: This one exhibited a perfume-like rose fragrance.
- Taste: Much like the coffee filled chocolate above, this one balances a sweet fondant filling against a dark chocolate shell. The rose flavour is powerful and is botanical in nature. It verges on being too floral but just keeps on the right side of the fence for comfort. A crystallised rose petal adds crunch and dainty decoration too.
- Verdict: Rose and chocolate is another of my favourite combinations. Here it's almost too perfume-like for comfort, reined in by the fruity dark chocolate.
- Aroma: Dark chocolatey notes but no discernable mint fragrance.
- Taste: Another classic combination sees a sweet, thick, powerful peppermint flavour fondant paired with a slightly bitter, rich dark chocolate. A fresh peppermint flavour lingers long into the aftertaste.
- Verdict: No need to wait until after eight o'clock for this peppermint cream. It's ideal as an after dinner chocolate treat. I could happily work through a box of these alone.
- Aroma: Dark fruity notes.
- Taste: The almond marzipan used here has a strong and robust flavour, releasing a clear almond taste. It's not entirely smooth so there's a little bite to it, which adds texture, along with the almond flake on top. The dark chocolate balances well with the marzipan resulting in a flavourful bite that's not too sweet.
- Verdict: I love chocolate covered marzipan and this bite serves up a satisfying balance of flavour, sweetness, and richness.
Apricot & Almond Cream
- Aroma: Faint creamy fragrance.
- Taste: The flavour of chopped dried apricots comes through, alongside the crunch of chopped almonds in the milk chocolate shell. There's nothing here to temper the sweetness of the slightly gritty centre which is left to run away with itself, encouraged by the sweet milk chocolate shell. A faint apricot flavour lingers in the aftertaste.
- Verdict: I liked the combination of apricot and almond but found this one a tad too sweet. I wonder if a dark chocolate shell would enhance this one?
- Aroma: Faint sweet, creamy fragrance with just a hint of citrus.
- Taste: As you bite into this one the hit from the zesty, tart lemon is immediate. It's vibrant, zingy, and lively. The creamy white chocolate adds sweetness and eventually swoops in to take over from the lemon into the aftertaste.
- Verdict: Another sweet bite, I liked the vibrancy of the lemon in this bonbon as well as the pretty butterfly shape.
The transition from in-store retail to digital retail is a complex proposition. Chocolate is often a sensory product and sometimes you need to see the chocolates and smell the aromas to know exactly what you want to order. Online, that's just not possible. So, you have to rely on other factors, such as clearly explaining the available products, offering a speedy fulfilment service, ensure the products arrive in as pristine condition as possible, and delivering a wow factor to the recipient. Bonus points get added for using minimal or recyclable packaging.
In this experience, the brothers nailed these aspects for me. The order arrived speedily, safely-packaged, and using minimal packaging that can mostly be recycled or reused. The filled chocolates arrived in a fabulous condition, so if this was a gift I was sending to somebody, I'd be a happy bunny.
As for the chocolates, this collection of classic milk, dark, and white chocolates certainly wasn't shy on flavour. While a little too sweet for my taste, I can't deny that the flavours were clear and vibrant. When I bite into a lemon chocolate for instance, I want to experience the tart twang of citrus, but I also like to taste the flavour of the chocolate. These bites from The Chocolate Factory do just that. They carefully balance the flavour of the crème, caramel, or ganache with the shaped shell that surrounds the centres.
The Chocolate Factory Selection Box Review
RRP: £21.95 | The Chocolate Factory Hutton-le-Hole & Thornton-le-Dale | Shop now
A selection of sweet milk, dark, and white chocolates, each filled with sweet but full-bodied centres. Well packaged, and ideal for giving as a gift or as a sweet treat.
I'd describe these chocolates as an all-round classic selection of flavours, such as mint, caramel, and coffee, that most chocolate lovers will enjoy chomping through. The Amaretto chocolate stood out thanks to its fiery kick of alcohol – if you are looking for a sweet chocolate gift for somebody who's partial to a tipple or two, consider an assortment of The Chocolate Factory's boozy offerings, including Bailey's Irish Cream, rum, Southern Comfort, cherry brandy, and Cointreau.
Where to Buy Online
You can buy selection boxes from The Chocolate Factory website, in either an 18 piece (£21.95) box or a better value 36-piece box (£34.95). The shops are located in Hutton-le-Hole and Thornton-le-Dale in North Yorkshire inside the North York Moors National Park. Thornton-le-Dale is around a 45-minute drive from York, and Hutton-le-Hole is around an hour away. If you're heading to Flamingo Land Resort or Scarborough, Thornton-le-Dale is just a short ride away.
Which flavours would you add to your selection box? Leave a comment below with your favourites.