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A trip over to the east coast is in order today, specifically to the quaint village of Beccles in Suffolk, where bean-to-bar chocolate specialists Harris & James is turning the concept of a salted caramel bar on its head.
This Great Taste Award-winning product isn't your average chocolate bar, nor is it your typical salted caramel affair, either. This bar uses cocoa beans from a single farm - Garyth Farm - in Santo Domingo De Los Tsachilas to make its 40% milk chocolate base, and then layers the caramel and sea salt flakes on top. As the additions are secondary, this means the single-origin chocolate is placed centre stage.
Top marks to Harris & James for creating beautiful bespoke chocolate bar packaging that is fully recyclable/compostable.
It's a craft brown affair, with the silhouette of a cacao pod in chocolate brown as the backdrop. A smattering of gold foiled print adds a touch of luxury to the format, making it feel giftworthy (indeed, I received this bar as a birthday present).
A Great Taste Award badge appears at the top, next to the H&J logo. Large "Salted Caramel"text means you are under no illusions as to the flavour, with the buzzwords "salty" and "sweet" beneath this to give you some idea of what to expect.
The Harris & James logo sits at the bottom, above the strapline "Great British Chocolate Makers", with a graphic above it to show that this bar is made with cocoa sourced from just a single farm in Ecuador. No blending of beans here - just a single estate with all the nuances that the local terroir imparts.
The reverse of the carton contains a summary of what to expect, along with a wealth of facts about the origin, certification, and fermentation process used in producing the chocolate for this bar. This feels like a bar for serious chocolate enthusiasts while also appealing to those looking for something a bit different to the supermarket norms.
The ingredients and nutritional information sits tucked away in the lower corner.
Harris & James Salted Caramel 40% Milk Chocolate Bar ingredients:
Cocoa mass (cocoa beans, cocoa butter), sugar, whole milk powder, emulsifier (sunflower lecithin), natural Dulce de Leche flavour, inclusions (glucose syrup, sweetened condensed milk, salted butter, sea salt (0.6%))). Cocoa solids: 40% minimum. Milk solids: 20% minimum.
This bar contains 46% sugars. Harris & James recommends a serving size of 23g which has a calorie count of 125kcal. This equates to three and a bit portions in this bar.
This chocolate is produced in a factory that handles soya, gluten, tree nut and peanut ingredients.
The reason I love this packaging is that it employs a book-like format, with a tab to seal it closed. Slide this open and turn the page to reveal the chocolate bar, as well as a wealth of information on the H&J range, the bean-to-bar chocolate making process, and, of course, information on the origins of the Ecuadorian cocoa used in this bar. It's a well-considered piece of packaging with maximum impact. Bravo, Harris & James.
Harris & James Salted Caramel 40% Milk Chocolate Bar Review
Inside the card sleeve sits the chocolate bar, sealed in a compostable film sleeve, decorated with the H&J emblem.
The face of the bar is formed in a mould that creates 14 segments, with a bumper circular segment housing the Harris & James logo. A smattering of air bubbles and stray caramel pieces detract from what is an otherwise flawless finish.
The underside of the bar is studded with sea salt flakes and tiny chunks of caramel, layering the flavours on this bar. It's a milk chocolate bar at its heart, with salted caramel notes on top, rather than a salted caramel milk chocolate bar. Yes, the difference is a subtle, but it means the nuances of the cocoa shouldn't be masked by caramel flavours but rather enhanced by them.
That's exactly the case in the aroma, which is that of a good, robust milk chocolate, with lashings of creamy notes and a touch of fruity sweetness in there too. It's quite a joyful and enticing aroma, and the clear, crisp snap is simply a delight to hear, too.
The chocolate is smooth and melts beautifully, revealing surprising tropical headline notes of banana and apricot. These flavour develop in intensity throughout the melt, but stay very much front and centre throughout.
The buttery caramel shards were sticky on my bar, so they didn't add any textural difference, other than perhaps a vague chewy aspect, but they did add an extra dimension to the flavour. The salt is added in just the right level to enhance the flavours without distracting from the overall flavour.
A light, creamy milk chocolate flavour lingers in the aftertaste, but it's the banana and apricot notes that are most prominent and that set this bar apart. It's unexpected, but delicious, and works beautifully with the salted caramel cubes and sea salt.
This really is a fun chocolate bar that speaks to my inner chocoholic. It demonstrates what's great about British bean-to-bar chocolate makers in that they understand the flavours they create and can play with these to create utterly satisfying and delicious results. That's exactly the case here. The tropical and fruity notes from this chocolate underpins a salted caramel bar that stands out from the crowd. It's luxurious, and indulgent, yet fun and playful. It's sweet and perfectly salted, and leaves you craving more.
This is an accessible way to dip your toes into the world of ethical and sustainable bean-to-bar chocolate, with a chocolate bar that's not pretentious or intimidating. It's not testing or pushing your comfort threshold. It simply delivers great tasting chocolate at a price point that feels good value for money. Pick up a salted caramel bar at your supermarket and pick up one of these. Simply compare them and I'm sure you'll become a bean-to-bar chocolate convert in one bite.
This Harris & James Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate bar is worth getting your hands on - you can thank me later.
Harris & James Salted Caramel 40% Milk Chocolate Review
RRP: £3.95 | Harris & James | Shop now
In a word, divine. The bean-to-bar chocolate is the star of the show here, and its nuances are played upon to create a fruity, tropical backdrop for caramel flecks and sea salt flakes. This is a fun, enjoyable and exciting chocolate bar, and it should be on your must-try list. If it's not on there, add it right now. Like right now.
Where to Buy Online
Pop along over to the Harris & James website where you will find this Salted Caramel milk chocolate bar alongside a range of other tasty sounding varieties (£3.95 each). Save 10% when you subscribe to fortnightly or monthly deliveries.
If the curiously sized 86g bars are too much for you, there's an equally curiously sized 46g mini bar available too, at £2.50 each.
Next on my wish list is their Coffee and Mocha bars, which, given Harris & James also roasts coffee beans, should be perfection upon perfection.
If you like boozy chocolate, there's also a range of bars made using spirits from the Adnams distillery in Southwold. These include a raspberry gin white chocolate bar, a dry gin dark chocolate bar, and a rye malt whisky dark chocolate bar. There's also a dark chocolate bar made using gin from Whitby Distillery and botanicals from the rugged Yorkshire coastline.
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I'm fussy with salt in my chocolate. Do you love it or hate salt in your chocolate bars? Let me know in a comment below.