In this article:
- Harry Specters Vegan House Selection Review
- In Conclusion
- Where to Buy Online
For me, a satisfying chocolate experience should excite all my senses and feel as good as it tastes. Today's Vegan House Selection Box by social enterprise Harry Specters has set a new benchmark for feel-good, do-good chocolate.
Mona, Shaz and their son Ash, who has autism, are behind this award-winning Cambridgeshire-based social enterprise. Their aim is to improve the lives of autistic people through the medium of chocolate.
It has proved a recipe for success, as 69p in every £1 spent at Harry Specters "directly improves the lives of young autistic people and their families through paid employment, free work experience, and free training opportunities" according to the company.
Since November 2012, the company has helped more than 310 people with autism, spanning manufacturing, sales, design, photography and admin roles within the business.
To celebrate their growing vegan chocolate range, Mona kindly sent me their latest release, a 16-piece Vegan House Selection Box, so I could find out whether their chocolates taste as good as their feel-good mission.
The sleek square black box (around 19cm x 18cm x 3cm) is wrapped in cellophane to protect the chocolates inside. The sturdy box is enhanced with glossy and bronze-foil print, which makes a great first impression. A little white sticker explains this box of plant-based chocolates is suitable for vegans.
The rear of the box is empty, except for a best before date sticker. The ingredients list can be found online.
Harry Specters Vegan House Selection ingredients:
Dark chocolate (cocoa solids (cocoa mass, cocoa butter), sugar, emulsifier: soya lecithin, natural vanilla flavouring), dairy-free white chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter (32%), rice flour, flavouring (vanilla), emulsifier (sunflower lecithin)), dairy-free organic milk chocolate (cocoa (45%) (cocoa butter, cocoa mass), sugar, rice powder, emulsifier (sunflower lecithin), natural flavouring), plant-based butter (plant oils (sustainable palm, sunflower, rapeseed), filtered water, sea salt (1.7%), fava bean preparation, plant-based emulsifier (sunflower lecithin), natural flavourings), plant-based cream (lentil protein preparation (water, lentil protein), palm fat, rapeseed oil, sugar, modified corn starch, emulsifiers (sunflower lecithin, sugar esters of fatty acids, mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids), stabilizers (guar gum, locust bean gum), natural flavours, salt, colourant (beta-carotene)), glucose syrup, sugars, invert sugar, sea salt, mint leaves, orange and lime juice and zest, ginger, purees (raspberry, strawberry, blackcurrant, redcurrant, cranberry, lemon, mango, passion fruit), hazelnut paste, chopped hazelnuts, coffee beans, rose oil, lemongrass oil, raspberry powder, strawberry powder, green cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, star anise, cinnamon, natural food colours. Cocoa solids: 60% minimum (dairy-free dark chocolate).
These chocolates are vegan-friendly, alcohol-free, and gluten-free. They contain soya, and may contain traces of tree nuts and peanuts.
In this collection, Harry Specters uses Callebaut and Cacao Barry chocolate coverture for its dark chocolate shells and fillings, and Moo Free for its dairy-free milk and white chocolate. Callebaut runs the Cocoa Horizons platform, designed to "build self-sustaining farming communities that protect nature and children." Moo Free sources organic cocoa from the Dominican Republic through Biocafcao, as well as UTZ/Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa from Africa.
Harry Specters Vegan House Selection Review
Inside, you're greeted with a colourful menu card atop a cushion pad that helps keep the chocolates in situ during transit. Lift this to be wowed by 16 very pretty chocolates.
The flavours included in this vegan range are:
- Blackcurrant Caramel
- Chai Spice
- Dark Caramel
- Dark chocolate Truffle
- Dark Hazelnut
- Dark Sea Salt Caramel
- Devilishly Dark
- Fresh Mint & Lime
- Intense Coffee
- Lime & Ginger
- Mango & Raspberry
- Mixed Berries Caramel
- Orange Caramel
- Passionfruit & Lemongrass
- Rose & Cardamom
- Strawberry & Lime
The bouquet is captivating, and reminds me of the intoxicating chocolate aroma in the best chocolate shops in Belgium. There's a baseline of delicious dark chocolate notes spiked with hints of spices and floral tones.
Each chocolate is beautifully presented too, with decorations that beg you to pick them up and take a bite.
That's exactly what I did. But do these look-good, feel-good, do-good chocolates taste good? Read on to find out.
"Fresh orange zest and orange juice caramel in dark chocolate."
The orange flavour is quite subtle to begin with, allowing room for the dark chocolate to breathe. Then, the citrus tanginess develops, which leads into the aftertaste. It's a delightful chocolate orange combination that carefully balances the flavours to allow both the dark chocolate and orange flavours to shine and work together.
Lime & Ginger
"Fresh lime zest and juice, fresh grated ginger in 70% dark chocolate."
Fresh ginger dominates the taste of this bite, with a vibrantly fragrant flavour to begin and just a hint of warmth that develops into the aftertaste. Zesty lime sits in the background, adding a subtle citrus dimension that compliments the main star of the show. It's a very nice flavour, with fresh ginger stealing the limelight.
Mixed Berries Caramel
"Fruity caramel of blackcurrant, redcurrant, cranberry and raspberry purees in dark chocolate."
A dark shell sets the stage before the tangy berry caramel hits your palate. Raspberry dominates the flavour of the gooey caramel, with the other berries adding sweet and tart characteristics to the mix. The flavour is divine, with the red berries and dark chocolate combination resulting in an elegant and tasty bite.
Passionfruit & Lemongrass
"Creamy passionfruit ganache with lemongrass in a dark chocolate shell."
This must-try flavour combination is quite unusual, but the result is sensational. This refreshing pairing draws on the zesty and tangy passion fruit qualities as well as the heady, distinctive fragrance of the lemongrass. The dark chocolate shell adds depth and richness. This bite is playful and fun, and put a big smile on my face. You NEED to try this one.
"A 70% dark and intense ganache with a strong taste of roasted cocoa beans."
This rich, dense, dark chocolate certainly delivers on its promise, with its general cocoa flavour. While Harry Specters describes it as "intense," I found this one relatively tame, thanks to a surprisingly creamy quality that succeeds in keeping the bitterness at bay.
With no other flavours at play here, it's all about the cocoa, so my only criticism here is that a more nuanced single-origin cocoa might be more deserving of a place in this box.
Fresh Mint & Lime
"Fresh garden mint with a hint of lime in dairy-free white chocolate."
A sublime must-try chocolate is this alcohol-free mojito-inspired flavour duo. The mint tastes like the leaves were freshly picked from the plant mere moments ago. The fresh mint flavour dominates the flavour while the chocolate notes fade into the background, allowing a twist of lime to come through into the aftertaste.
This chocolate bite has plenty of mojito vibes and tastes like summer in a bite. If your chocolate mint benchmark is After Eight or those after dinner mint crisps, you really aught to try this to see what you have been missing all your life.
"Freshly ground Fairtrade Arabica coffee beans in 60% dark chocolate."
This tasty bite deliver bags of coffee flavour from start to finish. It explodes with rich, dark roasted espresso bean flavour, which pairs beautifully against the dark chocolate. I consider myself a coffee chocolate connoisseur and this is a very fine example of the time-tested combination. It's one of my favourites in this collection.
Strawberry & Lime
"Fresh strawberry puree and lime in dark chocolate."
While the other chocolates offer powerful kicks of flavour, this takes a different path. It begins with a delicate coating of creamy strawberry flavours, spiked with just a twist of lime. The citrus tanginess enhances the dainty strawberry flavour, while the dark chocolate adds richness and depth to the overall combination. This is a cool and refreshing bite of summer. If the Fresh Mint & Lime chocolate is a lively poolside party in Ibiza, Strawberry & Lime is lounging on a sun-drenched beach, with a virgin strawberry daiquiri mocktail in hand.
"Blackcurrant puree caramel in 60% dark chocolate."
Here we have a thick, tangy, tart blackcurrant caramel balanced against sweet dark chocolate. It's fruity and the flavour is nice and clean, lingering long into the aftertaste. The combination works really well, with just enough sweetness to balance out the forcefulness of the blackcurrants.
"Pure hazelnut butter and 60% dark chocolate."
I'd best describe this chocolate as like biting into a freshly roasted hazelnut. The velvety smooth centre is crammed full of toasted nutty flavour, which works surprisingly well with the dark chocolate. Ordinarily, I'd expect to find hazelnut only paired with a milk chocolate to adopt its sweet creaminess, but this darker version adds richness and depth into the mix. The roasted hazelnut flavour lingers long into the aftertaste.
Rose & Cardamom
"Freshly ground green cardamom and organic rose oil ganache in 60% dark chocolate."
Here is another must-try flavour, that adds a spice twist to the time-tested combination of rose and dark chocolate. The fresh floral rose flavour dominates from start to finish, enhanced with subtle cardamom flavours that swirl around in the background. This pairs beautifully with the dark chocolate base, which elevates this pairing with richness and depth.
"60% dark chocolate caramel."
In this chocolate bonbon a thin dark shell hides a buttery caramel. The 60% dark chocolate helps to enhance the sweetness of the caramel while adding a touch of richness and depth to the overall picture. The aftertaste is notably sweet, dominated by the dark chocolate with caramel notes taking up the flank.
Dark Chocolate Truffle
"Smooth, rounded, 60% dark chocolate ganache."
This draws upon similar qualities to the Devilishly Dark chocolate, but is more tame, employing a 60% cocoa content recipe instead of the deeper 70% content couverture. It is less intense while also creamier and sweeter. Again, it'd be nice to see a more nuanced cocoa here to play on its terroir characteristics, but this sweet dark chocolate bite still hits the spot.
"Freshly ground warming spices in dairy-free milk chocolate."
As you might have spotted in other chocolates here, freshness is a key staple of Harry Specters' recipes. Not content with using your regular Chai spice blend, the team opt for freshly ground spices in their chocolate, preserving maximum flavour and impact.
The result is full-on, with notes of ginger, cloves and cinnamon most notable. The Chai spice mix used here imparts a heady aroma and intense flavour, with a warmth that feels like a comforting hug. The flavour is ably assisted with a surprising amount of creaminess from the dairy-free milk chocolate. As you'd expect, the flavours from these pungent spices linger long into the aftertaste. This one secures another of my must-try recommendations thanks to its fresh and intense spicing.
Mango & Raspberry
"Sweet mango and tangy raspberry puree in dairy-free white chocolate."
This combination piqued my interest, as they aren't two flavours I've often seen paired. The result is a light and fruity chocolate bite, where the juicy mango plays against tart raspberry. It's fun and playful, with a tropical and berry aftertaste.
Dark Sea Salt Caramel
"Muscovado brown sugar caramel and smoked sea salt in 60% dark chocolate."
I expected this to broadly resemble the Dark Caramel chocolate above, but this one has its own completely different personality. The smooth caramel in this one is very, very dark, and almost borders on being bitter. As you get to the brink, the dark chocolate swoops in to rein it back in, while simultaneously adding richness and depth. Happily, as someone who's not a fan of salted caramel, the sea salt is barely detectable which is just the way I like it.
Thin chocolate shells and generous quantities of flavoursome fillings is a recipe for success here. Each bite is as good as the last, and the taste holds up to the elegant presentation of these chocolates.
In some chocolate boxes, the menu card is essential. But here, the flavours are so clear you don't need to refer to it (although I'm still glad there's one included). In this instance, it serves as a keepsake souvenir to fondly remember your favourite chocolates long after they have disappeared.
These vegan chocolates taste just as good as their non-vegan counterparts. In fact, if it weren't for the little white sticker on the box, I'd struggle to tell these apart from the dairy equivalents. This is a testament to how far vegan chocolates have come in recent years, and a testament to the development chefs at Harry Specters.
On top of all of that, it is comforting knowing that these delicious chocolates are helping empower autistic people through hands-on training and experience. Not only do they look and taste great, but they enable great things to happen within this social enterprise. Mona, Shaz and their son Ash should be very, very proud of what they have achieved together.
Harry Specters Vegan House Selection Review
RRP: £22.00 | Harry Specters | Shop now
This is a beautiful collection of look-good, feel-good, taste-good, do-good chocolates that are perfect for gifting to friends and families. You won't believe these are vegan chocolates as they are full of fresh, vibrant, delicious flavour. These chocolate bonbons rival the fancy chocolates you can find in high-end high street chocolate boutiques and in swanky restaurants.
Where to Buy Online
You can buy the 290g 16-piece Vegan House Selection Box from Harry Specters online here (£22). A smaller 12-piece box is available here (£17), but trust me, you'll want as a big a box as you can get your paws on.
The original (non-vegan, but vegetarian and gluten-free) House Selection is available on Prezzybox (£19.99°).
If you are sensible, you'll check out the Harry Specters Chocolate Club pronto, as it furnishes you with a fresh supply of exquisite chocolates like these each and every month. You can subscribe for 3, 6 or 12 months at a time.
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Which flavour would you try first? Let me know in the comments below.