It's been a while since I've had the pleasure of riffling through one of Hotel Chocolat's Chocolate Tasting Club boxes. There's something quite exciting about unwrapping a mystery box of chocolates and discovering what lurks inside. Perhaps that's why I became a chocolate blogger?
A recent celebration led to the familiar clunk on the doorstep. A friend had sent me a Hotel Chocolat Mellow Tasting Box as a gift. Now and again Hotel Chocolat lists its Chocolate Tasting Club boxes publicly on its website, usually when they're nearing their expiry date. This box was no different and instructed me to consume them this month. An order must be obeyed, right?
The sleek box features a shiny turquoise blue lid, with just the Hotel Chocolat logo in the centre. The word 'Mellow' is printed on one side and is the only clue as to what's inside, other than the product code on the jet black base of the box. Codenamed M105, this 390g selection box still yields no clues as to what's inside.
I lifted the lid to find a flier advertising "The Ultimate Easter Egg Hunt," suggesting this box was originally sent out to members around February or March this year - long before COVID-19 (Coronavirus) became the devastating pandemic we now know it to be.
Besides the plentiful pictures of chocolate Easter bunnies, and a special offer on Easter Eggs, there's a list of three recent high scorers from previous taste testers. Classic Caramel, Gianduja Salted Caramel, and Chocolate Orange Pot all scored five out of five.
On the reverse of the A3-sized card insert is a score sheet and menu card all-in-one, complete with doodles of each chocolate. There's tasting notes for each bite, along with allergen information, alcohol content (not applicable in the Mellow selection I should add), and the approximate calorie count of each treat. If you are on a weight loss programme, these figures might be helpful in knowing what treats you can indulge in without accruing too many naughty points. In case you wondered, most come in at around 70-100 calories per bite, although there's a couple that are under 60 calories. There's a classic slab in here and that's around 578 calories, so you might want to split this one up (if you can resist temptation). Everyone's allowed a cheat night once in a while, right?
At the bottom of this card is the ingredients list and nutritional information. Brace yourself as the list for this 27-piece chocolate selection box is quite lengthy.
Hotel Chocolat Mellow Tasting Box ingredients:
Cocoa solids (cocoa butter, cocoa mass), sugar, full cream milk powder, runny caramel (glucose fructose syrup, sweetened condensed milk, half salted butter, sugar, salt, emulsifier (soya lecithin)), caramelised milk powder (sugar, skimmed milk powder), almond paste, hazelnut paste, stabilisers (sorbitol, glycerol), sweetened hazelnut paste (hazelnuts, sugar, emulsifier (sunflower lecithin)), butter oil, raspberry fruit compound (sugar, glucose syrup, raspberry puree, raspberry juice concentrate, thickener (pectin), lemon juice concentrate, natural colour (anthocyanin), flavouring), glucose syrup, florentines (almonds, butter, glucose syrup, honey, sugar, cream, hazelnuts), peanut butter paste (peanuts, sea salt), skimmed milk powder, fruit juice concentrates (raspberry, sour cherry, blackcurrant, rhubarb), whipping cream, stabiliser (carrageenan), pistachio nut paste (pistachio nuts, rapeseed oil), whole milk, caramelised sugar, nibbed almonds, feuilletine (sugar, wheat flour, butter oil, milk protein, milk sugar, barley malt extract, raising agent (sodium bicarbonate), salt), emulsifiers (soya lecithin, sunflower lecithin), vegetable fats (coconut, shea, sunflower), nibbed pistachio nuts, natural colours (beetroot, paprika, anthocyanin, annatto), sunflower oil, flavourings, blackcurrant powder, acidity regulator (citric acid), molasses, lactose, essential oil (lemon), vanilla seeds. Cocoa solids: 40% minimum (milk chocolate); 36% minimum (caramel chocolate). Milk solids: 14% minimum (milk chocolate); 26% minimum (caramel chocolate). Cocoa butter: 36% minimum (white chocolate).
The sugars for this selection as a whole sits at around 38% which is considerably lower than other selection boxes I've reviewed on here recently. Indeed, the cocoa content is a fair bit higher too.
By 'mellow', this box doesn't contain any alcohol-based chocolates, nor does it contain dark chocolate per se, and the selection inside is vegetarian-friendly. Chocolates may contain traces of nuts, milk, soya, gluten, egg, and sesame.
Hotel Chocolat Mellow Tasting Box Review
The chocolates are beautifully presented in a black plastic tray, with two of each type of filled chocolate, six batons, and one large slab. Despite nearing their best before dates, the chocolates looked as good as new, with the exception of Almond Crunch, Cherry & Pistachio, Triple Praline, and Peanut Butter & Jelly which had all developed mild surface blooming around the sides. The buttery aroma of rich chocolates greeted me, and it wasn't a particularity sweet smell either.
The menu sounds quite exciting, even though the flavours in this box are 'mellow' by design.
- Dominican Republic 42% Caramelised White Chocolate: Part of the Rare & Vintage chocolate collection.
- Raspberry Smoothie: Pressed raspberries, cream, and white chocolate ganache inside a 40% milk chocolate shell.
- Blackcurrant Boost: Pressed blackcurrant ganache with blackcurrant whip inside a 36% white chocolate shell.
- Cherry & Pistachio: Pressed sour cherries, roasted pistachios, and a 36% white chocolate cream ganache inside a 40% milk chocolate shell.
- Caramel Vanilla Supermilk: A molten vanilla caramel inside a 65% supermilk shell.
- Triple Praline: 50% milk chocolate praline, 36% white chocolate almond praline, and 70% dark chocolate hazelnut praline, together with feuilletine, inside a 40% milk chocolate shell.
- Caramel & Co Slab: A slab of 36% caramel milk chocolate, decorated with florentines and chocolate buttons.
- Salt & Lemon Batons: 50% milk chocolate batons with lemon oil and Maldon sea salt.
- Peanut Butter & Jelly: 50% milk chocolate salted peanut praline with a raspberry compote and a 40% milk chocolate shell.
- Rhubarb & Custard: Pressed rhubarb plus a 36% white chocolate vanilla custard cream inside a 40% milk chocolate shell.
- Almond Crunch: Nibbed almonds, almond praline, and hazelnut praline, all inside a 36% caramel milk chocolate.
- Caramel Praline: A 40% milk chocolate shell with a caramel milk chocolate and hazelnut praline centre.
While there's certainly a temptation to work through the entire box in one sitting, it's difficult to do thanks to the cocoa-rich chocolates included here. So, I split the box into two groups, based on the menu card.
In the first group of six, it was the Triple Praline that stood out the most. It served up a strong hit of smooth hazelnut, balanced with the caramelised flavours and gentle crunch of feuilletine. This bonbon was rich and creamy but well balanced, with a delicious hazelnut flavour that lasted long into the aftertaste.
By contrast, the Dominican Republic 42% Caramelised White Chocolate - which I had been looking forward to trying the most - was a bit of a let down in this box. It had a mild, sweet flavour but the caramel notes were incredible hard to detect. I also picked up faint raspberry notes so I don't know if being bedfellows with the fruity Cherry & Pistachio and Raspberry Smoothie for so long in the box had a detrimental effect to its flavour. Overall, this one was too mellow, even for the Mellow Collection.
Hotel Chocolat's reputation for full-on fruity flavours meant the Raspberry Smoothie and Blackcurrant Boost were both vibrant, zingy, and delicious. The raspberry bite was slightly sweeter and less tart than its blackcurrant counterpart, but both expertly used the chocolate to balance the zing and to add creaminess to the overall flavour.
Cherry & Pistachio exhibited pleasant characteristics, such as sourness from the cherries and a mild crunch from the pistachios, as well as creaminess and sweetness from the milk chocolate. However, the flavour was bland, and in a blind tasting, I wouldn't have identified it as containing either cherries and pistachios.
As for the Caramel Vanilla Supermilk, its water-like caramel was very sweet, which played off nicely against the you'd-think-it-was-a-dark-chocolate 65% supermilk chocolate. The vanilla was hard to detect in the caramel though, and the very rich chocolate left a bitter finish and aftertaste.
In the second group of six, it was the Salt & Lemon Baton that I was most curious to try. I have a love-hate relationship with salted chocolate and lemon chocolate so I didn't know what to expect from this baton. This baton turned out to be my favourite in the second half. The lemon flavour is subtle and almost floral in nature. The salt is barely noticeable and adds a nice depth to the overall taste. This is exactly how I like it.
By contrast, my least favourite was the overly-sweet chocolate slab - a full sized Selector no less - which is ideal for consuming over several sittings. While the caramel flavour is there, the chocolate itself is far too sweet for my taste. The best bits were the chewy caramelised florentines on the top.
By contrast, Caramel Praline featured a deliciously thick, rich and nutty flavour but the caramel flavour was lost in this nibble. Almond Crunch was equally as rich and nutty, with a gentle crunch to it. It was heavy on the almond flavour which was what I hoped to find.
For vibrant flavours, Rhubarb & Custard and Peanut Butter & Jelly both score highly. Rhubarb dominates in the former, against a backdrop of a creamy vanilla custard-like filling. In PB&J, the tart raspberry jelly is full-on, dominating the flavour right up to the end. Just before the end, the peanut flavour edges its way into the mix with the creamy chocolate.
Mellow by name and by nature, this collection of chocolates blends tame flavour combinations with Hotel Chocolat's flair for style and clarity. Each bite is a pretty work of art, and while you won't find heady booze-filled chocolates nor bitter dark chocolates in here, you will find a lot of interesting flavours to keep you on your toes.
Ideal as a gift or as a fancy treat, you'll want to savour these chocolates and resist the urge to mindlessly scoff them in front of the telly. Best keep these ones away from the kids as they'll clear the box in next to no time!
Hotel Chocolat Mellow Tasting Box Review
RRP: £22.95 | Hotel Chocolat | Shop now°
Free of alcohol and dark chocolate, but not free of flavour. Hotel Chocolat manages to deliver an interesting variety of chocolates while making sure nothing stands out for being too weird or extreme. A very satisfying tasting box with a great range of chocolate bites.
Where to Buy Online
This Mellow box is available from Hotel Chocolat directly on their website (£22.95°). At the time of writing, this was a clearance box. For more reduced items, check out the sale page on their website here°.
You can also sign up to the Chocolate Tasting Club subscription service here°.
VIP.ME members get a free Selector when you spend £30+. Sign up for free. No code necessary. Shop at Hotel Chocolat°
Ends on Sunday 17th December 2023. Terms and exclusions may apply. See website for details.
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What's your favourite in this Hotel Chocolat tasting box? Let me know in the comments below.