If I said there is a range of chocolate out there that is gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, and Vegan friendly, would you expect it to taste good? I bet you're pulling a face right now to suggest otherwise.
Truth be told, that's what I thought when I stumbled across the feel-good range from Nono Cocoa, an award winning functional food cooperative based in London. Food that's good for you has a reputation for tasting awful.
In this article:
- Vegan Advent Calendar
- Nono Cocoa Advent Calendar Taste Test
- Saffron and Orange
- Raspberry and Beetroot
- Lime and Matcha
- Apple and Cinnamon
- 80% Dark Cocoa
- Lemon and Turmeric
- White Baobab and Orange
- Chai Latte
- Coffee Crunch
- Dark Raspberry and Beetroot
- Lemon and Turmeric
- Raspberry and Beetroot
- Dark Baobab and Orange
- Rose and Cherry
- Mulled Wine
- Beetroot and Dark Cocoa
- Orange and Saffron
- Christmas Spice
- Dark Rose
- Beetroot and Dark Cocoa
- Ginger Spice
- Ginger and Cocoa
- Orange and Spice
- Vanilla and Cocoa
- Nono Cocoa Advent Calendar Review
- Where to Buy Online
Vegan Advent Calendar
This Nono Cocoa Vegan Superfood Chocolate Advent Calendar is a seasonal version of the company's gift boxes. On the outside, there's a depiction of a classic snow covered winter scene with a beautifully decorated Christmas tree at the end of the tree-lined avenue. It's a scene I'm unlikely to replicate when I head to the unseasonably warm snow-less Rovaniemi to visit Santa soon.
Beneath the façade of the numbered and perforated doors sits a gold-coloured plastic tray holding 24 beautiful looking chocolate truffles, I think you'll agree.
So what are we looking at? Clearly 24 chocolate treats, but they're not your run-of-the-mill mass-produced chocolate. No, these are made with "functional foods" and they come with a very long list of selling points:
- Gluten free
- Nut free
- Dairy free
- Yeast free
- Free from artificial colourings
- Free from preservatives
- Free from sulphides
- Free from genetically modified organisms
- Free from refined sugars
- Vegan certified
- Contains Fair Trade cocoa
That's a pretty exhaustive list, don't you think?
Now seems a perfect time to sidestep momentarily to look at the company's history to understand its ethos. It dates back to when founder Alessandra Bester devised a way to replace her autistic son's sugar-laden diet of chocolate and chocolate cake (during a brown food fussy eating phase) with food that not only tasted great but was significantly more nutritious for him. Nono Cocoa was born, and now opens up its production kitchen for work experience by young people with special educational requirements. This truly is feel-good food on so many levels.
Nono Cocoa Advent Calendar Taste Test
With all this in mind, do these 'healthy' chocolates actually taste good? It's time to take a peek behind all 24 doors to find out.
1 Saffron and Orange
This had a tart flavour thanks to the orange but the saffron helped to control the sweetness. It’s a great way to kick off a Christmas countdown as it tastes very festive.
2 Raspberry and Beetroot
This is another tart flavour thanks to the raspberry which grabs hold of you straight away. So much so it masks the beetroot flavour which is used to add earthiness to the overall taste. It’s a refreshing bite that is a perfect pick-me-up on Day 2 of December.
3 Lime and Matcha
The fresh and zesty lime dominates here with the Matcha tea fading into the background. The green tea leaves contrast the vibrancy of the citrus notes, rounding out the overall flavour. Pumpkin seeds add a little crunch and extra depth of flavour.
4 Apple and Cinnamon
Apple and cinnamon are best friends and this classic combination works very well here, with the cinnamon dominating the initial taste. The addition of dried apple adds a slight chewiness which only enhances the satisfaction.
5 80% Dark Cocoa
Simplicity is often the key to success, and this 80% cocoa dark chocolate is one of the stars of this show, with a deep and rich fruity flavour. Savour this one alongside a cup of coffee.
6 Lemon and Turmeric
I love the vivid colour that the turmeric gives to this chocolate, but it’s not a one trick pony. The root also grounds the zing of the zesty lemon.
7 White Baobab and Orange
I had no idea what baobab was, but after researching this superfruit I found it’s a powdery white fruit hidden inside a green pod and is native to southern Africa. I detected sweet citrus notes bordering on tartness, all characteristics of the baobab at play here. The poppy seeds add a little crunch too while contrasting the almost-tropical flavour.
8 Chai Latte
Chai tea (or more precisely, Masala Chai) is black tea infused with aromatic spices and herbs. In this chocolate, cinnamon and nutmeg sing loudest, although I detected a slight citrus background note.
9 Coffee Crunch
Coffee is like Marmite in the chocolate world. You either love the combination or you hate it. In any chocolate selection box, the coffee one is amongst my top picks. This variant from Nono Cocoa is an exemplary demonstration of how good the combination is. High quality ground coffee beans form the base note of flavour, and also adds slight crunch. But it’s the addition of cocoa nibs for sweetness and extra crunch that is inspired. These nibs linger in the aftertaste more so than the coffee beans.
10 Dark Raspberry and Beetroot
Unlike Day 2 where the raspberry overshadowed the chocolate, here the dark chocolate dominates with a fruity baseline, layered with zingy raspberry close behind. The depth of flavour from the dark chocolate and the earthy quality of the beetroot prevents the raspberry from being overly tart. A slightly bitter aftertaste follows.
11 Lemon and Turmeric
A variant on Day 6, this star-shaped version still packs a vibrant punch thanks to the zesty lemon. It's a clean refreshing taste that's perfect as a breakfast treat.
12 Raspberry and Beetroot
Like on Day 2, the beetroot blends well with the sweet chocolate to create a balanced taste.
13 Dark Baobab and Orange
On Day 7 it was white chocolate but on Day 13 it's the turn of dark chocolate to take on the baobab. The freshness of the orange is the dominant flavour here, and adds a pleasant twist on the fruity-yet-bitter dark chocolate and the tart baobab. The seeds also add texture. Overall, it's a very Christmassy combination that works well.
14 Rose and Cherry
Like coffee, rose is another of my go-to flavours as is cherry, so this combination sounded perfect. I expected a muted cherry flavour but instead found a wake-up call from the chewy sour cherries within. The tartness takes over the flavour profile initially, but briefly fades to allow the gentle perfume of rose to quietly sing away in the background. Even so, the cherry flavour remains strong into the aftertaste.
15 Mulled Wine
The packaging reads "enjoy with an open mind" but if, like me, you're a fan of touring Europe's Christmas Markets, you'll find this one very reassuring and comforting. It's a delicate flavour that develops more so in the aftertaste, where a gentle spiciness shines through. This is the very essence of Christmas distilled into a single bite.
16 Beetroot and Dark Cocoa
In this version of the Beetroot and Dark Cocoa truffle, the sweetness really stands out for me, and it balances the bitterness of the dark cocoa. The aftertaste is quite earthy and complex.
17 Orange and Saffron
Here's another Orange and Saffron combination, and it works just as well. The orange flavour isn't overpowering, and there's a an earthiness that develops in the aftertaste.
18 Christmas Spice
This one wasn't on the menu so was well and truly a surprise. In my tasting notes I likened it to the taste of a bonfire (bear with me). A smokey quality dominates initially, followed by a subtle fieriness. I detected a slight citrus orange flavour in there behind it all. Overall, I really enjoyed this one and felt it represents autumn and winter very well.
19 Dark Rose
Day 14 saw rose paired with sour cherry, but today it's all about the rose. This is a chance for rose to shine, but its voice is muted. The dark chocolate overpowers the rose here, with only a very subtle perfume right at the very end. The aftertaste is an incredible mix of fruity and floral notes though.
20 Beetroot and Dark Cocoa
This is the final instalment of beetroot and cocoa and it performs equally as well as the others. The chocolate really is the star of the show here, with beetroot taking care to keep it in line.
21 Ginger Spice
Christmas is drawing ever nearer and now this ginger and spice truffle is about to give you a slap across the face. The taste of ginger warms the mouth before, WHAM! There's a hefty kick at the back of your throat. It's over in a flash, but is very enjoyable. If winter is getting you down, you need one of these to perk you up!
22 Ginger and Cocoa
Just as Day 22 follows Day 21, this chocolate truffle builds on the foundations the Ginger Spice truffle laid. So it too has a warming quality, but the fiery kick from this one lasts a good few seconds while the ginger flavour lingers in the aftertaste for a few minutes. If you love ginger, this is a very fine example of how it ought to be blended with chocolate.
23 Orange and Spice
Can you tell Christmas is nearly here? We've gone from a medley of flavours through to ginger and now onto orange, another key festive ingredient. This one blends orange with a selection of spices (I picked up cinnamon and nutmeg) in equal measures. No one flavour really stands out. Instead, they simply blend into one delicious taste of Christmas.
24 Vanilla and Cocoa
And so we've arrived at Christmas Eve, and what better way to end the countdown than with a classic Madagascan Vanilla truffle. Elegant, sophisticated, and beautifully simple. This one delivers on taste and style, although I would like to see the vanilla taste really shout above the chocolate, rather than sing harmoniously with it.
Nono Cocoa Advent Calendar Review
I was surprised to find all of the 24 chocolates tasted delicious. I will be the first to admit I had preconceptions, especially given all the great claims these chocolates boast.
Each flavour combination has been carefully thought about to balance with the chocolate. It certainly is a great example of how gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, and Vegan friendly can actually taste good.
My only real criticism is that all 24 chocolates are hard, and those that struggle with crunchy food may not get on well with the crunch. It would be great to see a mix of soft- and hard-centred chocolates although I imagine creating a silky flavourful soft ganache while all maintaining the feel-good factors listed above is an awful lot trickier than it sounds.
That said, Nono also makes vegan-friendly marzipan from a blend of plant protein, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, and spirulina. Customers reckon it tastes like the real thing, and it also comes with a long list of free-from boasts. Perhaps this could be used in place of a ganache as a carrier of strong flavours such as tart fruits and festive spices? In fact, a cube of covered Micro Marz simply covered in milk or dark chocolate would sit very nicely in this advent calendar
My personal preference aside, I am very impressed with the treats from Nono Cocoa. I never expected gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, and Vegan friendly chocolate to taste this good, and it really is comparable to mainstream chocolate available elsewhere. If you have a particular dietary requirement that excludes you from eating most mainstream chocolate, take a look at what Nono Cocoa produces as you might be in luck.
Nono Cocoa Advent Calendar Review
RRP: £21.00 | Nono Cocoa | Shop now
A collection of 24 assorted chocolates, some with a Christmas vibe, and all gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, and vegan friendly. Flavours are punchy, clear, and delicious. All chocolates are firm and crunchy, so if you're a fan of softer chocolates and runny centres, you might be slightly disappointed.
Where to Buy Online
The Nono Cocoa range is available to buy from the Functional Food Company here. This includes the Advent Calendar in the run up to Christmas, but the gift boxes that are available year-round. Many of the flavours listed above are also available in these gift boxes so in the height of summer you can still get your chocolate fix!
Have you tried Nono Cocoa's chocolates yet? Let me know your favourites in the comments below.