The Nono Cocoa team is back with a new collection, and this time they proudly present their Identity.
You may remember I had the pleasure of working through their delicious guilt-free advent calendar in the run up to Christmas. Now Nono Cocoa has put together a new collection, with team members putting forward their own flavour suggestions.
Nono Cocoa sent me a box their Identity collection of chocolates alongside details of how this box came to be. In a nutshell, they want to invest in a bigger chocolate machine, and need to sell 500 Identity boxes to raise enough capital. In turn, this investment creates additional work opportunities for young people with special needs. It's an aspirational goal and one I am sure the team can easily achieve.
A dozen chocolates sit inside a black plastic tray, nested inside a gold- and red-coloured cardboard box. A colourful sleeve wraps around the box sealing it closed. The sleeve contains collaborative artwork, based on a large canvas painted by Team Nono. Digital artwork overlays the result, creating a colourful and original piece of box art.
The sleeve contains the list of ingredients, which as you'd expect from a brand that focuses on gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free chocolates, is refreshingly brief. Each of the chocolates is based around a dark, dairy-free 'milky', and white chocolate, and I find the composition of these very interesting:
Dark Chocolate ingredients:
Cocoa solids (74%), rice powder, coconut nectar, cocoa butter.
'Milky' Chocolate ingredients:
Cocoa solids (65%), Xylitol 25%, cocoa butter (48%), soya, sunflower lecithin.
White Chocolate ingredients:
Cocoa butter (48%), rice powder, coconut nectar.
It's like gluten-free, dairy-free, and nut-free alchemy!
Upon opening the box I was greeted with a really nice chocolate aroma. It's sweet and comforting and reminds me of stepping inside a chocolate shop in Bruges.
A dozen flavours of white, dark, and 'milky' chocolate await. The vegan chocolates in this box stay true to Nono Cocoa's belief of making their sure their products are gluten-, dairy- and nut-free. Recipes also exclude eggs, yeast, artificial colourings and preservatives, and hidden sugar.
White Orange Chocolate with Orange Caramel by JD
Picture an orange chocolate and you'll instinctively pair it with dark chocolate, but in this particular bite, it was married with white chocolate.
White Orange Chocolate with Orange Caramel ingredients:
White chocolate (see above), baobab, agave syrup, oil, turmeric, raspberry, orange extract.
A thick, crunchy domed shell hid an almost paste-like caramel inside. The shell itself was quite sweet while the caramel was not. Instead, the orange caramel delivered vibrancy and tartness. Traditionally, I'd expect a sweet caramel and a not-so-sweet chocolate shell, but this chocolate mixed up that notion - and the result worked a treat. It was balanced and flavourful, with the sweetness playing against the tartness. In the aftertaste, the orange flavour lingered longest.
The strength and properties of the orange in the caramel plays nicely against the sweet white chocolate. I'm not a huge fan of liquid centres, and so the paste-like texture of the caramel was a happy and welcomed surprise.
Dark Chocolate Strawberry Crunch by John
Who doesn't love strawberries and dark chocolate?
Dark Chocolate Strawberry Crunch ingredients:
Dark chocolate (see above), freeze-dried strawberries.
This heart-shaped dark chocolate shell hid pieces of freeze-dried strawberry inside. The chocolate hadn't fully sealed around my heart leaving a small gap along one side.
The dark chocolate in this was intense and full of flavour. It had a very slight smokiness to it with a bitter finish. Meanwhile, the strawberries were chewy whereas I expected to find crunch. Freeze-dried strawberries are inherently tart and was the case in this instance, but that sat well against the bitterness of the 74% dark chocolate.
I was pleasantly surprised by this one, both by the textures and the balance of flavours. Simple, but very effective.
Dark Chocolate with Rose Caramel by Gemma
Rose and dark chocolate are best friends, and I love both!
Dark Chocolate with Rose Caramel ingredients:
Dark chocolate (see above), agave syrup, baobab, raspberry, rose oil.
This one was deep and dark. A dark chocolate domed shell hides a dark red paste-like centre, with many layers of flavour. The caramel was once again paste-like (a good thing in my eyes). This time it was rose that was the dominant flavour, although the raspberry came out first. It awoke my taste buds with a subtle zing, ready for the gentle rose flavour to follow through. That flavour lingered into the aftertaste, more so than the chocolate.
The dark chocolate in this instance added a background depth to the flavours, but the vibrant caramel dominated the overall taste. And I'm very happy with that. This is a chocolate with so many levels and was one of my favourites in this collection.
Dark Chocolate Greek Coffee by Maria
This one scored highly in my books on appearance alone. The hexagonal domed mould used is very pretty, and the shiny blue artwork made this one a joy to gaze at.
Dark Chocolate Greek Coffee ingredients:
Dark chocolate (see above), agave syrup, green coffee powder, Greek coffee, oil.
The thick dark chocolate shell hid a runny coffee syrup that oozed out as I bit into it. The coffee aroma and taste are both strong, but there's an unpleasant bitterness to it. It lacked enough sweetness to balance out the earthy, almost grassy, taste of the gritty syrup.
I normally make a beeline for coffee chocolates in a selection box, but this one was not my cup of Joe. I would have preferred to see a richer, sweeter coffee used in this recipe.
'Milky' Chocolate Cookie Crunch by Ethan
This one is another beauty, with a brushed metallic shimmer across the top of this cube.
'Milky' Chocolate Cookie Crunch ingredients:
'Milky' chocolate (see above), cookies (gluten-free wholegrain oats (66%), sustainable palm fruit oil, currants (13%), demerara sugar, partially inverted syrup, tapioca starch, raising agents (ammonium bicarbonate, sodium bicarbonate), natural flavouring, sea salt).
This was one of just two chocolates in this collection that used the 'milky' chocolate as a foundation in its recipe. The cube consisted of cookie pieces set inside a cube of the 'milky' chocolate. Get your gnashers ready for this one as it was a hard one to chomp through. The cookie added a subtle oaty flavour to the rich chocolate, that in turn tasted only marginally less intense than the 74% dark chocolate. It is the chocolate that dominated the overall flavour, so I would have liked to see more biscuit and slightly less chocolate. It may well work better in a white chocolate version.
White Chocolate Mint & Lime Mojito by Shaffer
When I think of a Mojito, I'm instantly transported back to my time on cruise ships, sipping away on the cocktail underneath a blazing sun.
White Chocolate Mint & Lime Mojito ingredients:
White chocolate (see above), Matcha, amaranth, hemp seeds, mint, lime extract.
As I bit into this green, almost flower-like shell, I was instantly transported back to my holidays. There was a distracting yet subtle crunch, but the flavour was spot on. Fresh mint dominated the flavour, with a subtle twang from the lime beneath. The chocolate itself is dwarfed by the dominating flavours of mint and lime, so fades into the background. It does at least give up some of its sweetness to create a lovely fresh, rounded flavour. This was another of my firm favourites in this collection.
Now if only I were back on holiday... and it were sunny...
White Chocolate Strawberry & Cream by Sam
This is another strawberry heart, albeit in white chocolate.
White Chocolate Strawberry & Cream ingredients:
White chocolate (see above), mixed berries, freeze-dried strawberries.
The flavour on this one was more subtle, and the texture more crunchy.
The white chocolate added creaminess and richness, as the strawberry flavour gently hummed away alongside. When I detected the fleeting glimpses of the freeze-dried strawberry, the tartness played beautifully against the sweetness of the chocolate. I liked the mix of chewy berry and freeze-dried berry to add texture together with an extra boost of tartness.
White Chocolate Café Latte Crunch by Amy
This chocolate had a similar recipe to the Dark Chocolate Greek Coffee recipe by Maria, but did it work better in white?
White Chocolate Café Latte Crunch ingredients:
White chocolate (see above), green coffee, Greek coffee, agave syrup, popped amaranth, cocoa nibs.
While the recipe was similar, it was completely different texturally. It was a solid chocolate rather than a shell with a runny centre, meaning the flavour of coffee ran through the entire chocolate rather than concentrated into a caramel. While the coffee wasn't as strong this time around, the flavour was still quite bitter. However, I think it worked better set against the creaminess and richness of the white chocolate, delivering a nice, sweet latte taste.
Dark Chocolate Covered Prune by Andreea
Prunes seem to divide opinion, but luckily I'm a fan!
Dark Chocolate Covered Prune ingredients:
Dark chocolate (see above), dried prune.
Despite its small size, this one packed in two very distinct flavours. First was the unmistakable taste of prune. It was moist and chewy - and almost jelly-like - in texture. It was, however, more aromatic than flavourful (perhaps a good thing if you aren't a fan of prunes). The flavour wasn't strong enough to counter the second distinct flavour, the bitter dark chocolate. The chocolate flavours lasted long into the aftertaste while all that remains of the prune were the tiny bits stuck in my teeth.
White Chocolate Vanilla & Roasted Coconut by Kinga
This was another very pretty cube of chocolate in pink, finished with golden flicks.
White Chocolate Vanilla & Roasted Coconut ingredients:
White chocolate (see above), roasted coconut clusters, Madagascar vanilla.
The crunchy property of the white chocolate worked well with the flecks of toasted coconut swirled into this cube.
The vanilla helped to accentuate the creaminess of the white chocolate. There was a lot of unbounded sweetness in this bite and I craved some tartness or bitterness to counteract this. Instead, I was left with a very sweet taste in my mouth, alongside tiny pieces of coconut.
Milky Chocolate with Orange Caramel by Mimoza
I was intrigued as to how the milky chocolate fared against the zesty orange caramel in this silver-topped domed chocolate.
Milky Chocolate with Orange Caramel ingredients:
Milky chocolate (see above), baobab, agave syrup, oil, orange extract.
Cracking through the milky chocolate shell, I was greeted with an orange paste, and was very happy to see that. The bitterness of the cocoa in the chocolate recipe worked very well against the vibrant, refreshing, and mildly bitter orange caramel paste. There was a lot going on from both components, so I ended up with a flavour that was intrinsically sweet yet tart, bitter yet fruity. Importantly, the flavours were balanced so no one property stole the lead.
Both flavours developed in the aftertaste, with the chocolate marginally outperforming the orange flavour.
Dark Chocolate Roasted Salted Seed Butter Crunch by Aless
This final chocolate promised dark and roasted flavours. How did it taste?
Dark Chocolate Roasted Salted Seed Butter Crunch ingredients:
Dark chocolate (see above), roasted sunflower seeds, rapeseed oil, reduced sodium salt.
My first thought that sprung to mind is that I was biting into a mouthful of peanut butter. It's hard to believe peanut does not feature in the ingredients list as it was an uncanny similarity.
It exuded a flavour remarkably similar to that of roasted monkey nuts. The roasted seed flavour dominated, which was nutty and earthy in taste. It was not heavily salted, which is a good thing in my book. The richness of the dark chocolate helped to liven up the overall flavour. In the aftertaste, the chocolate melted away to leave the strong roasted nutty flavour centre stage.
What did I think?
If any box best demonstrates Nono Cocoa's style, it is this one. The recipes are creative and make the most of the properties of the gluten-, dairy- and nut-free chocolate.
Thinking back to the vegan advent calendar I reviewed last year, I am very happy to see the move towards including more gooey centres. I favoured the jammy paste centres over the oozey liquid centres, but that's just a personal preference. I know plenty of people who prefer their centres gooey.
My favourites in this collection were Gemma's Dark Chocolate with Rose Caramel, and Shaffer's White Chocolate Mint & Lime Mojito. I'd scoff boxes full of these all day long. The delicate rose flavour was beautifully partnered with the sharp tartness of raspberry in Gemma's chocolate. As for Shaffer's handiwork, that was a glass of Mint Mojito condensed into chocolate form. The taste was spot on - just close your eyes and taste the flavours of a long, hot summer (just ignore the torrential British rain outside...).
You can help the team create new opportunities for young people by treating yourself to a box, or gifting them to friends and family. The Identity Box is available for £12 from the Functional Food Company.
Which flavour sounds like it would be your favourite in this collection? Let me know in the comments below.