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Yes, I realise we're a month beyond Christmas and so, advent calendars are perhaps the last thing on your mind right now. In 2021, I had the pleasure of working through three calendars (you know, because one just wasn't enough!). Breakfast was covered courtesy of Nono Cocoa's vegan chocolate advent calendar. Lunch was catered with Nibblette's sublime filled bonbons advent calendar. For my post-dinner treat, I looked to God's own country, Yorkshire, where York Cocoa House had launched its first ever advent calendar.
York Cocoa Works founder and Managing Director, Sophie Jewett, and her team, kindly send an advent calendar on its merry way from the 'chocolate city' to South Wales, where I pulled it apart (literally) and discovered a few things I really liked.
York has a wealth of chocolate and confectionery heritage, with the likes of Terry's, Rowntree's and Craven's calling the city home. York Cocoa Works builds upon that heritage, introducing a modern chocolate factory to the city, allowing visitors to learn about - and taste - chocolate.
I've collated my five top reasons why York Cocoa Works' advent calendar should be on your radar when scoping out your chocolate advent calendar for 2022.
1 Beautiful Design
I love advent calendars that treat my eyes as well as my taste buds. This one by York Cocoa Works has a craft paper look and texture to it, with plenty of illustrations to draw the eye. A smattering of bronze foil print (for the logo and daily numbers) finishes it off beautifully.
The illustrations paint a picture of what York Cocoa Works stands for, with nature and culinary craft working hand-in-hand. The graphics depict insects and wildlife sitting beside flora and fauna, with cocoa beans, and finished chocolate products dotted around.
The doors (or windows) are arranged in six rows of four.
On the reverse, a simple illustrated paper sticker briefly details the product, encouraging the recipient to head to the website link. There's also a list of ingredients and allergens.
York Cocoa Works advent calendar ingredients:
Chocolate (sugar, cocoa, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, rapeseed lecithin, vanilla), double cream, mincemeat (apples, vine fruits, sugar, spirit vinegar, lemon juice (from concentrate), orange peel, treacle, salt, spices, orange oil), glucose syrup, pine needles, ginger, salt, cinnamon, Sorrento orange oil, wine (grapes, yeast, sulphites), cloves, nutmeg, allspice, satsuma, butter, plum jam (sugar, plums, lemon juice (from concentrate), gelling agent (fruit pectin, citric acid), safflower, spirulina, E172, E171.
The chocolates are handmade in York and have a shelf life until the end of December.
Look more closely at the back and you'll find the pre-cut outlines for a couple of fold-out pieces of card, allowing you to stand this advent calendar up anywhere you like. Display it on a shelf, on a cabinet, or on a table.
2 Plastic-Free Packaging
As you might expect from a chocolate business that cares passionately about the quality and origins of its ingredients, this advent calendar is also kind to the environment. It is 100% plastic-free, and is fully recyclable. That includes the shipping box and protective paper wrapping.
The advent calendar boasts a card exterior, and a white card tray inside, keeping the chocolates safe and sound during transit and throughout the month of December.
It's not just a case of using recyclable materials, though. The company has sought to reduce the amount of material it uses to the bare minimum. The box measures just 25.5cm by 19cm by 3.5cm. Chocolates are snugly stored inside. There's no wasted space just for the sake of making the calendar larger. It's a carefully considered - and designed - product.
To that end, the tasting card is fully digital, accessed through a website link or QR code. While I like that there's less material that needs to be recycled, I do miss holding a physical menu card. However, there's one significant benefit to an online menu: information.
Each day comes with a wealth of information about that product, as well as handy links to purchase more if you like what you taste. It's super convenient to learn about the origins of each taster, and then to see a list of more products crafted using the same chocolate of the day. As a bonus, York Cocoa Works offered daily discounts, freebies, and special offers for those following along online throughout December.
3 Enjoy The Best of Both Worlds
Not all advent calendars are made equal. At the cheaper end of the market, you've typically got the calendars aimed primarily at kids, with tiny discs of sugar-laden milk (or milk alternative) chocolate. Plain, simple and cheap. Kids love them, but us grown up kids crave flavour and variety.
At the opposite end of the spectrum you've got the lavish advent calendars, that feature exquisite handcrafted, hand-painted chocolate bonbons. You know the one's - they boast 24 delightful bonbons crammed with festive flavours, or perhaps a few novel twists.
In this particular advent calendar, you get to enjoy the best of both worlds. There's an assortment of solid milk, dark and white chocolate shapes, tasting cubes, and a range of truffles and filled chocolate shells.
The 2021 line up looked like this:
- 36% white chocolate.
- Spiced orange fresh cream truffle, made with 45% Uganda milk chocolate, orange oil and cinnamon.
- Indonesian 40% milk chocolate.
- 75% dark chocolate truffle
- Ugandan 45% milk chocolate.
- Christmas pine truffle, with a citrus and candyfloss pine needle-infused creamy ganache, encased in 65% Uganda dark chocolate.
- Dominican Republic 50% milk chocolate.
- 36% white chocolate cocoa pods.
- Ugandan 65% dark chocolate.
- 40% milk chocolate truffle.
- Peruvian 65% dark chocolate.
- Mulled wine truffle, made with spiced Yorkshire red wine and 45% milk chocolate.
- Indonesian 65% dark chocolate.
- 36% white chocolate truffle.
- Papua New Guinean 65% dark chocolate.
- Ugandan 45% milk chocolate cocoa pod.
- Honduras 72% dark chocolate.
- Sugar plum chocolate truffle, with a creamy white ganache, sweet plum jam, and a 45% Ugandan milk chocolate shell.
- Dominican Republic 75% dark chocolate.
- Ginger Parkin caramel truffle heart, with a fresh stem ginger caramel encased in a 65% Ugandan dark chocolate.
- Ecuadorian 82% dark chocolate.
- Ugandan 65% dark chocolate cocoa pod.
- Papua New Guinean 90% dark chocolate.
- Mince pie caramel truffle, with a gooey spiced centre encased in 65% Ugandan dark chocolate.
The solid chocolate cocoa pod shapes demonstrate York Cocoa Works' prowess. The dark chocolate cocoa pod stood out in particular, with its smokey, tobacco and leather tasting notes. The milk chocolate cocoa pod embodied similar smokey notes, but exhibited more nutty notes alongside a generous helping of creaminess . This one was particularly satisfying.
In terms of the filled chocolates, there's a couple of standout flavours for me. My favourite one was the Ginger Parkin Caramel Truffle heart, with its fiery fresh ginger flavour lingering long after the chocolate disappeared.
This was closely followed by the Mulled Wine Truffle, with its dense ganache and boozy fragrance. The spicing within evokes imagery of a fruity Christmas cake too. So much so, it reminded me to finish decorating the Christmas cake I had baked and subsequently forgotten about.
The Christmas Pine Truffle delivers a dose of gentle spicing, spiked with an almost savoury twist, presumably from the pine.
The Mince Pie Caramel Truffle was also another curiosity. It reminded me of an orange marmalade, with its fragrant, almost-liquid centre of fruit and spices jostling with the 65% Uganda dark chocolate shell.
4 Sample The Range of Single Origin Chocolates
York Cocoa Works is known for its handcrafted single-origin chocolate, and you get to discover 11 tasting cubes inside this advent calendar. Each one has a different composition and origin, spanning the spectrum of milk, white and dark chocolate.
The cubes are clad in recyclable coloured foil, with a small paper band detailing the origin and ingredients, along with brief tasting notes:
- 36% white chocolate with sweet and buttery notes.
- 45% Uganda milk chocolate with creamy, nutty notes.
- 50% Dominican Republic milk chocolate with notes of dried fruit and warm spices.
- 65% Peru dark chocolate.
- 65% Uganda dark chocolate with nutty notes and hints of gentle spice.
- 65% Papua New Guinea dark chocolate.
- 65% Indonesia dark chocolate with dark fruit and deep spice vibes.
- 72% Honduras dark chocolate with hints of fresh fruit and red berries.
- 75% Dominican Republic dark chocolate with notes of sharp fruit and warming spices.
- 85% Ecuador dark chocolate with floral notes and hints of sharp fruit.
- 90% Papua New Guinea dark chocolate with earthy undertones and a seam of gentle spice.
Each cube serves to demonstrate first-hand the degree at which the flavour of cocoa can vary wildly from region to region. The Uganda, Dominican Republic and Papua New Guinea examples also show the flavour differences between milk and dark chocolates from the same region, as well as how different proportions of cocoa solids impacts on the overall flavour.
This is a superb way to sample the range of craft bean-to-bar chocolate that York Cocoa Works produces, while counting down to Christmas.
5 If Your're Lucky, Discover A Golden Ticket
When you finished your advent calendar last year, did you pull it apart and recycle as much of it as you could? It pays to pull your advent calendar apart. Why?
Because slipped behind the tray of chocolates I discovered a golden ticket. In true Willy Wonka style, the golden ticket (which is printed on shimmering pearlescent paper) was for a Chocolate Manufactory Tasting Journey for two.
There's no mention of the golden ticket on the website or advent calendar itself, which enhanced the sense of joy when I discovered it. Perhaps not every calendar features this, or maybe each calendar features a different surprise? Either way, I got to experience that sensation Charlie felt when he found his chocolate factory ticket gleaming in front of his very eyes!
The tours run five times daily at the Castlegate factory, and begins with a look at the transformation of cocoa into chocolate. There's an insight into York's chocolate making heritage, as well as a glimpse into the Chocolate Manufactory. The 45 minute session concludes with a tasting session, with varying fresh chocolates made from beans sourced around the globe, enabling you to taste the flavour differences between regions. My ticket was slipped down the back of the chocolate tray, and I only discovered it by pulling the calendar apart ready for recycling. So, it clearly pays to recycle!
York Cocoa Works Advent Calendar Review
RRP: £32.50 | York Cocoa Works | Shop now
Designed for those that enjoy a variety of different chocolates, this advent calendar serves up a selection of solid chocolate shapes, filled chocolates, and single-origin bean-to-bar chocolates. You get the best of both worlds presented in a fully recyclable advent calendar. York Cocoa Works nailed their first advent calendar and I suspect it will go from strength to strength over the next few years.
Where to Buy Online
You'll need to wait until late in 2022 to get your hands on the next advent calendar by York Cocoa Works. Be sure to check out the York Cocoa House website here closer to December.
If you are visiting York, there are various hands-on chocolate making classes in the Cocoa Academy that you can buy tickets to join in Castlegate. There are also Chocolate Manufactory Tasting Journeys available, as well as the shop and chocolate cafe.
Tell York Cocoa Works You Saw It On Chocolatier.co.uk!
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When do you normally buy your advent calendar? Do you order as early as you can or push it off to the last minute? Let me know in a comment below.