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I think I made it quite obvious last year how little I buy in to holidays like Valentines Day and Halloween but despite that I feel a duty to my readers to sort the wheat from the chaff in terms of the chocolate offerings on the UK market. Starting today over the coming week or so I will be looking at Hotel Chocolat's Valentines Day range. It has probably been impossible for you all to miss but all ChocolateMission readers can receive 10% off their Hotel Chocolat orders if they spend over £15 and input the code - JIMVAL10 ... I hope some of you make good use of the code on the Hotel Chocolat Website - See HERE.
Last week I received a big batch of samples from my pals at Hotel Chocolat and with the help of my family got stuck right into these Chilli & Nibs Sweethearts. In terms of proposition these looked like a simple variation of the Caramel Sweethearts I reviewed last year, however I thought the billing of 'solid chilli flavoured dark chocolate hearts with cocoa nibs' sounded a little more promising than the previous year's effort. In terms of packaging all the usual Hotel Chocolat swagger was encapsulated by the nicely designed outer box and inner tray and padding combo and I thought the red colouring was a good choice to communicate the chilli flavouring. The hearts themselves were not quite so impressive looking as the additional cocoa nib pieces scuffed the surface of the chocolates which spoilt the intricate design work somewhat.
Although we were a little disappointed by the aesthetics of the chocolates I am glad to report that it had no ramifications on the overall product. In regards to smell they emanated some fine roasted and burnt cocoa notes which was highly indicative of the taste experienced. As soon as I read that the chocolates were formed of Hotel Chocolat's 70% recipe I knew we were all in for a treat and these didn't fail to disappoint. Each heart piece was best eaten in two mouthfuls and I loved the dexterity of the textures created by the smooth melting chocolate base and the crunchy nib pieces. In terms of flavours the unsweetened cocoa taste was substantiated as soon as the chocolate hit the tongue. The volume of the cocoa grew with progression of the melt, however the taste never became overly bitter due to the presence of some milky undertones. Speaking of the additional chilli and nib elements one had a far greater say in the taste than the other and it was the chilli adding a lovely spicy kick to some, but not all of the heart pieces . Indeed this was something noted by not only me but my whole family - the chilli was a little inconsistent in that in some pieces it quite prominent, whilst in others undetectable.
Overall me and family were in agreement that these were very tasty but were not one of Hotel Chocolat's finest offerings at the same time. In fairness to Hotel Chocolate for the average manufacture these would go down as fantastic but in relation to the rest of their range there were just a few things that weren't quite right. Firstly as my old man mentioned the name .... 'Chilli & Nibs Sweethearts' probably wasn't the best choice!? I can understand sticking with 'Sweethearts' for range consistency but I personally would have gone for a more playful name - suggestions on postcards please! Going back to more important matters whilst these were simply delicious the added chilli flavouring wasn't as consistent as it should have been - as I alluded to above some pieces were very fiery, whilst others even failed to register a hint of chilli. If you or your partner/special someone are fan of dark chocolate and chilli these are well worth a look - I have a sneaky feeling that Hotel Chocolat will have better to offer this Valentines Day though.
8.2 out of 10