The Great Torontoist Challenge: Chocolate Box Edition

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The Great Torontoist Challenge: Chocolate Box Edition

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Photo by knittingskwerlgurl from Flickr.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa or Festivus, this is the time of year to give gifts and eat way too much food. Torontoist is no exception in enjoying these pastimes, and finds that giving a gift that is food is most often the best way to go. Giving a box of chocolates is a pretty sure way to make someone’s day better, and is a firm favourite of primary school teachers, bosses, letter carriers, and garbage-collecting agents alike. Torontoist would like to note that we have carefully avoided any reference to idiot-savant Southerners and what their mamas might say about life.

The Contestants

  • Godiva. Established in Brussels in 1926, Godiva is now a subsidiary of the Campbell Soup Company. Godiva is available in most department stores, Chapters, and Indigo, and also has five boutiques in the GTA. Godiva enjoys a reputation that allows it to charge about twice as much per pound than many of its competitors. Lucky.
  • Pot of Gold. Though now owned by Hershey, Pot of Gold was originally introduced by Halifax-based Moirs in 1928. We’re pretty sure Pot of Gold used to have a catchy jingle, but ironically we can no longer remember it.
  • Laura Secord. Named after a certain War of 1812 heroine, Laura Secord has 148 retail outlets across the country. It should be noted that none of these outlets sell cows willing to act as excuses for why you’re walking 32 kilometres through the Niagara Escarpment. They do, however, sell assorted chocolates.
  • Le Chocolat. Only recently launched by Shoppers Drug Mart (the press release is from early November of this year), Le Chocolat purports to demonstrate that you don’t have “to sacrifice quality for reasonable prices.”
  • Chocolate Concepts. Born, apparently, out of a woman’s basement here in Toronto, the Chocolate Concepts assorted box, Forever Cocoa, is available at a whole slew of places, including Pusateri’s, Michael-Angelo’s, and Bruno’s.

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The Criteria

  • Visuals. Is it an attractive package? When opened, are the chocolates nice looking? Do they have a variety of finishes? Are they creatively done, and so on?
  • Mapability. If you deem choco-centric mystery as a hobby, then maybe maps are not for you. But if you’re like Torontoist and prefer to avoid things like raisins or that weird strawberry goopy stuff, then maps are fairly key.
  • Showpiece. Most boxes have a centre piece that is the showpiece or calling card—what’s the overall impression?
  • Flavour. Does it taste as described? Is it nice and fresh?
  • Chocolate Quality. Does it have a smooth consistency? Or is it waxy or brittle? Is it nice and shiny and obviously tempered?
  • Variety. Is it a Noah’s Ark-style box with two of each flavour? Are there lots of different, creative flavours?

Additional Criteria

We have ranked these by cost without considering weight, as one of the contestants did not have it listed on the box. We leave the math to you!
Godiva ($34.99 per 283 g.); Chocolate Concepts ($16.99 per 12 pieces); Laura Secord ($14.10 per 200 g.); Le Chocolat ($9.99 for 150 g.); Pot Of Gold ($6.99 for 410 g.).

Results

  • Visuals. Godiva—22.5/30. With its festive season-appropriate stylings, Godiva won the heart of more than one judge. Upon further inspection—opening the box and looking inside—our judges agreed that the chocolates themselves were nice, with a variety of shapes and finishes.
  • Mapability. Laura Secord—28/30. Laura Secord won in the map category hands down. There were photos of the chocolates as well as descriptions, which are handy when there are dark and milk chocolates that are similar in appearance.
  • Showpiece. Godiva—25/30. The only non-solid showpiece, this foil wrapped confection was fresh and delicious.
  • Flavour. Godiva—26/30. Godiva offered up some real amazing flavours—raspberry creams, cinnamon, and many more. The flavours were unique compared to the other contestants, and the surrounding chocolate was top notch.
  • Chocolate Quality. Godiva—27.5/30. In some cases you do pay for quality. This appears to be one of them.
  • Variety. Laura Secord—24/30. Laura Secord had two of many of the flavours as well as a good variety. The panel noted that Laura Secord is expanding its horizons, with more dark chocolate choices as well as new flavours.

Conclusions

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Chocolate Concepts’ offering, Forever Cocoa, was the loser of our challenge. While it did come in second place on visuals and was Noah-style in having two of each flavour, it scored a zero in the mapability category due to its complete lack of one. Torontoist was then forced to blindly try different pieces in the hopes of finding one that we enjoyed. What we did find was that each selection was a solid, which means serious limitations in variety. It was also noted, in an attempt to share a piece between two judges, that these chocolates are really hard to split or bite into. Our try at cutting one sample in two resulted in chocolate flying everywhere and the judges scurrying to keep it from the dog.
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We’re pretty sure we gave a box of Pot of Gold to at least one teacher in our varied yet glorious grade school career. If we could turn back time we may have chosen differently. The crux of the matter is such—Pot of Gold isn’t so much a box of chocolates as it is a box of candy. This stuff is so sweet and has a made-by-giant-Willy-Wonka-robots quality to it that our judging panel could not agree with. A large number of the chocolates looked the same, and though the map was helpful, it was a close call on some of our selections. On a whole it is what it is—less expensive, chock-full of sugar, and henceforth perfect for children the world over. Blink.
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Smack dab in the middle is Shoppers Drug Mart’s Le Chocolat. While Torontoist does raise its eyebrows at the rather obvious attempt at making this item seem a bit more chichi with a French appellation, we do have to agree that these chocolates were yummy. The window in the lid of the packaging suggested a hint of cheapness to some, while others found it helpful to see the wares prior to purchase. The chocolate was of good quality and the flavours were delicious, however the lack of variety—especially when one considers the cost—was a downside. Certainly these chocolates were larger than the other contestants’, but sometimes you’d rather sample a couple different flavours rather than filling up on one.
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In second place was Laura Secord’s Assorted Miniatures. The visual presentation for this contestant was clean, simple and classic. Their showpiece, the iconic cameo, was maybe not super exciting to taste, but it had an elegant look and did the trick of centering the collection. As stated above, Laura Secord won for the best of the maps. You will be hard-pressed to mess up your selection and the fruits of your labour—the labour being strenuous map reading—will be delicious. Though Laura Secord may not have the highest, most pure, sourced from a small village in Belgium populated only by cocoa-refining Oompa Loompas-type of chocolate, it was still not waxy or too sweet. It was good quality and the flavours were delicious and varied, if at times a bit on the safe side. Torontoist would not hesitate to bring a box of these wee yummies to a dinner party or holiday kegger as a delightful hostess gift.
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The winner, by a narrow margin of under two percent, is Godiva. Of our contestants, Godiva most definitely had the highest quality of chocolate. The flavours on offer were delicious and at times quite creative compared to what was available in the other boxes. There were two downsides to Godiva as a contestant—the cost and the map. The cost requires no explanation; the map, on the other hand, does. The map itself, in terms of the graphics and explanations, was clear. The issue arose when our panel realized that Godiva doesn’t only provide a list of chocolates residing in the current box. Instead they provide a list of every bloody chocolate they make. And so, friends, Torontoist found itself taking a good time longer to make a selection. You may want that Pecan Caramel Cluster, but that doesn’t mean it will be there, and to be honest, that just isn’t cool. They may have great flavours and top-quality chocolate on offer, but don’t tease the consumer! That’s just plain rude. Rant aside, Godiva does know how to make a superb chocolate and of our contestants they had the best to offer. The way that Godiva has gotten around the map issue is simple—every single chocolate in that box was not only good, it was fan-fucking-tastic. Shrug. Makes one forget about the value of the reading material that came with it.
Photos of our contestants by John Reitsma.

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