April Gutierrez Reviews: Hammond’s Candies Cocoa

Review by April Gutierrez: Established in Denver in 1920 by Carl T. Hammond Sr., Hammond’s Candies has been in continuous operation ever since, priding itself on producing quality candies using ingredients and methods that harken back to the days of its founding. Hammond’s produces a wide variety of traditional candies, from chocolate-dipped caramels to ribbon candy, candy canes, lollipops and taffy. The company also produces its own brand of hot cocoa, which Green Man obtained for me to review.

A chocolate fiend, I’m inordinately fond of chocolate in all its forms, including hot cocoa/chocolate mixes. This past winter was particularly cold and lingered far past its welcome, so I looked forward to the chance to try out a new (to me) brand of cocoa. Hammond’s hot cocoa mix comes in a 6.25 ounce tin with an old-fashioned looking label (a hallmark of all Hammond’s products, it seems). It’s touted as being “double chocolate,” so promises a rich, chocolatey taste.

Prior to preparing a cup, I opened the tin to view the mix and inhale its aroma (the best cocoa I ever received was a tin of semi-sweet chips for melting into milk: visually attractive and delightfully pungent). Unfortunately, instead of being treated to a chocolatey scent, I was overwhelmed by a cloying sweetness. A sweetness that was confirmed when I looked at the mix and checked the ingredients. First item on that list? Sugar, not chocolate.

Still, aroma is just one component in the overall hot cocoa experience, so I prepared a cup per the tin’s instructions: one heaping tablespoon per six ounces of liquid. I tend to use milk in my cocoa rather than water, since it tends to produce a richer flavor and better mouth feel. However, I’m also fond of using almond milk, since the nutty flavor plays off chocolate so well. This time I used vanilla almond milk, which has proven a very good companion to cocoa in the past. After stirring in the recommended amount of mix, I sampled the cocoa and realized I couldn’t taste any chocolate – the result was just sweet hot almond milk. Since taste is such a subjective thing, I added a second heaping tablespoon of mix to the cup and stirred thoroughly.

Unfortunately, the results were much the same: precious little chocolate flavor and an overwhelming sense of sugary sweetness. For my tastes, it wasn’t drinkable at all. I considered remaking the cocoa with water, or obtaining some skim milk, but given the aroma and taste of this particular experience, I didn’t hold out much hope that the results would be any less sweet or any more chocolatey. So I left it at that.

Compared to the Gourmet du Village hot chocolate mixes I reviewed previously, which were rich and chocolatey, Hammond’s Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa was quite the disappointment. They may do candy very well, but this mix falls very short for fans of high quality cocoa. Might as well grab some Swiss Miss or Nesquik from your local grocery story rather than plunk down almost $7 for this tin.

More info about Hammond’s and their product line can be found at the link.

April Gutierrez, Japanese fan. A Green Man Review reviewer. A life-long lover of chocolate and felines, she indulges in the former frequently and shares her abode with a rather spoiled specimen of the latter. She can most commonly be found with her nose buried in a book, a cup of good tea in hand and Japanese pop music playing in the background.

April Gutierrez Reviews: Hazer Baba Turkish Delight

By April Gutierrez: When I was in the fifth grade, my teacher started reading C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia to my class. I adored the books, but at the time, I couldn’t fathom what this “Turkish Delight” thing was that Edmund was so willing to turn traitor for. It didn’t remain a mystery for long, though, as a friend’s mom visited a local bakery (we lived in Stuttgart, Germany at the time) and picked up a box for everyone to try.

As it turns out, I was the Edmund of our group. No one else could stand the candy at all, and I thought it was absolutely delightful, even if it did taste a bit like perfume. I doubt I would’ve turned my friends over to the White Witch for a box of the stuff, but I definitely wanted more.

I’d have to wait a long time for that to happen, though. In my late teens, I spent two summers in Turkey, where, yes, Turkish Delight was available in most bakery shops. They’d have huge window displays, the cubes stacked high (not boxed until purchased), covered completely with icing sugar (to prevent sticking) and pistachios. The pistachios were a new addition for me, but a welcome one. I came to realize that what I had perceived as a perfume taste was actually rose water and that the first candy I’d tried must’ve had far too much. I encountered two distinct flavors of Turkish Delight during my stay: rose water and citrus. Both are tasty, but I definitely prefer the former. And while most Turkish Delight available outside Turkey comes in neat little bite-sized cubes, the ones in the bakeries were the size of my fist, or larger, a monumentally huge treat!

Over the years, I’ve had friends and family (and Cat!) give me a variety of brands, both domestic and Turkish, which have been quite tasty indeed. This time around, Cat’s found me a Turkish import to try. Hazer Baba, founded in 1986, is based in Istanbul. In addition to Turkish Delight, the company produces other confections, teas and coffees, all for export. They have a wide variety of Turkish Delight: rose, lemon, pistachio, hazelnut, almond, menthe, apricot, honey. They all sound absolutely delicious! The treats come in a variety of gift boxes, including some very attractive wooden boxes. Up for review is a 454 g box of plain Turkish Delight.

First off, the box illustration is absolutely marvelous, showing a scene from years past – a trio of figures in traditional dress admiring a tray of treats against a pastoral setting. Inside the box, the Turkish Delight is wrapped in something akin to parchment paper, which does nothing whatsoever for keeping the sugar where it belongs, so be prepared to clean up after each treat! The candy itself comes in small, bite-sized cubes and is nut-free. The texture is chewy, as to be expected, but not excessively so (I lost a crown to a really chewy piece last year, much to my dismay!) and very mildly flavored. I thought at first this was the rose water variety, but a quick look at the ingredients shows that there’s no rose water, only sugar and vanillin, balanced by citric acid.

Regardless, the candy is quite pleasant, sweet, but not overly so, and gone in a bite or two, which leads to a second … or third … or fourth piece. Be wary, though, each cube is 65 calories, so if you have more than a serving (two pieces) the calories can start to add up pretty quickly. Better to chew slowly and savor each bite, especially if you don’t know when the White Witch might show up next with a tempting box. . . .

April Gutierrez, Japanese fan. A Green Man Review reviewer. A life-long lover of chocolate and felines, she indulges in the former frequently and shares her abode with a rather spoiled specimen of the latter. She can most commonly be found with her nose buried in a book, a cup of good tea in hand and Japanese pop music playing in the background.