Hershey's cacao reserve & single origin chocolates
Hersey's recently started selling premium chocolate bars ...
Premium Milk (35% cacao) ... plain or with Hazelnuts
Extra Dark (65% cacao) ... with or without Nibs
Java, Indonesia (32% cacao)
Arriba (50% cacao)—Using beans from Ecuador
Santo Domingo (67% cacao)
Sao Tome (70% cacao)
I haven't seen the single origin bars yet, but based on the two I tried ... the 35% milk and the 65% dark, I'd give the single origin bars a try.
This is not great chocolate, but it is crowd pleasing chocolate witb good basic ingrediants. There's no preservatives or junk in it.
For the heck of it, I did a back to back taste test of the premium milk chocolate and the original Hershey bar ... which surprised me ... the original bar had the same ingrediants with the exception that the premium bar uses vanilla bean and the regular bar uses vanillin.
The premium milk is still very sweet and not very chocolate-y ... more milky. The regular bar is sweeter and actually has a little more character ... it has that classic Hershey aftertaste.
As to the dark chocolate bar ... it is one dimensional and pleasant enough. If you want dark chocolate without the acidity and sharpness of many premium chocolates, this is the bar for you.
I did a lot of 65% and above chocolate tasting last year ... spending lots of bucks. It was ok, but not interesting enough to me.
However, the Hershey bar made me realize how many nuances and flavors are in a true artisan bar. Like artists, they can be annoying but they make you think. Hersheys is dark chocolate to enjoy and not think or worry about.
They sort remind me of the comparison of See's chocolates to artisan chocolates. The artisan chocolates are interesting, but when I want my chocolate fix, I'm going to buy See's.
But ... my Raley's was also selling organic Dagoba laveder & blueberry bars for $2.79 ... that was really something ... a small piece with a glass of sparkling or red wine can make me forget about the worst day.
It seems that Hershey's is also planning to sell Mayan and Aztec hot chocolate mixes as well as truffles, btw.
Hershey cacao prices are ok ... $2.39 for 3.5 ounces at my local Raley's. I know Walgreens and Target sells them too.
When I first heard about the Hershey Reserve chocolates I was intriuged but a little skeptical - after trying them I've found they are actually quite good. I particularly like the 65% with nibs - nice texture, not too sweet and not too bitter. And really great for the price. Of course it's not Kee's (a local chocolatier here in NYC) or Maison du Chocolat but for an everyday/reasonably priced chocolate fix, it's great.
The hot chocolate mixes are terrible! I don't mind a hot chocolate mix every once and awhile- not the same as homemade hot chocolate, but will fix my fix some days, but those were truly awful! I couldn't believe it! I threw them out after trying one of each, and I rarely throw anything away.
Haven't tried those yet. I read someone who thought there weren't enough nibs in them.
Having my nightly piece of the milk chocolate last night it seems it has a strong carmel taste to it that I'm enjoying ... the taste of a milk carmel without the risk of losing a filling. I guess I would go for the milk chocolate if if I was craving a caramel taste.
re: Seth Chadwick
Well, hope you'll report back. A second warning that anyone who is a serious chocolate geek will probably find these boring.
Can't think of a national comparison, but it would be like a coffee geek drinking a cup of Pete's and compairing it to a local SF artisan coffee like Blue Bottle. Pete's is fine, but it is far from BB. Depends on your tastes and interests.