Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Meiji Gold Premium Cacao Fruity Milk
Meiji is one of Japan's oldest companies (founded in 1916) and makes a wide variety of products including pharmaceuticals, vacuum-packed food (e.g., curry), sports drinks, vitamins, salted snacks, and chocolates. Their brand name recognition in Japan is one of the highest, but they don't have a signature product which is well-known abroad. I'm guessing that Chelsea candy might come closest to a fairly well-known Meiji product outside of Japan. Incidentally, the catch phrase for Meiji is simply "Open!" It's supposed to relate to the sound of a box of candy being opened. Yeah, I think it's a pretty lame tagline, too.
In Japan, Meji offers a lot of different chocolate bars in relatively plain wrappers with a big "MEIJI" written across the front as well as sell popular biscuits (crispy cookies) that look like little trees or mushrooms and a line of chocolate covered almonds and macadamia nuts. Aside from their chocolate covered nuts, I've never been all that great a fan of Meiji products. However, when I saw the attractive gold box of "premium fruity-milk", I couldn't resist giving it a try. I wanted to know what was "fruity" about it.
I'm not sure what makes a chocolate "premium", but perhaps I should be suspicious of the quality when it's only 99 yen (about $1) for a box of 12 flat little chocolates (66 grams/2.3 oz.). They come in little individual packages which remind me of the Ghirardelli squares chocolates. In fact, the design is very familiar to a box of Ghirardelli mixed dark chocolates we bought last Christmas at Costco.
Each chocolate is a nicely formed little flat rectangle which does not melt at all when you hold it. A sniff reveals a rather "cheap chocolate" smell in my opinion. That is, it's flat and a bit like run-of-the-mill cocoa powder. When you bite into it, it snaps slightly and comes apart in a little blocks in your mouth. It not only doesn't melt in your hand, but won't melt in your mouth until it's been broken into small bits. I read some time ago that Japanese chocolate companies were trying harder to develop chocolates that wouldn't melt in the summer, and I wonder if this is the fruit of some of those labors.
The taste of the chocolate is somewhat complex. The first sense is of chocolate that is slightly bitter and dry and then becomes a bit creamy and sweet and finishes a bit bitter. It has some coffee notes and a hint of dark cherry. To me, it is closer to a bittersweet chocolate than milk and is somewhat acidic. I didn't detect many fruity notes in it, though the chocolates are made with 100% Madagascar cocoa which is famous for being fruity.
There is something in the texture, smell, and snap of the chocolate which keeps this from having a luxurious feel. It looks great, but tastes cheap. I guess that the cocoa is good quality stuff, but it didn't really impress me. Each square is 30 calories and if I had a choice between spending those calories on a 25 calorie Hershey's kiss or one of these, I'd take the kiss.