Friday, June 18, 2010
Tirol Polar Bear Chocolates
Sometimes I have no idea what drives the naming of a product, and this one has me completely baffled. Is it supposed to be chocolate that a polar bear might enjoy? Is it supposed to taste like polar bear? Is it supposed to be consumed cold? Or, is it really just about the fact that polar bears are cute and naming a candy like this after them is going to get all of the office ladies to buy it? Of course, there is also the possibility that there is some play on words (related to the kanji or Chinese characters) that I'm missing as a myopic foreigner with substandard language skills.
One point about the packaging of this is that it is in the same sort of plastic cup that you can buy mass market kakigori wannabes (shaved ice sweetened with syrup, usually fruit-flavored). The plastic seal around the top is very similar to the striped seals around those icy treats. Perhaps the polar bear is part of a joint campaign between a maker of one of those ice cups and Tirol. I don't eat them, and I couldn't find any in my local shops to compare.
The thing that drew me to this, after passing up so many of these types of packs in the recent past, was the fact that part of this is "mikan chocolate". "Mikan" is a Japanese tangerine. I was concerned that the white chocoalte part might be too sweet, but hopeful that the bottom layer would mitigate that. In fact, this tiny bit of candy (about 2 cm square/.8 in.) has 5 parts to it, though you can't really taste each one distinctly.
As soon as I broke the seal on the cup and removed the lid, I smelled a strong fruity scent. It was reminiscent of orange, but also something else. The center is generic "fruit jelly" and "mikan chocolate". One of the ingredients is pineapple and I thought melon might also be a part of the mix. Between these two parts is something called "zarame" which I had never heard of, but some searches indicated that it is coarse sugar. When I bit into the chocolate, this was quite crispy and crunchy.
This was very, very sweet and intensely orange-flavored. I liked the textural contrasts with the crispy sugar, soft chocolate, and chewy jelly center. The flavor was something that I think is a tough sell because it's overbearing both on the sweetness front and the fruit flavors. I think this could have been a real winner with some dark or bittersweet chocolate to balance out all of the white chocolate, but this is not a classic "orange chocolate" combination so much as a very sweet orange taste.
Since I've had such bad luck with the non-premium Tirol candies as of late, I wanted to like this, but all I can say is that it's got cute wrappers and clever presentation on the packaging front. It made me want to buy it, but tasting it didn't make me want to buy it again.