Monday, December 31, 2012

Tirol Egg Tart Chocolates


While I was walking around a supermarket on December 26th, the day of after Christmas sales, a woman could not get over the fact that Valentine's cards were already on display. Though it does seem a little fast, like they haven't cleared away the corpse of one holiday before putting the warm body of the next in its place, it isn't too terribly shocking. After all, it is next up on the rotation of heavily commercially exploitable holidays in the U.S.

After a visit to this thoroughly normal market, I went on to Nijiya Japanese market to see if they had anything exciting available and came across a bag of Tirol egg tart chocolates. I was surprised to see them because I had recently researched Tirol's current line-up and this particular option was nowhere to be found. Since it was only $2.49 (212 yen) and I do love real egg tarts, I picked it up without looking too carefully at the packaging.

After getting it home and inspecting it more carefully, I noticed that the motif is for Easter. This is rather bizarre for several reasons. First of all, if the Japanese are releasing Easter candy in December, they are way ahead of the game and making a shop which is already stocking Valentine's cards look like amateurs in the game of holiday gun-jumping. Second, Easter has not yet really penetrated Japan as a secular holiday. When I left last year, Baskin Robbins was the only place with a regular option showcasing things like bunnies and colored eggs. I couldn't figure out what the deal was with this candy. It just didn't fit on two fronts.

Nine candies, four package colors, one flavor. Don't let the variation fool you. It's all the same stuff. 

Of course, the Japanese have never needed an excuse to superimpose a Western motif on a place where it does not belong. There is a somewhat famous story told about a nativity scene at a big department store in Tokyo which was absolutely authentic save for the fact that jolly old St. Nick was standing there along with the wise men admiring baby Jesus. A little mix and match adds spice to life, after all, and in Japan, who knows the difference or cares? It's not like Americans don't do it all of the time as well if the way in which Japanese food is prepared here is any indication.

The answer to this little mystery was printed on the back of the bag in the expiration date. I never check such things before I buy them unless they are on sale, but this said it expires in January 2013. The most obvious conclusion is not that this is an early Easter release, but rather a really really old bag of candy. I'm not sure how this happened but I'm guessing that a case of these got lost in the shuffle or put back after it didn't sell somewhere around last March. That being said, I was still in Japan at that time, and I never saw this on the shelves. Trust me, I was looking. Whatever the case may be, I'm guessing this won't be an easy one to find unless you also have access to a Nijiya Japanese market with some pretty old stock or wait for a new re-release to show up at a more appropriate time later this spring in Tokyo. It'll likely be the same candy, but with updated graphics on the packaging.

My efforts to cut it in half for a detailed shot caused it to totally shatter.

As for the candy itself, I didn't have high hopes because this is a "regular" rather than a premium Tirol candy. These tend to have a much higher failure rate on the flavor meter because they are smaller (equivalent volume to a Hershey's Kiss with a thyroid issue) and less sophisticated. It turns out that keeping my expectations low was a good idea. The candy is comprised of three parts: a semi-sweet base (which the explanation claims is milk chocolate, but doesn't taste like it), a crunchy, a biscuit center and a "custard choco" top. Each morsel is only 34 calories, but it's also just two small bites.

The semi-sweet base dominates the candy such that you can't really get a good handle on the "custard" flavor. The crunchy little cookie gives you a nice textural contrast but otherwise doesn't contribute anything. It was only at the end that I got just a hint of the mildly eggy taste of the white chocolate top. All in all, not a bad little chocolate, but utterly unremarkable.

Chances are that I couldn't buy this again even if I were inclined to, but due to the fact that it really doesn't taste like much other than not terribly sweet semi-sweet chocolate (a good thing, to be sure), I can't see any reason to buy it again short of as a freaky Easter gift of outdated Japanese candy.



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