Friday, February 18, 2011

Meiji Tasty Cinnamon Chocolate

I've been away from the U.S. for so long that I can't remember if products are named with adjectives like "tasty", "delicious", or "arousal-inducing." I may be amused that this has the word "tasty" in the product name when it's not really funny at all. When someone has to tell me it tastes good rather than allowing me to assume it is so, it makes me think they doth protest too much... but I can't remember if it's just a Japanese marketing thing or if all manufacturers name their products in this manner. Perhaps my readers who haven't lived abroad for a little over two decades can enlighten me.

I found this box of cinnamon chocolate for 138 yen ($1.67) at a Lawson convenience store while out for an early morning walk with my husband. We were resisting the bakeries full of fresh pastries, Mr. Donut with its, well, donuts, and all of the other morning enticements. The only thing we gave in and bought was this pack of 6 sticks (36 grams total, 35 calories per stick) of cinnamon chocolate.

My husband sampled this first and remarked that he wasn't quite sure what to make of it because cinnamon and chocolate weren't a natural pairing in his experience, but Mexican hot chocolate preparations often put these two flavors together. Additionally, I've got a recipe for Amish brownies which combines cocoa, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon. It's not an alien combination, but these two-tone bars offer a far more potent aspect of cinnamon than either of the aforementioned concoctions.

The chocolate is a dark chocolate with a heavy "bottom" flavor that hits you at the back of the tongue. The cinnamon, though infused into white chocolate, isn't incredibly sweet, but is quite potent. In fact, it remands me a lot of Dentyne chewing gum. Together, these do indeed make for a strange pairing. Imagine eating a dark chocolate Hershey's kiss while chewing cinnamon gum (or while brushing your teeth) and you'll have an approximation of what this is like.

I think Meiji dropped the ball on this by making the cinnamon too overbearing. I love cinnamon, and I even prefer super strong cinnamon but it's important that it have a chance to shine through with the proper background flavor, and this Meiji chocolate is all wrong for this purpose. I'm not sure if I'll bother to finish this box, small as it is, and I definitely wouldn't buy it again. However, this isn't bad enough to qualify for an "unhappy" rating, and my husband said he'll eat the rest even if I don't.


Kasia said...

Huh? Cocoa and cinnamon are one of the oldest and best know cooking+baking combinations :O This is such a classic combination that I cannot find enough examples out of sheer confusion that anyone - from the Western world - would think this would be "weird"?

Ok, examples:

1. One of the world's largest cocoa product manufactures, Nestle, surely known to a any snack blogger, has what in the ingredients list of its main cocoa product "Nesquik"? Cinnamon (I have a pack of European Nesquik in my pantry, and it clearly reads "cinnamon" in the ingredients). Nesquik is sold in all supermarkets around the world.
2. Google has 40 millions of results for the search term "chocolate and cinnamon": search?q=chocolate%20and%20cinnamon
3. Some of the essential ingredients of good Christmas gingerbread, all around the world? Cinnamon and chocolate coating.
4. There are so many coffee specialties, beverages and drinks containing cocoa and cinnamon around the world.
5. Google images results for the search term "chocolate and cinnamon" (about 9 million results):
6. Both Starbucks and McDonald's McCafe, and generally all professional coffee chains and places, offer standard cinnamon alongside cocoa, to be sprinkled on all it's beverages, especially popular with Mocha (chocolate) coffee and chocolate drinks
7. ...and so on and so on....

Sorry for going so overboard, but I just was so shocked. Ask any cooking professional if chocolate and cinnamon go well together, they will say "why, of course, was this a rhetoric question?". Chocolate and cinnamon are as old and classic as chocolate and vanilla, some consider cinnamon even more fitting than vanilla

I love your blog and I hope it keeps its good standards, one of which is constant good information and background knowledge. You do not need to post this, I just hope you can reverse this misinformation for yourself, probably lurking in the back of your subconscious.

Serena said...

The only time I see words like 'tasty' and 'delicious' on food packaging is on snacks aimed at little kids.

Ikkin-bot said...

I think I need to eat a dark chocolate Hershey's Kiss and cinnamon gum now . . .

Orchid64 said...

Kasia: The word "weird" (or any variation thereof) does not appear in my review. My husband found it an unnatural pairing for him as he has rarely experienced it, but I mentioned that I'd used it in recipes before (and provided my own example of a very common pairing of chocolate and cinnamon in the review), so I'm not sure where your reaction came from.

Serena: I always think that telling you some sort of positive descriptor before you taste it is trying to sell a bit too hard. ;-)

Ikkin-bot: If you do, I'd like to know what you think! If you can't get any cinnamon gum, try squeezing some toothpaste on your chocolate. It's a similar flavor.

Aimee said...

I think I tired the mint version of this chocolate and found it equally underwhelming. The packaging is super cute though and I think it's nice that they're trying more grown up flavors that are less common in Japan.

Anonymous said...

That sounds interesting! I just had the strawberry equivalent of this snack yesterday and the strawberry flavor was also very strong and concentrated :P

Kasia said...

Sorry, I may have chosen the wrong tone. I have an incurable grave illness and sometimes fevers, and difficulties to concentrate and keep my brain working as it should. Which is by no means an excuse to overreact.

Please keep up the good work :) I really enjoy your blogs.

Plus, I thought later on maybe this different perception comes from different toothpaste flavors in USA and Europe (you mention "brushing your teeth"). This puzzled me a lot and I had to search everywhere, until I found that there is actually something like "cinnamon toothpaste" (never heard of it in my entire life). So if one is used to cinnamon taste as something having to do with dental hygiene, one will likely have the same feeling as Europeans considering peppermint.

I always wonder how much media presence is given to peppermint flavored sweets+foods in the USA. And here peppermint is used usually solely in toothpaste and cough drops, and only very very rarely anywhere else. I read somewhere that peppermint ice cream is the second most popular flavor in the US, right after vanilla - and in the rest of the world peppermint does not even enter the top ten, with vanilla, choclate and strawberry being the winning trio. Nobody likes "something which tastes like toothpaste" :)

Orchid64 said...

Hi, Kasia, and I'm so, so very sorry about your illness! I've had a lot of health problems in my life (mostly crippling back pain), but I think your situation sounds much more difficult. Don't worry about the "tone". There are no hard feelings here!

Peppermint is both common in toothpaste and in sweets in the U.S. Cinnamon is more common in sweets than toothpaste but is more often used in gum, baked goods (cinnamon bread or rolls), and hard candy than something used with chocolate.

In Japan, mint and cinnamon are much more strongly associated with toothpaste and medicine. In fact, cinnamon candy of any kind is quite uncommon here because it is so strongly connected to certain types of medicine. That may connect to why the flavor in this Meiji chocolate was so imbalanced. It could be that they were trying to make sure it didn't taste medicinal to Japanese palates.

Thanks for commenting and please take care!

Tamakikat said...

Enjoying reading your blogs. It's always interesting to see if I have the same view.

BTW I tried these tasty cinnamon chocolates and really liked them.

I guess it's another one of those cases of 'each to his/her own'.

Orchid64 said...

Absolutely, Tamakikat! We can't know each other tastes or taste buds!

I'm glad you enjoyed it!