Monday, August 12, 2013

Bourbon Alfort Green Tea Chocolate Biscuits

Several years ago, I sent a friend of mine a "care package" from Japan. I should call it, in retrospect, an "I don't care for" package as most of what I sent him wasn't exactly regarded with enthusiasm. Included was a bag of Japanese green tea, since was a green tea drinker at the time, some instant corn potage soup, some small salted snack things, and several chocolate items including a box of Alfort chocolate biscuits. I think he said either the corn potage snacks or the soup "tasted like Cap'n Crunch". I could understand why he'd say that since they are both made from corn and on the sweet side.

The green tea got the worst reception because he thought it looked like a bag of hash. At that time, I didn't know that Americans drank "green tea" which did not resemble Japanese green tea. For many, it was a sort of brownish stuff that lacked strong grassy notes or the scent of chlorophyll. I daresay that was not what he expected, but I did send along a teapot which he liked. He also liked the Alfort chocolate biscuits. They were the only clear winner among the food options.

Alfort is a very common brand of half-cookie/half-candy made by Bourbon and I was shocked when I looked through my archives and realized that I have never reviewed any of these products before. It's not like I scarfed them down with abandon in Japan, but I did have them on more than one occasion and found them quite enjoyable. You can usually find them at Lawson 100 for 100 yen or about a dollar in U.S. currency. The boxes carry a fair bit of heft and 12 little squares of cookie and candy merged together. It's good value for a solid product. The common flavors are chocolate, bitter chocolate, and white chocolate. This green tea flavor caught my eye mainly because, while green tea is a mainstream flavor in Japan, it's not one I'd noticed for Alfort before. That's not to say it wasn't around, but just that I didn't see it.

I found this at Mitsuwa market for a $1.69 (about 170 yen), which is pricy by Tokyo standards, but reasonable by American ones. The packaging says that it is made with "uji matcha", a green tea grown in Kyoto. I daresay that there is a flood of product on the market these days which touts its uji matcha connection and that it is a bona fide food fad now. It's not that green tea is in any way exotic, but just that this particular type of tea seems to have been swelling in popularity over the past year or so.

The concept of Alfort is simple. Half is a bit of chocolate, pure and simple, with a little biscuit stuck on the back-side. All of the varieties of these candies have a picture of a boat on them for reasons I can't figure out. If the box says so, I can't read it as an enormous sticker translating the nutrition information and ingredients is covering most of it. I'm guessing it doesn't say so at any rate, and my search on the word "Alfort" was no help. It's a commune. It's a veterinary school. It's a botanical garden. It's the name of an English cricket player. Most disturbingly, it's the name of a museum of "anatomical oddities". No, I did not try to look at the linked page in regards tot he museum.

I'm just going to look at the ship on my cookie and pretend that it's a pirate boat and that the president of Bourbon is cool enough to put pirates on his chocolate biscuits. That will make sampling them more enjoyable, not that they need a boost in enjoyment. These are pretty tasty little morsels, as long as you like green tea.

As green tea flavors go, this one is certainly more potent than some of the snacks I've tried as of late. The aroma rather strongly hits you when you break the seal and it is the smell that you detect when you open up a bag of green tea leaves. It could be that all of the scent trapped tightly in the wrapper makes it super strong, but it is still very present when you eat the cookie. It's a very good combination of green tea bitterness with white chocolate sweetness. In fact, as I sample more green tea sweets, I think that it works much better with white chocolate than any other flavor. Fruit flavors, for instance, tend to layer sweetness on sweetness. This creates more of a balance.

The cookie itself mainly adds texture, but it's got some heft for its tiny size due to the cookie's thickness and higher than average quality. For a consumer level product, the cookie has better shortbread notes than I'd expect. While it lacks a buttery flavor to add depth, it has a crumbly goodness and some flaky layering that make it a very satisfying counter-point to the somewhat rich and sweet chocolate. Its blandness also helps balance out the chocolate's sweetness.

Do I think this is the greatest cookie and chocolate on earth? Certainly not. Did I enjoy it? Absolutely. The thing about certain types of flavors is that they play better as small portions for novelty and attentive enjoyment. This isn't the type of product that you'd buy a box of to take to a movie and chow down with, unless you grew up with green tea sweets and that's what you did for your entire life. It's more the type that you'd eat one or two of with a cup of coffee or tea and really savor the flavor balance. For marginally adventurous palates, I'd definitely say that this is worth a try.


Wally6500 said...

Shiver me timbers, it's a pirate ship!!!

Hiyodori said...

It supposedly has to do with a tale concocted by Bourbon whereby you have to travel the seven seas in order to find adventure and romance.