The Hublet assures me that there’s no big difference between American chocolate and British chocolate, and doesn’t understand why I go on such a rant about the odd aftertaste I get when I eat Hershey’s; to my palette American chocolate can have a harsh, almost chemical aftertaste that is far removed from the gentle smoothness of the British chocolate that I was raised on.
He has no sympathy for my complaint about the taste difference between American-produced Cadbury’s and Nestlé products and their British cousins (most notably with the beloved Kit Kat, a chocolate bar that The Hublet brought for me after I mentioned that I was missing them. After two bites I put my chocolate down and turned to the ingredients to find out why it didn’t taste as I remembered, discovering that in America Kit Kats are distributed by Hershey’s and are therefore made using their ‘interesting’ tasting chocolate), and he just doesn’t understand why the whole thing is such a big deal to me (remember that this is a man who favours savoury over sweet and therefore, as far as I am concerned, is a barbarian when it comes to the subtle nuances of chocolate).
Looking further into the differences I discover that it could be down to the manufacturing process: 1) American chocolate companies add dried milk powder as a separate ingredient into their recipes, whereas in the UK liquid milk is mixed with sugar then evaporated, condensed and dried out which adds smooth and lovely caramel tastes to the blend. Chocolate liquid is added to this dried crumb, and the mix is then stored away and aged for a while before being used. 2) American chocolate tends to contain milk that has undergone lipolysis, which partially breaks down milks fatty acids and although it stabilizes the mixture and has the overall benefit of a longer shelf life, because the fatty acids in the milk decompose the process releases butyric acid, which is the fat component responsible for the smell of Parmesan cheese and baby sick, which can result in a faintly perceived rancid, goat-like taste.
Now don’t get me wrong, you can find good chocolate here in America BUT you usually have to pay a little more for it as the trick is to look at the ingredients and ensure that cocoa is listed as one of, if not the first, ingredient. Unfortunately for me, the chocolate in America that is considered everyday and popular just doesn’t taste right.
I was overjoyed to find a pack of Maltesers that had come all the way from Slough UK, and curled myself up into a duvet nest to enjoy. I offered The Hublet a couple of my precious malty balls, but he wasn’t too impressed and said that he couldn’t taste the difference between cheap Hershey’s and the cheap chocolate used to coat the Maltesers. After carrying out an exhaustive ‘slowly-suck-until-the-chocoalte-melts-off’ test on 7 further Maltesers I was inclined to partly agree as, if I’m brutally honest, Maltesers aren’t really coated with a great quality of chocolate and after all it’s the malty interior that makes it special, not the thin coating of chocolate outside.
This made me wonder whether or not my perception that British chocolate is better comes from a romantic sort of homesick association that things from the UK are better than anyone else can produce, based on a blind sense loyalty generated by being over 4k miles from home, however the more I thought about it the less I agreed with that train of thought as prior to marriage whenever I visited the USA to both be a tourist and spend time with The Hublet, I used to ensure I packed loads of products from the UK that I knew that the Americans loved and enjoyed more than that which they could obtain at home: I brought The Hublet’s parents and some of my friends packs of high-strength cheddar cheese which packed a taste punch that I’ve yet to find in American cheeses, and I also brought out boxes of chocolates from both Thorntons and Hotel Chocolat as I knew that the Americans loved these brands and enjoyed them much more than American chocolate.
Hotel Chocolat was one of my biggest weaknesses while in the UK and for a time I worked very close to one of their stores, and was always looking for an excuse to buy a little something. They are a British chocolatier with the added distinction of growing their own chocolate abroad, and the quality and taste is above and beyond most chocolates that I’ve sampled and for me they produce the best chocolate that the UK has to offer. Thankfully they’re making inroads into establishing an empire in the USA, so I now wait for the stores to spread down South from their current locations up North in Boston and New York. I’m intrigued to discover whether or not their American chocolate is made/imported to the same specifications as their British chocolate or whether, like most other chocolate in the USA, the taste has been subtly altered from what I know and love.
I stand by my belief that cheap and popular high street chocolate from the UK (Cadbury’s and Nestlé) tastes better than the cheap and popular everyday choice chocolate available in America (Hershey and American versions of brands available in the UK like Mars, Nestlé and so on), however do believe that if you pay a little more, stray away from the cheap, mass-produced chocolates and wander towards the chocolatiers and specialty shops, you can and will find great quality American chocolate to enjoy.