Now I must confess that, under ordinary circumstances, I am more a savoury man than sweet man. But there is one exception – and that is Christmas time. Call it the time of year, but suddenly I am drawn to all things sweet.
And suddenly, for someone who only occasionally entertains a brownie for the rest of the year, chocolate is just one of the tastes of this time of year for me. But what is the best Christmas chocolate around?
Well, as is usually my way, I have sat down and compiled a little ranking of what I believe to be the Gods of festive confectionery. This list was going to be longer, but I have whittled it down to a top 5 because well, you need informed decisions in a world of choice…
1. LINDT LINDOR
I forget exactly when it was I had my first Lindt Lindor truffle. But I do remember that it was nothing short of a game changer.
Creamy, dreamy, yet light, and what you imagine the clouds of heaven would taste like if they were made of chocolate, these carefully wrapped balls of bliss are my go-to now once December 1st rolls round (in moderation, mind).
I also discovered last year, after they opened a Lindt store at Braintree Village (née Freeport) that they do Pick and Mix options, also available to order on their website.
I entertained such an option this year, and the little ‘Hansel and Gretel’ storage box/decoration where I stash hidden Christmas chocolate has been bulging with what I now believe are my favourite choices of flavour: the White Chocolate ones, the 40% Dark Chocolate ones, the Mint ones and the Cappucino ones. And they are incredible.
It may come as no surprise that a Swiss chocolate takes second place here. The Swiss are to chocolate what the Swedes are to pop music for me. Up until I was in my early teens, I forever associated Toblerone with those massive bars my dad would bring back from Duty Free at the airport after flying home from Ireland.
Now of course, the bars – designed to emulate the glorious mountain Alps from whence they emanate – are as staple a part of Christmas for me as pigs in blankets and Brussel sprouts. The distinctly mellow sweetness of the chocolate is offset by the nuts and nougat that they’re studded with, and for me feels like I should be in a log cabin with a roaring fire and a fur trim throw for company.
A quick scan of the Wikipedia page for Celebrations – the fun size version of some of Mars, Inc’s staple regular chocolate bars – reveals that they were first released for Christmas 1997. But I distinctly remember that they weren’t that much of a big deal until two Christmases later.
Said Yuletide season, 1999, was of course also the New Millennium celebrations – which made them so aptly tied in, and I remember they were a big deal. From sat at home watching Christmas telly to playing end of term festive games at school, there was a tin of them sat there.
And whilst some admittedly are touched by only the very weird (I mean who eats the Bounty ones, really?) there is something still undeniably good fun about eating miniature versions of Galaxy, Malteasers, Twix and Milky Way that makes you feel like a giant.
4. CADBURY WINTER WONDERLAND
Aside from Wispa, Caramel and Crunchie, and given that they can scarcely call most of their other regular bars chocolate these days without pumping them full of other rubbish (jelly beans/popping candy in Dairy Milk is wrong on all levels), I tend to give Cadbury a wide berth on the whole.
With the exception of their Winter Wonderland bars. Only released seasonally as the name might suggest, it is a bar made up of hexagons of milk and white chocolate Christmas tree shapes. This choice is here for evocative reasons.
When I was little, I distinctly remember for Christmas we’d always be given chocolate that was little shapes of Disney characters, that were white chocolate on a milk chocolate tablet base, ranging from Mickey and Minnie Mouse to Donald Duck and Goofy.
I don’t believe these are done anymore, but Winter Wonderland for me is the closest one can get to it and that makes me happy / feel about 3 years old again.
5. ADVENT CALENDAR CHOCOLATE
Let’s be honest; if there is a more apt way of signifying it’s December, and that you can eat chocolate for breakfast, an advent calendar is it. And unlike other chocolate, quality matters not here.
Because maybe it’s the dinkiness, the smallest of sensations that you find behind each door with the moulded chocolate shapes of a present/snowflake/Ruud Gullit sitting on a shed that is just magical. It is a feeling rather than an eating experience.
It reminds you of the warmth and joy this season holds the possibility of. Advent calendars are the only time of year I allow anything produced by Kinnerton to pass my lips and I don’t mind that one single bit.