Rarely does my heart skip a beat in the confectionery aisle of an Australian supermarket. In France or Germany I could happily fill a shopping trolley with a chocolatey smile on my face. In Australia I mope my way down the aisle, pausing only for the occasional stop-gap measure to allay my chocolate cravings.
For those who don't know, there is no decent chocolate available at an average-consumer pricepoint in Australia. We get to choose from Cadbury's oddness (though much better than the product of the British namesake), Mars's mediocrity (in the form of Dove) and Nestlé's disappointments. Beside these are Lindt and the marketing success of their Lindor balls, and just occasionally Milka (no reason to cheer).
To be fair, I think I should mention those supermarket lines that are my accepted craving suppressants. For sweet-caramelly-greasy fixes: Lindt Excellence Milk, Nestlé Double Blend (milk, emergencies only). For cocoa-everyday fixes: Cadbury Old Gold (the original version: 45% cocoa solids; not the dry, gritty 72% one). With bits: Lindt Excellence Orange Intense (excellent!), Cadbury Old Gold Roast Almond, Nestlé Noir Intense Cherry. (Note that the Lindt and Nestlé Noir are outside the everyday chocolate pricebracket.)
I'm telling you all this to set the scene for a new product at Coles supermarkets. A housebrand Belgian chocolate You'll love Coles – Belgian milk chocolate in milk, dark and milk-fruit-nut. Australia is experiencing the start of the luxury housebrand product phenomenon; something which started in the UK about seven years ago. Alas, the psychology of premium products and supermarkets in Australia doesn't readily lend itself to actual, real, serious quality on a supermarket shelf. Whereas the UK supermarkets Tesco and Sainsbury introduced quite impressive premium housebrand chocolates to their shelves, I wasn't about to hold my breath about the Coles version.
Lucky, too, for the Coles product is no great bonus for the Aussie supermarket experience, despite the surprisingly good pricing (under A$4.00/250g). The milk version (26.5% cocoa solids) is very sweet, with a mild cocoa flavour. It has a nice snap, with a quick melt, and the mouthfeel is smooth and thick; quite delightful in comparison to the products mentioned above. You can't expect much of this sort of low-cocoa milk chocolate, so at least the textural positives are a winner. The dark version (46% cocoa solids) is sweet and a bit waxy, with a strong vanilla note and reasonably good melt. It is rather insipid and I don't feel like eating the rest of the block. The milk-fruit-nut version is just sweet, with the added sweetness of the fruit drowning out the already pale cocoa notes.
A little bit of googling revealed that Coles is sourcing this chocolate from the Belgian company Italo-Suisse, who in turn source their couverture from Callebaut. Callebaut is a great place to start for excellent chocolate (their couverture is used by a large number of quality chocolate producers and chocolatiers), but somewhere along the way — either in a custom formula requested by Italo-Suisse, or in the addition of other ingredients (more sugar?) by Italo-Suisse — it becomes an unimpressive product designed to appeal to overly sweet palates and seduce with the uncommon (in Australia) long, creamy mouthfeel. What a pity. Still, a better option than many other things on the supermarket shelf.