It’s rare to find a beautifully designed package that actually has great product inside; less so when the subject is coffee candy and the reviewer is … well … picky as hell on both counts. But Bali’s Best Premium Collection, distributed by Fusion Gourmet, Inc. of California, pulls off the double success with ease.
Since I believe that good design is part of the overall experience, whether reading or eating, I’ll take a brief look at the packaging first. The Espresso Candy bag is a nice, rich chocolate brown color, with creamy white to gold text in a nice, easy to read font; the pictures of a cup of espresso and a halved espresso candy oozing coffee-chocolatey goodness from its liquid center make this a seriously enticing package. The Latte Candy bag reverses that color scheme, with a light yellow background and brown text, with a frothy cup of latte and a latte candy in the same respective spots. The Tea Candy is, of course a rich green, with a darker green printing of mountains and bushes; this one doesn’t bother with cups of tea, but showcases the candies themselves, pretty little dimpled green discs. A fair amount of time and thought went into these packages, and it’s certainly paid off; I’d be snagged in for a closer look, even on a busy day’s grocery run.
Moving on to the contents, and starting with the Espresso Candy, one finds a small, dark brown hard candy, slightly sticky to the touch and redolent with sugar and coffee. The coffee flavor is first on the palate, kept from bitterness by the sweet component–each candy adds 52 calories to one’s daily diet, with 8 grams of sugar and 16 mg of sodium. Not bad; but if you’re popping any of these candies for a caffeine fix, you’re out of luck; there’s only 3 mg of caffeine in each one, according to the Fusion Gourmet, Inc., Web site.
It doesn’t take long for the espresso candy to dissolve through to the soft center–only as long as it took me to type, nonstop, the above paragraph. (I have a high typing speed. ‘Nuff said?) At that point, my difficulty with this candy emerges: I’m something of a chewer with hard candies, and this candy tends to break apart into very sharp little fragments in one’s mouth, briefly feeling like a mouthful of small glass fragments. The goop inside is … well, it’s goopy, with a thick taste and a gelatinous consistency. Since I’m busy trying to work down the sharp edges without cutting my tongue or swallowing shards, it’s hard to notice the taste.
By the time I felt safe enough to think about taste again, the liquid center was mainly gone, and the lingering bits were nice but unremarkable. Overall, I liked this candy–at this point, I’ve gone through half the bag, with fairly consistent results as described above, but I’ll suffer the few seconds of discomfort for the overall sugary-coffee taste. Still, it ranks the lowest of the three bags, much to my disappointment; I’d expected to rate this one the highest, as I love espresso.
The Latte Candy, like the Espresso, is about the size of a stack of seven dimes (in a fit of whimsy, I actually compared those two items. It’s pretty close.) A creamy caramel-tan color, offering 60 calories, 23 mg sodium, and 8g sugar, this one smells and tastes much more sugary than the Espresso (surprise). The coffee flavor is more in the background but grows a bit as time goes on. This is also a somewhat sturdier candy, in that it takes a bit longer to work through to the soft center, and there’s less fragmenting once you do wear it down to that point; this one tends to break in half horizontally, the top and bottom bits sliding away from each other to let you get at the frothy, light–and very sweet–center. While people who dislike high-sugary-taste candies may not care for this one, I substantially preferred it over the Espresso, in large part because I didn’t lose any time worrying about cutting my tongue open. Again, these observations are based on having gone through about half a bag of this candy over the past two weeks.
My favorite, to my surprise, was the Tea Candy (which I’d expected to like the least). Billed as “Green Tea Latte” because of its slight milk content, with 56 calories, 20 mg sodium, and only 4g of sugar, this is a larger, flatter candy with no liquid filling. It has no particular aroma, but on hitting the tongue it blasts out a melange of sweet, milky, and smooth green tea flavors. Since I am, as noted, a chewer, this felt satisfyingly solid as it wore down, and the flavor remained consistent and enjoyable throughout. While I don’t think this candy has much resemblance to a cup of real green tea, it offers a pleasant, mild taste, and is the batch I found myself reaching for the most frequently.
All in all, Bali’s Best is going down in my book as a name for quality products, and I’ll be looking for a chance to pick up more products (like the Dolcetto Baked Goods) from Fusion Gourmet, Inc., as well. Given that the distributor only ships in cases of 12 bags ($21 a case), this might require a call to find out what shops near me carry the candies; they’re kind enough to offer a phone number in the FAQ section of their Web site for such inquiries. Or maybe I’ll just spend the twenty-one plus shipping and give the candies out as gifts–which though, in itself, is a mark of how much I liked these.
The Web site for Fusion Gourmet may be found here.