Thorntons Chocolate Blocks

I had just started secondary school when Thorntons hit the big time.

Apparently, they’ve been around for nearly a hundred years, but I think it’s fair to claim that the eighties was their decade. Suddenly, soft-centred contintental chocolates were readily available and at affordable prices too! At a time when top quality chocolate wasn’t easy to find in the UK, let alone the mindbogglingly wide range of choices we take for granted today, their Belgian-style chocolates quickly became a top choice when looking for a sophisticated gift. Or so it seemed to my pre-teen eyes, at any rate… My friends and I delighted in having personalised messages iced onto their shaped chocolate moulds and a box of Thorntons was so much more elegant than the ubiquitous Milk Tray or Black Magic.

But, as so often happens to chains that experience such rapid growth and become part of the mainstream, they seemed to get stuck in a rut and were left behind as palates changed and the nation demanded more innovation and higher quality from our chocolate.

Certainly, my chocolate tastes moved on, and Thorntons simply no longer delivered the quality I was looking for. I wanted something better, and I wasn’t alone.

Hotel Chocolat were, to the noughties, what Thorntons had been to the eighties, building upon their successful chocolate tasting club by launching a great many high street stores. It must have been hard for Thornton’s to watch market share slipping so fast to this new contender!

But now Thorntons are fighting back as the launch of their new range of chocolate blocks attests. Ranging from plain white, milk and dark chocolate options to exciting combinations such as milk chocolate with tonka bean, dark chocolate with macadamia and balsamic in dark chocolate each square bar weighs between 70 and 90 grams and is priced between £1.79 and £1.99.

The first block I tried – the milk chocolate with strawberry – didn’t impress. The 32% cocoa madagascan chocolate tasted overly sweet. My husband described it as “cheap easter egg chocolate” and I agreed, which wassurprising given the sticker on the front telling me it won a gold in the great taste awards 2009. And whilst there was a generous amount of strawberries, virtually no fruit flavour came through at all!

Second under the tonguescope* was the milk chocolate pistachio block. The same madagascan 32% cocoa was, this time, combined with a generous portion of salted pistachios! Better: in this block the excessive sweetness of that chocolate was balanced out by the lip-licking saltiness of the nuts. A decent bar and this time, I could see why it might garner a great taste 2009 gold award, though the chocolate was still too sweet for me.

*Tonguescope is a perfectly cromulent word! 😉

Third to be tested was the dark chocolate with macadamia. Combining dominican republic 60% cocoa with lightly salted macadamia nuts, I hoped this block might cater to those looking for less sugar in their chocolate. Unfortunately, this was not the case: I found the chocolate both too bitter and too sweet at the same time – a curious incongruity! I liked the macadamia nuts but could not eat more than two squares of this before pushing it away. This bar won a bronze at the Academy of Chocolate awards.

Last on the block was the milk chocolate with tonka bean. This one was made from venezuela 38% cocoa infused with tonka beans which gave “delicate flavours reminiscent of almond and vanilla”. The description on the back of the box was spot on, those flavours came through subtly but clearly. The chocolate itself was silky smooth. And not too sweet! This block was the runaway winner of the selection, for me and the only one I could recommend to others, based on my own chocolate preferences. Of course, if you like your chocolate sweet, you may absolutely love the previous three! Apparently it only won a silver in the at the Academy of Chocolate awards, but it’s my pick of the four blocks.

I’m keeping an open mind about the other blocks – certainly after the tonka bean one I’m up for giving them a try. I’ll keep you posted if I do!

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9 Comments to "Thorntons Chocolate Blocks"

  1. Heavenly Housewife

    Kavey, the tonguescope a blogger's most important tool. Cool of you to highlight this important piece of equipment. 😀
    I'd like to try that pistachio one, as its a favourite flavour of mine, and the tonka one (on your recommendation). THe strawberry one doesn't appeal, and I am not one for dark chocolate. I will keep my beady little eyes open for these.
    *kisses* HH

  2. goodshoeday

    I've munched my way through the same selection but still have the strawberry one to go….and erm now you've put me off bothering wonder if i can find a taker for it???

  3. Su-Lin

    Ugh, we got a box of Thornton's chocolates recently and had to toss most of the box as no one would eat them! 🙁 Sorry, I'll give these a miss.

  4. Sarah, Maison Cupcake

    I haven't bought anything from Thorntons since I was working in Holborn. It was always the place you ended up to spend the last 2-3 quid of someone's leaving collection after buying their main pressie somewhere else! They could do with a serious re-brand but by the sounds of it their products are not up to scratch. I'm surprised they didn't go under 12 months ago along with Woolies and Zavvi etc

  5. Foodycat

    I wish I hadn't seen this. There is a Thornton's shop near my office that I go into once a year to buy diabetic toffee for my father in law. And now I want tonka bean. Dammit.

  6. Matcha Chocolat

    At the last Chocolate week in London (Oct 2009) Thorntons put a lot of emphasis on this new collection of bars. I asked what chocolate suppliers they were using and they claimed some of the couverture chocolate for these bars was actually from Valrhona.Though I don't think they use quality chocolate for their filled sweets, these bars do seem a lot better. I have tried the tonka- not too bad, but the balsamic one is the best out of the lot that I have tried thus far. Overall I'd say it is a good attempt at moving in a new direction for Thorntons.

  7. Kavey

    The balsamic one is the one flavour of those I haven't tried that I'd like to try!
    I suspect the chocolate really IS decent quality stuff – the trouble is it's soooo sweet (in the bars I tasted) that the sweetness masks the cocoa!


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