Journey Of A Winning Chocolate
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Mint Royale was dreamt up by a Tasting Club member and has gone on to be more highly rated than some of our bestsellers. It’s on its way to chocolate stardom – but how did it get this far?
“If I could, I’d give this extra stars. Absolutely divine! I’m craving more of these! A delicious accompaniment to coffee.”
The Tasting Club reviews say it all: newcomer Mint Royale is a star in the making. But it’s not of our making – it’s a past winner of our Create-a-Chocolate competition, and one with a bright future. So how did this plucky upstart make the transition from sketch to box?
The best of the best
Choosing a winner is a serious business: our co-founder Angus Thirlwell makes the ultimate decision, with input from our master chocolatiers.
“We’re looking for innovative ideas,” hints head chocolatier Kiri Kalenko. “We love seeing hand-drawn sketches, and reading about the inspiration for an idea really shows passion and helps us understand the design.”
There’s a practical side too: the judges want something they know they can make a reality. “But we can tweak the idea to get there,” says Kiri. “Though obviously we tell the winner first!”
In Mint Royale’s case, it was the texture and the visual of the double-layer caramel and white ganache that tipped it for the top – plus our experts had an inkling the design would really deliver on the peppermint flavour.
“Mint Royale was relatively easy to make,” says Rachel Smith, the chocolatier who developed the winning idea. “We started out with the thick caramel, layered it with peppermint white chocolate ganache and then capped it with white chocolate.”
There were some deviations from the original concept though: the design called for the mint layer to be bright green and the edge of the chocolate to be milled, to give the impression of a coin.
“We prefer not to colour our fillings, and green in particular can look so artificial,” explains Rachel. “And when we cap our chocolates we take the filling right up to the lip – that way you get more of it! – so if we’d milled the edges you wouldn’t have been able to see it.”
Every Wednesday morning Angus sits down with the chocolatiers and a crack team of tasters to vote on which chocolates make it to further development. This was the first real test for our would-be recipe.
“It was approved straight away,” recalls Rachel. “I think it’s because it delivers so well on what it promises: if you’re choosing a mint chocolate you get such a great peppermint flavour.”
Just like that, our wannabe was officially ready to leave the inventing room – as a featured recipe in our Tasting Club boxes.
It wasn’t just our panel who loved Mint Royale at first bite. As soon as our 70,000-strong Tasting Club membership tried it, the scores began to flood in – and they were resounding.
“The average score for Mint Royale was 8.4 out of 10,” says chocolatier Tarow Loke, who crunched the numbers. “Nearly half our members – 48% – gave it 10 out of 10, and only a tiny 4.6% gave it less than 6 out of 10.”
The Tasting Club had spoken, and we took notice: it was time for Mint Royale to graduate to our shelves – and its own Selector.
Let's go round again
The journey from Tasting Club to Selector isn’t as straightforward as it seems, and our chocolate needed touching up before its big debut.
“In Tasting Club boxes we were able to wrap the Mint Royale separately,” explains Rachel, “but we can’t do that with Selectors. This was a problem because although the peppermint oil made the ganache lovely and soft, the consistency sometimes meant it leaked through the cap – not good on our shelves.”
The solution? Simple: swap the peppermint oil from the white chocolate ganache into the thick caramel – that way the flavour profile was maintained sans the leakage.
“You get such a great delivery of peppermint, but it’s not overpowering,” explains Rachel. “There’s a wonderful contrast of textures too: the lovely soft ganache against the indulgent thick caramel.”
The crown jewel
What does the future hold for our up-and-comer? We anticipate success on the scale of bestselling Create-a-Chocolate competition winners like Eton Mess.
“The average Tasting Club score for Eton Mess was very similar, but actually slightly less than Mint Royale,” says Tarow. “Eton Mess got 8.2 compared to 8.4, 41% of members gave it 10 out of 10 and 6.3% – slightly more than Mint Royale – gave it less than 6.”
The numbers are promising: Mint Royale looks set to match or even better a classic so established that it’s inspired a seasonal variety – the ever-popular Christmas Mess – and featured in more than 30 different selections and counting. Only time will tell whether Mint Royale goes on to hit the big time too…
Create Your Chocolate Masterpiece
Mint Royale comes to Selectors this August – keep an eye out at your nearest Hotel Chocolat shop!
Got a chocolate recipe to rival Mint Royale? Enter our Create a Chocolate Masterpiece competition and yours could be our next success story…