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December 22, 2005

Chocolate Coin Taste Test: Gold Foil Throwdown


Yesterday's Washington Post Food section featured a wonderful story about the mostly horrible but nevertheless irresistible gold–foil–covered chocolate coins that people give each other and put in stockings around this time of year.

Bonnie Benwick wrote it and I read it with great interest.

She enlisted three chocolate experts to taste and rate 13 different brands of gold–foil–covered chocolate coins.

From the taste test sidebar:

    Know your gold–foil–covered chocolate coins!

    Our three testers are chocolate experts in their own right: Marilyn Mueller, owner of Terracocoa, a Chantilly supplier of chocolate novelties, cakes and artisan chocolates who prefers that such coins melt fairly quickly on the tongue; Max Cutler, 13, of Bethesda, an experienced gelt consumer and discriminating chocolate fan who thinks "there ought to be a law" against the dark chocolate coins because "they're just too bitter"; and Food section staff writer Candy Sagon, whose name alone earns a berth at any confectionary test we hold.

    The panel rated the coins in three categories: whether they were better for eating or playing, how they tasted and an overall score of 1 to 5 (tops).

Here are the results in order, from best (#1) to worst (#13), along with the tasters' comments on each.


1. See's Candies — $3.05; 4 oz. (Sweet and milky, good chocolate flavor, melts quickly; the foil coin design gives it a slight edge over Godiva)

2. Godiva — $8; 1.75 oz. (Fancy, mild, creamy)

3. Madeleine [Rockaway Beach, N.Y.] — $12.99; 16 oz. (Mild, good break, nice but not very chocolaty)

4. Trader Joe's Coins of the World — $1.99; 5 oz. (Rich but not overly sweet, doesn't melt)

5. Bissinger's [of St. Louis] — $23; 16 oz. (Nice flavor, sweet but tough to peel open)

6. Premium — $1.29; 1 oz. (Has coconut taste, grainy, good–looking)

7. Astor Belgian — $5.99; 5.1 oz. (Hard and rich, sweet but odd aftertaste, very mild)

8. Elite Gelt — $.50; 5/8 oz. (Too sweet; dark chocolate's too hard)

9. Chanukah Gelt — $1.25; 1/2 oz. (Bland, no chocolate taste until the end)

10. Balmer Coins of all Nations — $1.19; 1.9 oz. (Rough on the tongue, bitter aftertaste)

11. Frankford Belgian — $.99; 2 oz. (Grainy; weird flavor)

12. Sherwood Premium — $.50; 5 oz. (Not much flavor, breaks apart)

13. Pirate's Gold Coins — $.89; 5/8 oz. (Strange aftertaste; doesn't melt)


Summing up, the panel rated Nos. 1–2 "Best"; 3 through 5 "Good"; 6–7 "Fair"; and 8 through 13 "Better You Should Play Than Eat."

To me the most fascinating thing about the results was the fact that See's, at 76¢ an ounce, bested the most expensive brand (Godiva; $4.57 per ounce).

Let me do the math here a second: that makes Godiva six times more expensive.

The second most interesting thing was the price of Sherwood Premium's coins: 10¢ an ounce.

I can see how Trader Joe's, buying in giant quantities, can sell their house brand for 40¢ an ounce but what is in the Sherwood Premium coins that lets them undersell Trader Joe's by 75%?

Maybe I don't want to know, come to think of it.


Here's the story that accompanied the taste test.

    Gelt Trip: A Taste Test

    Whether you see these chocolate coins as Hanukkah gelt, Christmas stocking stuffers, Kwanzaa favors or edible moola for Texas Hold 'Em, they ought to be good enough to eat.

    We've noticed over the years, to crib a kvetchy old sentiment, that some brands of gelt are not so good — and they come in such small portions!

    Some gold-colored mesh bags we've come across lately have as few as four coins each.

    The story of gelt ("money" in Yiddish) comes from a less-gilded age, of course.

    For Hanukkah, which starts at sundown on Christmas Day this year, various attributions of giving are almost as illuminating as the holiday's menorah itself.

    Plausible origins include ancient rabbinical commentary on the distribution of money so that each household could afford to light candles each of the eight nights of the holiday.

    Another points to the minting of commemorative "war-medal" coins about 2,400 years ago, after the first celebration of Hanukkah in Jerusalem. (For most of the Hanukkahs since 1958, the Bank of Israel has made special holiday money to connect Jewish history with the modern world.)

    And then there are sources who peg the practice to late 18th-century and early 19th-century Eastern Europe, when coins were given as payment to rabbis who traveled to small villages to teach Jews about Hanukkah.

    This at least puts the gelt in the hands of someone who might have called it by that name.

    It also links it with a population of Jewish European chocolate makers who produced confectionary coins wrapped in gold foil, much to the delight of children.

    We gathered 13 kinds of gelt, mostly from Washington area shops and a few that are easily accessible online, to test which ones are worth both playing with and eating.

    Marilyn Mueller, one of our three taste-test experts, said that the chocolate used to make much of the gelt has a reduced cocoa-butter content.

    That makes it easier to shape into coins and more shelf-stable (like some chocolate chips), but harder to melt on the tongue and less tasty.

    "If you don't get a pronounced chocolate flavor, it's not worth it," she said.

    And, in the end, we agreed.

    Foil-covered coins with simple designs of Stars of David and Hanukkah menorahs, as well as those that resemble euros and Kennedy half-dollars, were initially appealing.

    But this is currency that's meant to be consumed.

    The perfect gelt should look good and taste good, too.

    We found a few that'll fill the bill.


Well, that's all very nice and well and good but what if you're not interested in fighting the crowds and madness just to see what the best gold–foil–covered chocolate coin tastes like?

And maybe you don't live anywhere near a See's Candies store.

Well, you're in luck: simply visit the See's Candies website and buy yourself a pound of their chocolate coins for $11.50.

You'll get four 4 oz. bags which, if you're wise, you'll stash in a secret place so that you — and only you — can get at them whenever a chocolate jones strikes.

December 22, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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Tracked on Dec 23, 2005 12:15:22 PM


When I was a young kid (and then a bigger kid, and then an aging kid) I liked to amass as many of these things as possible so I could pretend I was in Scrooge McDuck's vault, throwing big gold coins up in the air and letting them fall back on and around me. The idea of rolling around in money and jewels really appealed to me, for some reason. I never ate any of them, I just assumed they tasted like cow poop. Apparently most of them do.

Well, all that treacly reminiscing like a sad old git about my kidhood hasn't got anything to do with anything, but before I forget --
Merry Christmas, Joe, Merry Christmas
everybody. Have as much fun as possible
and don't fret, it'll all be over soon

Posted by: Flutist | Dec 23, 2005 2:39:07 AM

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