Those who say ‘never judge a box of chocolates by their packaging’ (okay, ‘a book by its cover’; but near enough) are obviously yet to receive a parcel from Chocally. The sweetshop aroma wafting gently from beneath the bubblewrap gets me first – driving me as doolally as a bloodhound sensing a fresh kill.
As an individual plighted by the symbiotic ailments of chocoholism and sugar addiction, it nigh-on kills me to painstakingly peel off the sticky tape and extract the box intact when I’d rather tear into it like a frenzied, feral animal who hasn’t eaten for a week. Wipe that smirk off your face imagining my agony. Did no-one inform you that it’s unkind to mock the afflicted?
But, you see, I manage my suffering with self-medication – a careful programme of sweets and treats doled out in regular doses. I’m sort of like those pumped-up guys who order every odd new protein shake they can find on t’internet. Except I’m a girl. I like my food solid. And it’s chocolate, not protein, that’s my poison.
Stumbling on the Chocally website, then, was exquisite agony; a feeling replicated now as I pick at the pesky knot in the string threaded through the luggage tag bearing a personal message. It’s also bloomin’ binding the box and keeping me from my choc. Chocolatier Cally Higginbottom’s colourful illustrations catch my eye momentarily – and trust me, if the packaging is sufficient to make me take pause, it’s arresting.
Not so arresting that it distracts me from digging in, mind. The selection comprises two bags of shards and two truffle collections; and, from our brief interactions, it’s clear that the intuitive Cally has got my number. In my bespoke box, I find Bombay Mix dark chocolate, her sweetshop-inspired truffles, the spicy, warming Autumnal range, and lavender-infused white chocolate chunks.
Ever-aware that one really shouldn’t take medication when running on empty, I opt to line my stomach with a little lump of the Bombay Mix chocolate which is surely savoury enough to eat as a main meal. And in that case, perhaps I should savour another shard. The chocolate is smooth and rich; the Bombay Mix a salty, spicy, savoury, crunchy contrast. It’s good.
On to pud. I always avoid mixing medicines, so for today’s trial, I stick to the ‘Sweetie’ selection. The fluffy marshmallow centre of the ‘Caramellow’ shoots sugar straight to my bloodstream – niiice. The effect is especially immediate combined with the runny caramel that trickles out as you tuck in. To my mind, if a sweetshop-inspired choc gives you those delicious sugar shakes, it’s achieved its aim.
I’m aiming for a real rush, so I pop another. This one has popcorn in the milk chocolate shell and a white ganache filling that the popcorn flavour has permeated, plunking me smack bang in the cinema foyer of my childhood. When I was there, I always did like to filch a few pick’n’mix, so it’s rather apt that Cally’s bubblegum truffle tastes just like the bright balls I used to half-inch.
More bright little balls adorn the top of the peanut butter jellybean truffle that’s my final dose for the day. The hundreds and thousands are a good crunchy contrast to the chewy jellybean pieces; and both help the slightly savoury smooth nutty centre earn a rightful place in the ‘Sweetie’ selection. I, meanwhile, have earned a lie down.
Day 2 in the big blubber house, and I’m back for more. This clinical trial is just too tasty. ‘Tis not the season for the ‘Autumnal’ collection, but thankfully, the thus-named box is just a window for a few of Cally’s favourite flavours; not a dubious hangover from the stockroom of Christmas past. And, on a chilly February afternoon, eating it in the present is most pleasant indeed.
It might not be fireworks night, but these flavours sparkle. The toffee apple truffle puts a smile on my face that’s rather more winning than the toothless grin I’d soon sport biting into the real rock-hard things. The dark treacle ganache really lights my (bon)fire. Rhubarb & custard and berry crumble truffles are every bit as good as the puds that inspired them.
Chomping all those warming chocs has brought on a bit of a hot flush, so to cool me down, I opt for the edible cold compress that is a lavender shard. There’s not a hint of smelling salts about the smooth white chocolate infused with flowers cut from Cally’s own garden, although it does a similar job of refreshing and reviving the senses as that old-fashioned remedy.
Cally found her vocation helping hopeless chocoholics like me at a young age, eating her beloved Nana’s bakes to appease the demands of her own outsized sweet tooth. It’s living with that ailment which enables her to empathise with the similarly-afflicted and offer an excellent edible remedy. Her treatment is a real treat; I’d control my condition with these marvellous medicines anyday.