Buying the Cacao: Boxes of Chocolates in Boston for Under $30
This city has no shortage of chocolatiers, but which offers the best bonbon for the buck? To find out, we surveyed the local artisanal sweets-scape, scooping up the poshest boxes that $30 (max) would buy us and throwing in a corporate-brand assortment from our local CVS for good measure. Back at the office, Boston staffers subjected all eight contenders to a highly rigorous, quasi-scientific battery of testing, evaluating each in the categories of flavor, texture, and presentation to yield an overall star rating (out of 5). Finally, we turned to managing editor Brittany Jasnoff—who has been known to sprint across the room in 6-inch heels at the mere rumor of free brownies—to provide bonus commentary from the card-carrying chocoholic’s perspective. Without further ado, the results.
RUSSELL STOVER ASSORTED
Price: $19.99 (37 cents per piece)
What You Get: The vanity check of the chocolate world, this outsize box contains a range of the expected classic flavors, from coconut clusters to chocolate buttercream.
The Good: It’s big. It’s cheap. And such a convenient location (CVS)!
The Bad: It’s cheap. “There’s a weird savory paraffin quality,” noted one tester. Plus, a familial touch, but not necessarily in a good way: “Tastes like my grandma’s house.”
Perfect For: Those who subscribe to the bigger-is-better theory; small villages.
Brittany’s Take: “A desperate late-night office snack, nothing more.”
HOTEL CHOCOLAT H-BOX
Price: $26 ($1.86 per piece)
What You Get: An embossed box with an all-milk or all-dark-chocolate mix, bearing names such as “Billionaire’s Shortbread” and “Gianduja Bombe.”
The Good: Tasters liked the something-for-everyone selection, including booze-infused, fruit, and nut flavors. The consensus: “rich, smooth, and very flavorful.”
The Bad: The plain box is deliberately modernist-spare, but also flimsy. “Plastic dividers are a little low rent,” pointed out one panelist. A plus or minus, depending on the customer: The liquor-infused varieties are serious business.
Perfect For: The nanny; boozehounds who aren’t the nanny.
Brittany’s Take: “Not bad. I could see this being a favorite for boozy-bonbon lovers.”
COCOANUTS ASSORTED DOZEN
Price: $21 ($1.75 per piece)
What You Get: A slim, tall cardboard box contains two layers of chocolates with a focus on fun, playful flavors like ice cream sundae and sticky bun.
The Good: Those who love Yankee Candle’s frosting-scented wares will flip for the eye-catching sundae, which is quite sweet but delivers on flavor. More-subdued varieties, like raspberry-filled chocolate, also shine: “The raspberry filling was delicious without being too fake or over the top,” said one participant.
The Bad: The plain brown box, more appropriate for Chinese takeout.
Perfect For: Your best girlfriend.
Brittany’s Take: “Oh, I see. Very smart—like for days that require both chocolate and ice cream.”
MAX BRENNER BONBON ASSORTMENT
Price: $23.90 ($1.33 per piece)
What You Get: A bright, patterned tin box holds bright, patterned bonbons with ganache and nut-based fillings.
The Good: The flavor and “thick, fudgy” texture of the nut-filled varieties like hazelnut cream and caramelized pecan. The uniform size and squat shape makes them almost too easy to keep eating.
The Bad: The fillings have a distinct cocoa-butter mouthfeel, which can veer toward waxy in some cases. Confusing flavor “map.”
Perfect For: Passing around the office; staunch modernists.
Brittany’s Take: “Hazelnut lovers, unite!”
BEACON HILL CHOCOLATES ASSORTED DOZEN
Price: $28 ($2.33 per piece)
What You Get: A dozen elaborately decorated imported chocolates in a charming box with preppy cream and pale-green stripes. “Sooo Beacon Hill,” pointed out a staffer who lives in Cambridge.
The Good: This small box is, nonetheless, big on flavor. “I felt like I was exploring the moon with my mouth,” one tester said of the dark-chocolate Poeme truffle, filled with coffee-infused chocolate ganache and hazelnut cream.
The Bad: The only complaints involved the price, though usually followed by, “But worth it!”
Perfect For: Impressing your significant other; chocolate snobs; managing editors.
Brittany’s Take: “All of you need to get back to work on the issue now. I’ll handle this.”
EVELYN & ANGEL’S SMALL ASSORTMENT
Price: $20 ($2.86 per piece)
What You Get: A petite gold-embossed box tied with a red ribbon contains seven sizable chocolates, which the designer candy shop brings in from a host of producers.
The Good: Beyond the chic presentation (“a precious treasure box”), the staff collectively swooned for the caramel-filled variety. “Rich and buttery with a lovely subtle burnt taste that lingers on the tongue,” noted one smitten panelist.
The Bad: The price tag. Also, the fruit flavors worked tasters into a critical lather. “Was that Lemon Pledge?” (No, it was “lemon.”) Another: “Shampoo, but from a very expensive hotel.”
Perfect For: A stylish family member.
Brittany’s Take: “Do they make these boxes in Just Caramel?”
EHCHOCOLATIER CHEF’S CHOICE
Price: $18.95 ($2.11 per piece)
What You Get: A sleek black box with nine assorted house-made candies in very serious-sounding flavors (“Ceylon Cinnamon,” “Palet d’Or”), plus evocative descriptors worthy of a modern wine list.
The Good: “Delicious, delicate, and interesting” non-chocolate fillings like pomegranate pâte de fruit get a boost from a layer of “luscious” chocolate ganache. One piece, “a chewy pillow of fresh, soft nougat” (according to the description), reminded one taster of “Three Musketeers, but with more come-hither appeal.”
The Bad: A few staffers found the cinnamon and peppermint bonbons “a touch too intense.”
Perfect For: A gourmand boss or client.
Brittany’s Take: “Almost too pretty to eat! Almost.”
L. A. BURDICK SMALL WOODEN ASSORTMENT
Price: $20 ($1.25 per piece)
What You Get: A wooden box holds a variety of bonbons and a chocolate mouse (yes, the rodent).
The Good: The box is a nice touch, as is its “classy Shakespearean-era wax seal.” Staffers also enjoyed some of the exotic options—Brazilian dark-chocolate ganache with espresso, kirsch, and anise seed, for example, and cashew-sesame with cayenne.
The Bad: The kookier flavors aren’t for everyone. “Strange conceptions,” noted one befuddled staffer. “Was this guy drunk on his own chocolate?” The size of the chocolates: “pretty minuscule.”
Perfect For: A host gift, and bonus conversation starter (“Is that a note of cayenne I detect?”).
Brittany’s Take: “Rich and intense—a true indulgence!”