Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Love Affair To Remember




By Patricia Winton

Italian chocolate, made only with cocoa butter, explodes in a burst of flavor when you eat it. (Read why here.) But a taste that’s even more intrinsic to the Boot is caffè, those little cups of sugared espresso downed by most Italian people throughout the day. What could be more Italian that a confection combining the two? And Ferrero, the company that brings you Nutella, Rocher, and Tic Tacs, did just that in 1968 with Pocket Coffee.

This ingenious little treat is a shell of good chocolate encasing a shot of sweet espresso. The sugar in the coffee crystallizes and attaches to the chocolate, giving it a crunch. Pocket Coffee can be a bit dangerous to eat because the espresso is quite liquid. To my way of thinking, a piece is too big for one bite, so I nibble off the end, drink out the coffee, then munch the chocolate. The amalgamation of texture—the melting chocolate, the sugar crystals, the syrupy coffee—floods my mouth and puts a smile on my face.

Because the confection is damaged by heat, the company only sells it during cool months. In April, suppliers remove all unsold Pocket Coffee from shops and bars and do not provide it again until November. I’ve tried stockpiling it. In my non-air conditioned apartment, the chocolate collapses. I tried refrigerating it. The coffee solidifies. I’ve resigned myself to treating my favorite treat as a seasonal product like strawberries or artichokes.

Ferrero has made a nod to people like me who miss Pocket Coffee in the summer with a new product called “Pocket Espresso.” Composed a of chocolate-espresso liquid, this confection is packaged in tiny tub resembling a Pocket Coffee wrapper but slightly larger. It comes with a minute straw for sipping. For the past two years, suppliers have replaced Pocket Coffee with Pocket Espresso when they sweep out the more fragile product. To my mind, it’s a poor substitute

I first came to Italy the year after Pocket Coffee appeared, and a love affair began. After I returned to the US, I pined for my lost love, but I have never seen it for sale in an American shop. It is available online now, but I offer a word of warning. One site provides this legal disclaimer: Actual product packaging and materials may contain more and different information than what is shown on our website. My skeptical self suspects that Pocket Espresso may be substituted during hot months when Pocket Coffee is out of season. A look at the Pocket Espresso page notes this: Sign up to be notified when this item becomes available. That means it’s coming in April.

Pocket Coffee will soon disappear here in Rome. I’m going out for another box for one last fling. I won’t be stockpiling it this year, but come November, I’ll renew the romance.

8 comments:

  1. One advantage of a seasonal chocolate supply (maybe the only one) is that you have something to look forward to when the weather turns cold. :) The topic this week is giving me a serious chocolate craving.

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    1. I have an empty Pocket Coffee box on my desk, and it's luring me for a refill. The seasonal nature of food here is one of life's true pleasures. Now that I've accepted Pocket Coffee as a seasonal treat, I can look forward with anticipation.

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  2. Oh, boy. I just ordered some. Oh, boy!

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    1. Let me know how the ordering system works. I am a bit of a skeptic.

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  3. hey this is v interesting. this must mean that Kinder chocolate, that is for innocent children, is not made with cocoa butter.

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    1. Catherine, the controversy over cocoa butter is based on the EU court ruling that Italy must allow chocolate made with other vegetable fats to be labeled as chocolate for import into the country. Italy wanted to prohibit products not made with cocoa butter from being labeled as pure chocolate. Some European confectioners (notably in Belgium and Switzerland) continue to use pure cocoa butter. You just have to read the label. I can't speak to Kinder since I've never looked at one of their labels. I wrote more about this issue on my other blog, Italian Intrigues. The link is at the beginning of this post.

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  4. Oh how I miss Pocket Coffee! One of the best treats you've introduced me to, Sis.

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    1. VM, sorry somebody in the international postal system took the last box I sent you.

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