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When I was growing up in England during the latter stages of World War II, very little chocolate was available to the average person. Like all candy, except for Bull's Eyes peppermint suckers, it was rationed.
Except—and yes, there is always an exception—my father was a diabetic, so he was allowed to buy bittersweet chocolate: Cadbury's, of course. You could say I was raised with high expectations of how chocolate should taste. In the early fifties, when rationing ended, I expanded my horizons and was able to buy a whole variety of different brands, but none of them tasted quite like Cadbury's. Its chocolate was creamier, richer, and had a wonderful aftertaste.
There were the Crunchie bars, chocolate-covered Turkish delight, Picnic and Lion bars, milk chocolate, milk chocolate with nuts and raisins, Bournville dark. It didn't matter which I ate. They were all wonderful. The boxes of Cadbury Milk Tray chocolates were to die for. The Flake Bar—a stick of milk chocolate flakes, somehow held together by who knows what—would literally melt in your mouth. A summer treat with the Flake was called a '99: a cone of soft ice cream garnished with a whole Flake Bar. Divine. Cadbury's offerings were endless.
In the mid-sixties, I came to America. Eating chocolate was not up there on my list of things I wanted to do. One day, however, I felt a craving for some good dark chocolate and bought a bar of Hershey's.
I didn't finish it—it was not to my liking. To me, it had a coarser aftertaste than Cadbury's. Almost waxy. Had my grandmother eaten a Hershey Bar she would have raised her Edwardian eyebrows in distaste.
So you can imagine my delight when I read that Hershey's had been given the rights to produce Cadbury's in America. I think I must have been one of the first people to buy a bar of the milk chocolate at my local supermarket, and the first one to be disappointed by the taste. The Hershey's Cadbury's just did not taste the same as the English Cadbury's. And how could it? The ingredients were probably similar, but they lacked that indefinable British touch.
Was I just nostalgic for something that was not readily available to me in this country? Was I being a snob? Was there really that much of a difference between the two Cadbury's?
The last time I returned from England I brought back a few bars and held a blind taste test with some of my American friends. The results were mixed. Everyone agreed there was a difference. While a few of my friends preferred the Hershey's, they all loved the taste of Cadbury's. "Not as sweet" was the main comment, closely followed by "Cadbury's seems creamier and smoother" and "Wow, is this what chocolate should really taste like?".
I know I sound biased. That is my prerogative because I am British, but, to me, Cadbury's chocolate reigns supreme.
I now own a store in Cold Spring, New York—The Country Goose—and I have been in business for 24 years. I have sold a lot of chocolate in my time, but I have never, ever sold Hershey's. I sell European chocolates with great success—Belgian, Spanish, Italian, French and British. I have only ever deemed two American-made chocolates worthy of space in my store—Lake Champlain Chocolates of Vermont and Hunt Chocolates from Virginia.
However, when all is said and done, my favorite chocolate is still the British Cadbury's. The taste of this fine chocolate is just superior to any other.
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