It’s hard to explain, but Canada exists in a sort of in-between world — between continents, between neighbours near and far, between traditions old and new. We exist as part of the colonial past of Great Britain, but also as part of the overwhelming sphere of influence of the U.S., with which we share a very long border. And don’t get me started on Québec, which has its own identity and old-world connections.
In practical terms, while all three countries (ostensibly) share the same language, we’re more likely than Brits to have access to cultural products from the U.S., and we’re also more likely than Americans to have access to U.K. cultural goods. We have a foot in both worlds while also having our own unique identity. And I’d argue that part of Canada’s unique identity is this wonderful mishmash of traditions that everyone living here has brought with them.
Which brings me to today’s post.
Holiday treats from across the pond
Around the holidays, we see certain beloved treats from the U.K. on our grocery store shelves. If you put a stocking out on Christmas Eve, there’s a good chance you’ll wake up to a Terry’s Chocolate Orange in there, and as you push your cart in the supermarket, you’ll likely see a display of Quality Street chocolates calling out to you, their purple metal tins a curious beacon of Englishness in even the far corners of Canada.
For those unaware of Quality Street (greetings, American readers), these metal tins contain an assortment of plastic-wrapped chocolates with different fillings inside. Each one is different, and there are great, passionate debates that form around each one. Is the blue-wrapped coconut eclair brilliant or utter bollocks? Why do you never seem to get enough toffee fingers? Are the cremes too sweet or just right? While the brand is owned by Nestlé, the Quality Street chocolates we get in Canada are still (as of 2021) made in England and sent abroad, which is nice.
It’s also worth noting that the Quality Street tins themselves are a proud part of Canadian Christmas gifting, as they’re perfect for lining with parchment paper and filling with Christmas baking, which can then be passed along to friends.
So what do all the different chocolates taste like? What’s all this fuss about?
A Quality Street flavour guide
The following descriptions and opinions are my own, and may well land me in hot water with readers across the pond, coming as they do from some know-nothing scribbler from the colonies. Feel free to disagree, and if you feel moved to do so, express your thoughts in the comments. Extra credit for indignant grumpery and use of the word “whilst.”
Strawberry Crème: Ultra-sweet creamy strawberry bliss. So sweet that I could practically feel it burning down in my throat as I swallowed it. Intense, but delicious.
Coconut Eclair: Basically just chocolate covering an overly sweet shredded coconut core. While I’m not a huge fan of coconut in chocolate, the fact that the coconut turns to chunky mush that sticks around after the chocolate has long dissolved is unpleasant. I’ll be finding bits of coconut lodged between my teeth and my cheeks for the rest of the day. Ugh.
Truffle Block: Kind of plain, honestly. Seems to be a piece of milk chocolate with some light flavouring to it, though I can’t quite place my finger on what it is. (A hint of rum-raisin?) Possibly the least interesting flavour.
Fudge: A chocolate-coated piece of fudge. It’s not great fudge, but it has the distinctive super-sweet taste and grainy texture.
Orange Crème: Sweeeeeeeet, with oodles of orange essence. Possibly my favourite Quality Street variety. It’s creamy and reminds me of Fry’s Orange Cream chocolate bars, which are not easy to find around here these days.
Caramel Cup: Chocolate filled with a runny, goopy caramel. Super sweet, and mostly unremarkable.
Orange Crunch: Sweet, rich milk chocolate with a mouth-filling orange flavour and crunchy bits of candy mixed into the chocolate. Delightful. If you like Terry’s Chocolate Orange, you’ll want to try this one.
Toffee Finger: A long piece of very chewy chocolate-covered toffee that takes a bit of work to fully dissolve as you chew it. Sticks to your teeth, but in a good way?
Hazelnut in Caramel (aka The Purple One): As the name suggests, it’s a hazelnut swimming in caramel inside a chocolate shell. The caramel seemed less runny than that in the caramel cup. Not my fave, but I can see why so many Brits have a near religious devotion to The Purple One.
Toffee Penny: A creamy, chewy, traditional toffee that’s rich and sweet and reminds me of the old Mackintosh’s Toffee bars we could easily find in Canada when I was younger. Thankfully, these aren’t as hard.
Hazelnut Triangle: A simple, sweet milk chocolate with a bit of hazelnut flavour to it. Not a whole hazelnut (see The Purple One), and not lots of pieces. Just a nice, round hazelnut chocolate flavour.
Note that these are the types available in the 2021 tin in Canada, and they’ve been known to add and drop flavours annually. As such, your selection may vary.
Price: $10.99 (on sale) for a 725-gram tin at a Shoppers Drug Mark in Edmonton. Regular price for these is usually around $19.99. After Christmas, look for sales!
Value for Money: For full price: not exactly cheap. On sale: Yes, please.
Availability: Widespread in supermarkets, well-stocked pharmacies, etc., during the holiday season.
Calories: 200 kcal per 5 pieces (42 grams).
Verdict: Is it the best chocolate? Nope. Is it a fun holiday tradition? Yes, indeed. My faves are probably the orange creme, strawberry creme, orange crunch and toffee finger. Happy Christmas!