The holiday most Americans associate with the British candy brand Cadbury is Easter, thanks to those ubiquitous foil-wrapped Crème Eggs that flood stores in the spring.
But Christmas is prime time in my family for the company’s large variety of chocolate treats from England. When we empty our stockings on Christmas morning, if there isn’t at least one Cadbury Dairy Milk bar or a bag of chocolate Buttons inside, we consider Santa to have fallen down on the job.
We take our Cadbury seriously. When we visited my cousin Lizzy in Birmingham, England, we even went to Cadbury World, the tourist attraction adjoining the longtime chocolate factory in Bournville, the company's 19th-century factory town that eventually lent its name to their line of dark chocolate.
Through video exhibits, animatronics, interactive displays and a multi-sensory 4-D ride, Cadbury World tells the story of chocolate (hello, Mayans) and the Cadbury company, dating back to 1824.
We wound up in the Cadbury World store, where we dropped quite a few pounds sterling (and probably gained a few of the other sort).
We were in chocolate heaven, surrounded by shelf after shelf of the classic Dairy Milk (and its Fruit and Nut and Whole Nut variations); the crumbly Flake bars that the British love to stick in cones of soft-serve ice cream; the tiny milk chocolate Buttons; the airy, bubbly Wispa bars; the braided chocolate caramel Curly Wurlys; Mini Rolls (like a tiny éclair); and chewy Caramellos.
Also, Fry’s Chocolate Cream, with its fondant center; the nougat-filled Double Decker; the peanut-filled Starbar; the honeycombed Crunchie; the Twirl (Flake-type fingers covered in still more chocolate); and the eclectic Picnic bar, featuring chocolate-covered peanuts, nougat, caramel, cookie and puffed rice.
Not forgetting, of course, the many varieties of “biscuit” (British for cookie) featuring Cadbury chocolate, including versions with Oreo and Ritz crackers dipped in Dairy Milk. And even a full-size soccer ball made of chocolate.
Because we’re full-fledged Cadburyaholics, rather than accept the knockoff version of Cadbury found in most American stores, we trek out to Taste of Britain in Norcross or hit the internet to stock up on the imported variety of our favorite chocolate.
Compare the original British Cadbury bars with U.S. "Cadbury" (actually made in Pennsylvania by Hershey since it bought Cadbury's American division in 1988), and you'll see why we think it's worth the effort to get the real thing.
Both versions feature the iconic purple wrapper, Cadbury with the curly “C,” and the glass-and-a-half logo, referring to the old slogan that there is “a glass and a half of milk in every half-pound bar.”
But, they don’t taste the same. We recently compared American Dairy Milk bars bought at the neighborhood CVS with the original versions from Taste of Britain. The Hershey-made U.S. version wasn’t as melty as the original, my daughter Olivia noted. “The British bar is creamier and coats my mouth more,” she said.
My wife Leslie found the American Dairy Milk “brittle,” and the British bar smoother and with “more body.” She thought the U.S. version tasted basically like a Hershey bar.
Of course, we’re prejudiced, so we did blind taste tests with some friends to see what they thought.
Jen Farris of Atlanta described the U.S. bar as “very sweet” and the British bar as “creamier, milkier.” She said the American was chalkier. She preferred the British.
So did Justin Finegan of Decatur, though he added he enjoyed both of them.
The only taster who preferred the American Cadbury was Decaturite Michael Vorndran, who liked it because it tasted more like Hershey. “I guess it’s just that it’s closer to what I’m used to,” he said.
Of course, neither Cadbury nor Hershey are gourmet brands like Godiva or Lindt. They produce everyday chocolate bars suitable for an after-school snack or a coffee-break treat.
Still, we agreed both versions of Cadbury are a cut above your average American chocolate bar, including Hershey.
As for the reason behind the taste difference between the two versions of Cadbury, that’s subject to debate.
Is it the amount of sugar or milk used? (The U.S. bar lists sugar as its first ingredient while the British bar lists milk.) Maybe it’s how the ingredients are mixed or how long the chocolate is mixed? Could it be what sort of milk or cocoa products go into the bars? Or maybe the fact that British Cadbury uses some vegetable oil in its chocolate bars, which perhaps accounts in part for the creamier taste, while U.S. candymakers aren’t allowed to do that and still call it “milk chocolate.”
Whatever the reason for the difference, it matters to British expats and other confirmed fans of the U.K. bars. A couple of years ago, it looked like Hershey’s efforts to enforce its Cadbury trademark in the U.S. might keep the original British bars out of America.
Fortunately, that hasn't happened. While Hershey cracked down on a couple of major wholesalers, a multitude of little import shops such as Taste of Britain continue to stock the British bars, and the original version of Cadbury is readily available from U.K. candy sellers through Amazon and other online retailers.
Ironically, even British Cadbury is now owned by an American conglomerate, Mondelez International, spun off a few years ago from Kraft Foods. And, in fact, since Cadbury came under U.S. ownership in 2010, some U.K. fans of the chocolate bars have grumbled that they don’t taste the same. They point to the fact that the U.K. bars now list palm oil as an ingredient and accuse Cadbury of changing its recipe, though the company has responded that palm had been one of the vegetable oils used in the bars since the 1950s, and was only now being listed because of European Union regulations.
I’m sorry, but I have little sympathy for Brits complaining about their Cadbury bars. After all, at least when they unwrap that purple foil wrapper, they don’t find a glorified Hershey bar.
Meanwhile, we’re good for this Christmas. On a recent trip to Taste of Britain, we picked up a variety of Cadbury products, including a Santa-emblazoned Christmas variety pack. Cadbury as just an Easter treat? Bah, humbug!
NORCROSS SHOP OFFERS TASTE OF BRITAIN
Taste of Britain, operating in downtown Norcross since 1989, stocks a wide variety of British products, including chocolates, cakes, biscuits (cookies) and other sweets; teas and tea accessories (including teapots); U.K. grocery favorites, including crisps (potato chips) and drinks such as Ribena and ginger beer; refrigerated and frozen foodstuffs, including steak and kidney pies, bangers (sausages) and Cornish pasties; giftware; and even "Doctor Who" merchandise. Taste of Britain, 73 S. Peachtree St., Norcross. Open 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays. 770-242-8585, tasteofbritain.com.