“ Brand: Tesco / Type: Milk „
A Malteser by any other name would still taste much the same as Maltesers usually do, you might think, but if you are naive enough to believe that then you've clearly never come into contact with the improbably-named sweets that are Tesco Milk Chocolate Crunchy Malty Balls.
How different to a regular Malteser (a milk-chocolate-coated little ball of malt-flavoured, crisp honeycomby centred confection, made by Mars chocolates of Slough) could these things be? That's the question I asked myself as I pondered a shopper's choice between a bag of Tesco own-brand Malty Balls (£1 for 135g, reduced on special offer from the usual price of £1.29), vs. a bag of regular 'family size' pack of Maltesers (which cost £1.69 for 135g, again from Tesco).
Unfortunately I let the price decide for me and bought the Tesco Balls. To be honest I suspected that the trouble involved in setting up a chocolate factory to produce sweets that are a little like Maltesers would be far too much hassle for anyone in the confectionery trade, and that I'd find that the Tesco Malty Balls were actually Maltesers made by the usual folk - just sold in a different style of bag. Sad to say I was dead wrong about this.
What's the best thing about proper Maltesers? I'd say - having now had some chance to compare and contrast them with the inferior brand - that the special texture is one of their key selling points; the way when they are stored at room temperature, the chocolate gets just soft enough for you to bite almost all of it away from the crispy centre with just two chomps of the back teeth. The taste of the soft creamy Maltesers milk chocolate combined with the sweet, wonderful-to-bite, malty centre is also pretty special....but predictably however, the Tesco Malty Balls while on paper being quite similar to real Maltesers, were devoid of their attractive qualities and in practice were nowhere nearly so good.
On opening the packet, it was immediately obvious they were a totally different sweet. They are noticeably smaller than proper Maltesers, and have a weird glazed look to them (Acacia shellac it says, on the ingredients list on the back of the packet. Shellac, being a glazing agent derived from the secretions of a type of homopteran bug - an insect from the same order as aphids, you see, those two degrees in Zoology DID turn out to be not COMPLETELY useless after all - is something you might not expect to find on the ingredients list of a bag of chocolates but I know they used to use it in things like 'Poppets' - back in the 1970s - and in some brands of chocolate raisin. I was more surprised to learn that the origin of the shellac used in the Tesco Malty Balls could apparently be traced to the Acacia tree; though I don't know whether the type of tree that the sap-sucking bugs were feeding on really makes much difference).
So the Tesco Malty balls were weird and small and covered in an insect-secretion-derived glaze. The chocolate round them was thin and tasted of not particularly much and was certainly not of a nice enough texture to be detachable from the interior crunchy part of the Balls. This was harder than the centre of a Malteser, of a grittier texture when chewed up, and tasted not nearly as good.
I think the best description for these Malty Balls would come from a rating commonly given to mushrooms in my Roger Philips big book of British Fungus: edible, but not worthwhile.