This is me finally venturing to the middle of nowhere to try the highly acclaimed treats of “Beta 5”. They are known for their cream puffs and chocolate, but these aren’t your ordinary pastry filled with cream or chocolate filled with nuts. They provided award winning sweets and gourmet pastry worthy of any occasion.
The shop was one of many in a warehouse. A door in an peachy orange building. It had its own allocated parking stalls, but the shop was busy and these were often full. Their patrons resorted to parking in neighbour’s spots or illegally to the side. They would be quick anyways. The store is just a table with chocolate bars, a shelf with chocolate bags, and a counter with chocolate boxes. You put your order in with one of two clerks and off you go.
On the table were evenly stacked chocolate bars. Wrap chocolate made with pop rocks, 46% milk chocolate, 66% dark chocolate, and cocoa nibs. I liked the precision in the descriptions that was listed on the covering of each bar. It included the percentage of chocolate used to help to distinguish the flavours. You can either purchase them one bar at a time, or stock up with a pack of 12.
I am not a big fan of chocolate, but was tempted by their “queen of hearts bar”. It is freeze dried raspberries and candied earl grey tea in 35% white chocolate. It was pretty in pink with a unique look. Like the other bars, it is a slim rectangle made from a geometric mould. They called this their “polygon bars”, its unique design was inspired by the mountains they see from their workshop in Vancouver. This flavour was a great alternative to chocolate, more like candy in colour and flavour. This is definitely the kind of chocolate bar to nibble on and savour, instead of eating in one sitting. This wasn’t a nestle crunch or kit kat. This was gourmet, it was one of a kind, and it was delicious.
Against the wall was a very empty rack of chocolates in bags they called “pebbles”. “Pebbles” were a collection of chocolate-covered fruits and nuts, “combining the finest nuts and dried fruits with their house milk and dark chocolates”. The list of flavours included sun-dried Okanagan cherries, hazelnut praline, caramelized pistachios, and almonds in their their signature 66% dark or 46% milk chocolate mix.
At the counter they kept their boxes of chocolate. There was an open box of each to show what you were getting under the simplified white paper wrap with neat black print. Each of the polygon bars, their salted caramels, and of signature chocolate boxes. The latter even included a fold out guide describing each flavour.
Their fall chocolate collection was cleverly titled “hibernation preparation” it included flavours like pear gingerbread, salted milk chocolate, roasted beet and ginger, porcini mushroom, sage, and spiced pumpkin. They were all dusted in the colours of fallen leaves: green to reds, orange, yellow, and then brown.
Though the “Holiday 2015 Chocolate Collection: Precious Metals” was definitely the highlighted set. It featured “rich textures, luxurious finishes, and a collection of flavours that celebrate the season”. These flavours included their “award-winning Sparkling Praline, Carrot Cake, and Absinthe, along with Apple Crumble, Peppermint Tea, and Egg Nog”. A few of them shone with a glossy polished finish. The precious metals collection was also available in a box of six with only one of each flavour.
I was tempted by both line ups, but decided if I was only going to get one box at $30 each, it should be their “Award-Winning Signature Chocolates”. This should be my first taste of their chocolates. It’s lineup included Fisherman’s Friend, the Whole Cherry, Bay Leaf, Tropical Crunch and Imperial Stout. And some of their house favourites like Jasmine Tea and Caramelized Banana. 12 flavours in total, best consumed 2 weeks of purchase. I appreciated the variety and the ability to try all these unique flavours in one box. Also, seeing them behind the glass shield at the counter, I liked all the colours this box came with more, and I often order based on beauty than would be taste.
Opening the box was like ripping wrapping from a gift. It felt so fragile and special with layers of folded tissue and a detailed menu. Looking at the bold colours and lustrous tones then trying them, seemed worth the steep price you had to pay. The set even came with extra chocolate in the from of a plate speckled with nibs, all the bons bons sat on; hidden at the bottom of the box. What a great bonus surprise. They looked too pretty to eat, but after excessive photo taking, I nibbled on the corner of each. I did so to taste and to write, but also because I love saving the best for last, so had to try them all to find out which order I would consume them in.
In the order they appeared in the box:
The awarding winning “imperial stout” had a filling made by blending “Green Flash Brewing Co’s” double stout with their 45% milk chocolate. It’s whimsical blue gradient shell wasn’t very telling of the bitter ganache that hid inside. I would pair this with beer, obviously a darker stout.
The “earl grey” gave you that premium Russian earl grey tea flavour upon the first bite. This chocolate was kept on the bitter side with the tea and use of 67% dark chocolate. The shell’s milky strokes were more reflective of tea than the above to beer. Best taken with a milky earl grey brew.
The “tropical crunch” delivered in name and flavour. A light frosted white round made with house made macadamia praline, stuffed with caramelized coconut, and topped with passion fruit caramel. This was my favourite. The sweetest of the box, but still not too sweet. You ate this more for the flavour than its sugar content. This would have been nice with a side of citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, and/or pineapples.
The “Mokaya” red striped square was a single plantation chocolate from the Chiapas region of Mexico. The chocolate balances cocoa flavour with notes of banana, coffee, and liquorice. I only got the chocolate.
The “banana” had an award winning filling of caramelized white chocolate blended with fresh banana, Venezuelan rum, and vanilla bean. It was produced with real banana flavour, not that artificial antibiotic flavour. I liked this the second most with it’s fun fuzzy shell and luscious caramel-like centre. I would have this as is, because I wanted a treat.
The “crispy praline” with its spot within a spot shell, was a blend of 45% milk chocolate with caramelized hazelnut, and a cocoa nib praline. It was crispy and light with a distinctive deep, almost peppery finish. This would have been good with a sip of coffee or espresso.
The “salted caramel” was so popular that you could buy them in a box of six or twelve, all on their own. After one bite I could see why. This was soft creamy milk chocolate caramel, enrobed in dark chocolate and finished with a touch of flaked sea salt. Honestly the best salted caramel square I have ever had. It’s luscious caramel just melted on your tongue instead of sticking to your teeth.
The “whole cherry” was aptly named. A cherry and balsamic jelly paired with a cherry pit ganache, blending 45% milk with 72% dark chocolate. This multi layers of cherry was an award winner and I could see why. A refunded dessert with a sexy red wash, perfect with red wine and a hot date.
The “jasmine tea” was pretty in pink and equally soft in floral notes. It is “Chun Feng” jasmine tea infused into 45% milk chocolate ganache. I would recommend this with a cup or two of jasmine tea for an elevated flowery experience.
I recommend having the “fisherman’s friend” as the one to end on. This creative award winner was sharp, but still a toned down version of this famed cough drop. Included with the cough candy is 67% dark chocolate. I didn’t really see this as one for everyday eating, perhaps a mint to end a meal on or a treat to heal whatever ails you?
The “pear and praline” with its marble brown and white exterior was more crispy milk praline than sweet pear. The latter was hidden under milk chocolate ganache.
The “bay leaf” looked like a tennis ball with its round shape, fuzzy green finish, and decorate white line. Thankfully it tasted nothing like sporting equipment, but instead the grey herbaceous leaf it promised to be. It reminded me of Vietnamese soup noodles with its refreshing basil notes. I would have this one as finisher for such a meal.
I am not a fan of chocolates, but would certainly go back and pay $30 more dollars to try their other flavours, or this upcoming season’s flavours. This would be the chocolate brand that turns non chocolate lovers to one that appreciates the edible art. They aren’t two sweet, the perfect taste for adults and those with a more refined palette. Not surprising as they are voted as “one of North America’s top 10 chocolatiers”.
On the wall were posters spelling all of this out. It included the ability to craft your own chocolate bar with over 18 different ingredients and the possibility of arranging a gift box of chocolate drops, polygon bars, and pebbles.
But what really catches your eye is the visual menu listing their signature cream puff collection and their fall cream puff collection on poster board. I ended up ordering all but two of their flavours, and each one looked exactly like its photo promised. The cream puffs are made on site and arranged to order by pastry chefs in the back. You get a glimpse of them through the window separating front of store from industrial kitchen. And then again when one of them comes out to deliver your boxed goods. The gentleman who helped me was nice enough to obliged me with a photo before he closed the lid and taped them up for travel. Their boxes and bags wee a generic white, branded with their sticker. For the season it was a festive snowflake declaring “let it snow!” They traveled relatively well, but the journey could have been better with those little plastic tables in old school pizza boxes holding things in place and preventing the lid from squishing down on them.
In order from top to the bottom and left to right: raspberry earl grey, apple pie, variations of chocolate, Vietnamese coffee, Douglas fir, spiced pumpkin, blueberry yuzu, carrot cake, and pear gingerbread. The vanilla was kept separate in a single store box. I ordered one of each minus the “salted caramel” and “smoked almond” (seasonal, fall 2015) I passed on the two because of how plain they looked in comparison to the others. I was surprised that they didn’t have a cream puff flavoured in rum and egg nog or candy cane, the more popular and typical winter flavours.
Each cream puff had the same base, a cookie-like crust coating fluffy dough. Each was a presentation on its own. I don’t advise mixing and matching like I did, but to instead enjoy eating each one, one at a time. To fully savour each element: cream, custard filling, and base.
The “vanilla” was filled with a speckled vanilla bean custard and topped with a vanilla bean whipped cream. I liked the cubes of sugar topping it like sprinkles. It’s flavour was gentle, but there was still too much cream to puff ratio. I am a fan of vanilla, as you can never go wrong with it, this was my favourite for taste.
For looks the seasonal “Douglas fir” was my favourite. It reminded me of a woodland forest with its dirt coloured cream, and edible green moss and bold red mushroom cap. Though it’s name did nothing to describe its taste. It wasn’t piney or woodsy like I imagined. Instead, this was like eating chocolate truffles with velvety smooth creme and a collapsible chocolate shell.
It was not all that unlike the “variation of chocolate” cream puff. But this pile of chocolatey goodness had more of a brownie texture to it. It was dense and rich, ideal for those PMS-ing, according to a friend.
The “Vietnamese coffee” is one of their more popular puffs. Though with all the hype my first taste was a let down. I expected a sweet and creamy condense milk taste with a sticky texture from the filling. Instead both it and the fluffy cream had a more bitter coffee taste to it. I liked its appearance with the purple accent lined with silver foil, more than its taste.
The “pear gingerbread” (seasonal, fall 2015) didn’t smell or taste like it, it was also the most plainly decorated of what I order. There was no iconic flavour of pear. It tasted more like a gingersnap cookie with some peppery spices.
The “Apple pie” (seasonal, fall 2015) cream puff included a miniature pie crust on top. It was baked flakey to an even golden brown, and crusted with caramelized sugar. Just like you would find on a whole apple pie. Though the filling was more cream cheesecake than apple pie. I would have liked some apple flavour in the cream, and maybe even some caramelized apple chunks in the centre, for that apple pie texture as well.
The “raspberry earl grey” was rich with tart raspberry and mild with creamy earl grey. Topped with tea infused frosting and a sprinkling of freeze dried raspberries. It was simply delicious, the one I would recommend during a high tea service or for a mid day snack.
The “carrot cake” (seasonal, fall 2015) was my second favourite. It had a cream cheese frosting topped with candied ginger and an orange square to symbolize the carrots used. The filling had actual shreds of carrots and was flavoured heavily with cinnamon.
The “Blueberry yuzu” was the most refreshing puff with lemon citrus and sweet blueberry.
The “Spiced pumpkin” (seasonal, fall 2015) was your typical pumpkin spice anything with spices like nutmeg and cinnamon intertwined in its cream. I liked the finishing touches of toasted pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top over the mound of spaghetti-like piped cream.
For the winter season they also had other exclusive flavours in all that they offered. Like peppermint patties, a peppermint crunch polygon bar, spiced praline pecan pebbles, candied orange peel, a creme puff wreath with alternating puffs filled with eggnog custard and spiced pecan whipped ganache, and a candy cane ice cream sandwich. There was so much that I wanted to try, so much worth trying. I will be eagerly anticipating their spring section in the new year. They take two weeks off of sales to perfect and prepare their highly anticipated offerings.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Each of their chocolates and cream puffs made for a great show. They certain impressed in look and taste. I enjoyed all that I had, but cannot see myself coming back just to snack. Though I would definitely be back for the right occasion. A gift worthy box of chocolates or a impromptu birthday cake, like for today. Think, individual portioned desserts that don’t need slicing, that isn’t the played out cupcake. Don’t deny your cravings.
413 Industrial Avenue, Vancouver BC