Thursday, March 31, 2011

Guava Colada: As Yummy As It Sounds

photo by Kevin Keeker
Guava Colada is the one flavor blend in the new Fruit Basket collection that was pretty much perfectly balanced from the word ‘go’. Very tropical, it combines lush guava and sweet, fragrant coconut. It’s so delicious, it drove two of my taste testers to capslock some of their feedback:
My favorite. I loved this combo. PERFECT. I could have eaten ten of these. Not too sweet and very flavorful – Bay
LOVE that this SMELLS of coconut when you take it out of the wrapper. This tastes great – Jen
While most of our lollipops are translucent or translucent + sparkly, we thought Guava Colada deserved to have a creamy, opaque look that honors the presence of coconut. And at my friend Matt’s genius suggestion, we named it Guava Colada instead of Guava Coconut. We’re pretty thrilled about this lollipop from top to bottom, inside and out and we hope you will be too!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Triple Berry: Summer On a Stick

photo by Kevin Keeker
My friend Karen canned a lot of jam and other stuff last summer, and she was kind enough to share some of her creations with me. Her Triple Berry jam was really delicious – I particularly love it on pancakes. When we started thinking about flavors for the Fruit Basket collection, I thought it would be a great taste to emulate.

We experimented with different berry trios and different balances of sweetness and tartness before settling on the killer combo of Strawberry, Raspberry and Blackberry that make up the lollipop we are proud to call Triple Berry.

My friend Simon is a talented cook, a foodie with a critical streak, which makes him a highly valuable taste-tester. Triple Berry is his favorite flavor in the Fruit Basket, or rather his favourite, as he is from South Africa. We look forward to hearing your reaction to this and the rest of the new Fruit Basket flavors!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pineapple Heaven: A Family Affair

photo by Kevin Keeker
Early in the brainstorming for the Fruit Basket flavors, Kate and I were really interested in using pineapple. But despite our initial optimism, plain pineapple lollipops didn’t really impress our taste testers:
A bit boring and simple – Justine
Good base, but much simpler than I'm used to from This Charming Candy – Bill
In the first couple of tasting rounds, I tried adjusting the acidity to make the lollipop more sour, but it still wasn’t getting the kind of enthusiastic response we wanted. And then I suddenly had a fantastic brainstorm: my beloved great-aunts in Pennsylvania make a dessert they call “Pineapple Heaven”. Its origins are cloaked in mystery (or maybe their older sister invented it). It is a humble layered concoction of:
  • mini marshmallows, soaked in
  • canned crushed pineapple, topped with
  • fresh, thinly sliced banana, sprinkled with
  • walnut pieces, dolloped with
  • whipped cream
So good! I grabbed my banana and marshmallow flavors and took a first guess at a good proportion of those three ingredients. I don’t want to brag, except I actually do: Pineapple Heaven rocketed to the top of the charts – it was the most popular flavor in the next round of tasting, which was already a narrowed field after we eliminated several other underperforming flavors. It was a good reminder that we should stay true to our habit of creating signature flavor blends. They’re usually yummier than single-flavors.

So here’s to Pineapple Heaven – and here’s to my beautiful great-aunts and their charming & inspiring dessert. I highly recommend that you make the real thing sometime, by the way.
Larson_Dziadosz 790

Monday, March 28, 2011

Four, Count ‘em, FOUR Flavors

photo by Kevin Keeker
Just in time for spring (ok, ok, a week past the equinox), we are so excited to announce the Fruit Basket collection:
  • Pineapple Heaven
  • Triple Berry
  • Guava Colada
  • Watermelon-Basil
GASP! What’s this, you say? a collection with four flavors in it?

Yes. While all of our collections so far have been trios, the Fruit Basket is a quartet. As you may have heard, we do a lot of taste-testing with local friends and neighbors. During the tasting party where we intended to emerge with three final flavors, gosh darn it, the four flavors listed above were in a dead heat. All the other competitors flopped.

Kate and I talked it over, and decided it was not worth the risk that angry taste testers would storm my house with flaming pitchforks, demanding to know why we had cut one of the fantastic four.

So, guess what! The Fruit Basket overfloweth with completely amazing flavors. We hope you’ll give ‘em a warm welcome. Into your belly.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Deliciously Good Timing

Yesterday I dropped off a lollipop delivery at Seattle’s most super delightful, cute and quirky indie art gallery & shop, Cakespy. The mugs are stocked, yo:


photo by Joyce H

I cunningly chose yesterday as the delivery date so I could hang around for the Bake It In A Cake bake sale, where I ate a vanilla cupcake that had a lemon bar baked inside it. No joke! There was a fabulous burst of intense lemony-goodness in the middle of a vanilla cupcake. AND if that weren’t enough, it had raspberry buttercream icing with a lemon hard candy on top. Awesome. It’s the middle one on this table:


photo by Susan

Other, better photos – including cupcake cross sections – can be found:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Eye Candy: Cezanne

I was 22 the first time I saw this Cezanne still life - La table de cuisine - and it was the first time I ever really understood cubism. Not that this painting is cubism - it's not - but cubism was first explained to me as the painter trying to show every side of the object at once. Which ....ok, I guess? But here I could see a first step towards cubism - color in blocks and a slightly flattened perspective with that gourd and basket that look like they're both falling off the table and falling forward over all the pears and apples.

I'm still not sure I instinctively enjoy cubism, but I do appreciate it a lot more.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mmmm.... Lollipops

We took the opportunity at our last photoshoot to fill in some holes in our product shots - in this case, we wanted to get lollipop pile photos where we focus in on all the flavors. We'd done it for some of the flavors during the holiday season, but I wanted to get all of them. These are my favorite ones - I couldn't very well post all of them - though I thought about it! You can see all of them on our Facebook page or our Flickr account.
photo by Kevin Keeker
photo by Kevin Keeker
photo by Kevin Keeker

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Once we’ve decided which flavors will graduate from the vigorous taste testing rounds to become part of our flavor collections, we still keep working to make them taste even better. Enter: THE DEATHMATCH.

In deathmatches, we usually keep a flavor’s ingredients the same, but change up the proportions to see if we can push the combination to its yummiest potential. Our taste testers love deathmatch season, where two versions of a lollipop enter the competition but only one will survive.

I recently took a pair of lollipops with competing recipes to an EtsyRAIN meetup (EtsyRAIN is the kick-butt Etsy street team for Seattle). The evening’s votes were very close: version A had a slight edge over B, and both versions were judged to be very good.
photo by EtsyRAIN’s fearless leader, Marlo M. Check out her blog about small object photography!
I personally preferred A and I also found A and B to be more similar than I had expected. I’ll probably make at least one more version where I really try to push one of the flavors to become significantly more prominent. We’ll see how that one fares soon!

Monday, March 21, 2011


When you order lollipops from us, we always include a sample of another flavor. This is what they look like!
photo by Kevin Keeker
We've had people comment that they think they're earrings before realizing that they're candy and they can eat them. So consider this a public service announcement: they're delicious!

photo by Kevin Keeker

Friday, March 18, 2011

Eye Candy: Slinky

pic from
 Curious George's Notes from the Hut
I was casting about for an appropriate topic for today's eye candy post - which means I was scanning the page of ideas as well as a couple of other websites I use for inspiration - when my eye landed on the Slinky that lives on my desk.

It might be the post-lunch food coma, I'm in, but the Slinky is kind of an amazing toy. It's fun to play with. Almost everyone likes them. They help teach high school & college kids physics. They come in all sorts of colors (though I have to admit that I prefer the classic metal ones). And I find that shuffling its weight from one hand to the other* is oddly relaxing. I just wish I lived in a house with stairs so I could use it more often.

* Or whatever it's called when you hold one end in each hand and move your hands so it shifts its weight back and forth. Shuffling seemed like a close enough word. Is there a better term?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fun with Charm School Dropouts

Sometimes we get a little goofy whilst doing photoshoots. Which leads to situations where we pretend the lollipops are listening to music.

photo by Kevin Keeker

Or we give them bunny ears.
photo by Kevin Keeker
Marika Brussel's hand

In extreme situations, they'll even get little hats.
photo by Kevin Keeker
hats by Marika Brussel
You should always have fun with your food!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Maybe Not Quite the Kind of Celebration We Were Going For...

We experimented with a bunch of different photos and themes for our Celebration Time packaging. Including this one that looks vaguely altar-ish.
photo by Kevin Keeker
Here it is from a different angle.

photo by Kevin Keeker
These are fun and awesome, but we ultimately went with other photos. You can see them on any Celebration Time listing over on Etsy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Going on an Adventure!

photo by Kevin Keeker
Last week, I posted a photo that we didn't use for our Adventurer's Pack lollipops. This is the one we choose instead. Why?

  1. It's simpler - the packaging is in the foreground and it's where your attention falls.
  2. The shape of the teapot is curvier and the designs on it lend interest but don't fight the package for your eyes.
All in all, we like it and we hope you do too!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Eye Candy: More Data as Art

More pretty data! Wired Science has a ton of lovely data visualizations, including this one that speaks to our librarian-geek hearts.

Wired Science in general has a lot of gorgeous science photos.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Jasmine-Flavored Tea

Jasmine Pearl Tea photo from World Spice
My all-time favorite tea is Jasmine Pearl Tea from World Spice. In fact, I'm having some right now. I don't know what it is about their Jasmine Pearl tea, but it beats the others I've gotten from almost anywhere - except Natur'el Tea's, which was also quite good. Skip Teavana's version. The only problem is that it's expensive, so I tend to make it a treat. My default, every-day tea is Peet's Jasmine Fancy tea - still has that floralness that I like even if it's not quite as good. But it also fits in the budget.

My love of jasmine was one of the reasons that I was so eager to use it in our Sweetheart (Honey-Jasmine) lollipops. It helped, of course, that Lavender did so poorly in the taste testing. Yum, Jasmine!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Before getting down to the Serious Business™ of conducting a long-distance lollipop photoshoot on Sunday, Kate and I naturally had to fortify ourselves with hot tea. She was drinking Jasmine green tea; I was enjoying some Champaign Oolong that I picked up from Natur’el Tea at One of A Kind Vancouver.

This is a screen capture from our instant messaging video chat window. I (Susan) am in the little picture-in-picture. Kate *claimed* it was overcast in San Fran (it was raining, I swear! -k8), but look at all that light flooding in behind her…



Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Photo, Deconstructed

photo by Kevin Keeker
If you were paying attention to us on twitter on Sunday, you know we were taking some photos. (And drinking tea in an INCREDIBLY backlit screenshot of me. Sudz looks great.)

This is one of the photos that didn't make the Etsy cut. Why?
  1. The sugar cane in front oddly dominates the picture.
  2. This is the back of bag, not the front.
  3. We felt that the patterns on the teapot competed too much.
  4. In fact, there was just too much to look at overall.
We'll have other, better, pictures of our Adventure Pack packaging on Etsy soon, so you can see what did satisfy us.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Happy Gluten-Free Birthday!

photo by Kevin Keeker
I have a few friends with celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance and I’ve come to really admire the creative alternatives that they use. One of my friends has shared some of her gluten free cookies with me and they were seriously delicious.

All of our lollipop ingredients are gluten-free, so any of our flavors can be enjoyed if you’ve eliminated gluten from your diet. But we wanted to call special attention to our Birthday Cake flavor, which makes a particularly great treat for a gluten-free birthday celebration.

photo by Kevin Keeker
We mix a few different flavors to emulate the taste of a classic yellow cake. We’re very proud of this one – people are amazed by its cake-y taste. For fun, we put festive neon candy sprinkles (which are rice-based and gluten free) in the molds before pouring in the syrup, which results in colorful polka dots floating inside the finished lollipops.

So if you’re hoping to taste “cake” without ingesting gluten and without having to do any baking, check out our lollipops!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Eye Candy: Holy Kaw!

I recently learned about Holy Kaw thanks to twitter, and I'm kind of in love with their daily infographics, particularly the ones that involve food, like the Anatomy of a Cupcake (partial below) or the World's Strongest & Strangest Beers.

I'm pretty sure that they're linking to infographics they find, not creating them themselves, but I love how gorgeous they are! 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Our Taste Testers RULE

Cameraphone picture by Susan Dziadosz.
Despite the backlighting, I couldn't
resist taking a picture of one of
our taste-testers holding 3 lollipops in her
hands. That's dedication!
Yes, Kate and I could just make candy in a vacuum, but we’d rather make candy that lots of people will like. That’s why early feedback – and lots of it – is a way of life here at This Charming Candy.

We’re very fortunate to have access to many willing and eager taste testers who give honest and critical opinions. It’s incredibly helpful to know which flavor combinations are on the right track, which ones need a little work, and which ones need a LOT of work or should just be abandoned.

Here’s a little peek behind the scenes at the first round of feedback we got on some of the candidates for our upcoming Fruit Basket.

Flavor combination A elicited mostly negative remarks like
a few more licks and I was done. Not for me. –Joyce
one of the few of your lollies I didn't finish –Eric
Flavor combo B got mixed reviews, including
Something about (flavor 1) fit well with the (flavor 2) – Kris
Don’t care for it, tastes medicinal. Too much (flavor 2), not enough (flavor 1). A bit sour, not in a good way –Simon
Flavor C was a single-flavor lollipop, not a combination, and it just didn’t seem to be engaging enough for our tasters:
A bit boring and simple. – Justine
good base, but much simpler than I'm used to from This Charming Candy – Bill
Still another combination, D, garnered raves, such as
My favorite. I loved this combo. PERFECT. I could have eaten ten of these. Not too sweet and very flavorful. – Bay
LOVE that this SMELLS (of flavor 3) when you take it out of the wrapper. This tastes great. – Jen
So what did we do with all this feedback?
  • Combination A has been shelved. We might come back to it in the future and see if it can be improved at all.
  • We made adjustments to combination B for the next two rounds of tasting – and unfortunately the feedback stayed mixed. It’s shelved for now. But sometimes we offer polarizing flavors such as Tangerine-Clove and they find their fans. We might still offer combination B for sale sometime.
  • We turned flavor C into a flavor blend and suddenly it was almost everyone’s favorite. We’ll talk more about this one in another blog post.
  • I couldn’t resist tinkering with combination D for the most recent tasting round to see if it could be even better. Feedback on the update has been positive, but not at the level the original recipe received, so we’ll probably leave that one alone. I guess it was perfect on the first try!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

checking the temperature of boiling syrup
photo by Kevin Keeker
No, I’m not talking about Christmas or any holiday, despite snagging this post’s title from a secular carol. I’m talking about developing new lollipop flavors!

Unlike a calendar-based holiday or event, we can do this whenever and however often we like. Right now we’re working on a new Fruit Basket – a trio of fruit-based flavors that we hope to start selling in April.

Our process is roughly what you might expect. Kate & I brainstorm flavor ideas all year long and keep a big list of them. Then we do a little more focused brainstorming before kicking off a phase of making edible samples.

I’ll make several small batches (small = 12 lollipops) and pass out the pops to whatever friends and neighbors are available and interested to give feedback. And of course I mail some to Kate. I gather the feedback, make changes to the recipes, and make more pops. Sometimes I make more new flavors along the way. The feedback keeps rolling in and that helps us narrow down the flavors to the best-liked ones.

This time, it’s taken 3 tasting rounds to narrow 10 candidate flavors down to the best ones. I anticipate another round of iteration focused on refining those recipes to their absolute best. And soon, we’ll be able to let you know what flavors to expect in the Fruit Basket!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Listener-Supported Radio

image downloaded from
Here in Seattle, WA, we’re very fortunate to have an outstanding independent radio station that champions independent musicians from Seattle and from around the globe – You can stream the station worldwide and access a truly astonishing variety of completely free services including archived broadcasts, live performances, and podcasts. I can’t even begin to count all the amazing bands I’ve discovered thanks to KEXP in the dozen years since I started listening.

Here’s some This Charming Candy trivia: I often rent kitchen time on Sundays. It’s a slow day for caterers, so I generally have the place to myself. There’s a radio in the kitchen and KEXP keeps me company while I’m making candy – starting a little before Preachin The Blues, continuing through Stevie Zoom and Quilty3000’s variety hours, and finishing up around when Street Sounds hits the airwaves. Yes, there’s a near 100% chance that the lollipops you’ve been enjoying were cooked, poured, and wrapped while I was listening to KEXP.

KEXP is in the midst of its Spring membership drive. If you’re a fan of good independent music –and if you’re reading this, you’re obviously a fan of good independent candy!– please consider becoming a member.

When you power KEXP, KEXP powers This Charming Candy :-)