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Starbucks Corp. new line of "drinking chocolate" and the cubes used to make it were shown off to the media, but aren't quite ready yet for public consumption.
updated 8/14/2007 4:27:18 PM ET 2007-08-14T20:27:18

Starbucks Corp. will start selling packages of premium “drinking chocolate” nuggets in U.S. grocery stores and other retail outlets this fall after an exorbitantly rich chocolate drink failed in stores two years ago.

Starbucks, which has teamed up with Hershey Co., also plans to roll out a line of chocolate candies next spring that will include a coffee-infused premium dark chocolate bar, milk chocolate squares with flecks of chai tea, and an espresso truffle.

The cubes of drinking chocolate will come in three flavors: a blend of dark and European-style milk chocolates, one with a marshmallow nestled in the middle and a third that’s infused with peppermint.

At a tasting session Starbucks offered a group of journalists, a recipe based on three heaping tablespoons of the chocolate nuggets mixed with about six ounces of nonfat milk was not nearly as thick and rich as Chantico, a drink Starbucks discontinued in late 2005, about a year after it launched. Some complained it tasted like a melted chocolate bar.

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Others said they liked it, but wanted to be able to customize it, which they couldn’t do in stores.

“Which is a great thing about this one because ... you can make it exactly the way you want it,” said Sherry Maple, director of Starbucks’ chocolate platform.

Starbucks, the world’s largest specialty coffee retailer, and Hershey, the nation’s largest candy maker, are developing other confections and have not yet decided exactly how many will be sold at first, said Traci Gentry, director of global chocolate innovation at Hershey.

Starbucks has no immediate plans to sell the new chocolate products in its thousands of U.S. coffee houses.

Starbucks and Hershey have developed cocoa sourcing guidelines aimed at improving labor standards, making farming practices ecologically sustainable and boosting income for farmers. Their goal is for all the cocoa beans they buy to be farmed according to those standards, but executives said it’s unclear how soon that will happen.

“We’re committed to doing that, and I think it will take form, and we’ll get the supply chain in place over time,” Maple said.

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