What people think of traditional Russian staple food is vodka, caviar, black bread, “Russian salad” all these kinds of food. However, there is one product that is very often gotten overlooked — Russian chocolate.
Russian chocolate industry has beed developing since pre-soviet times. In soviet era development and production of chocolate was limited by inefficient government system and declining economy. It was difficult to buy chocolate back then, because everything, even food, was limited and in deficit. After Russia had become independent country, chocolate industry started to flourish. Aside from already well-known large manufacturers, new chocolate makers started to open their businesses. Nowadays chocolate companies make hundreds if not thousands of different types of chocolate products.
The most old well-known manufacturers are “Krasniy Oktyabr”, “Rot Front”, “Babaevskiy,” and some others. Their products are considered “classic” Russian chocolate — the most popular. However, a multitude of other manufacturers is on the market, supplying thousands of varieties of chocolate products. The picture above is just an example of very few.
Russian chocolate is of an excellent quality and testes real great. It is different from chocolate you find in other parts of the world, because recipes are all unique and locally developed. Quality wise Russian chocolate is on par with worldwide known chocolate makers such as Swiss ones. However, Russian chocolate and candies are different from everything you have tried before. If you are into eating chocolate, I suggest you give it a try.
Some vocabulary explaining types of chocolate to assist you in shopping.
Karamel’ — Candy. This is a product made of crystallized sugar in variety of styles and tastes. Karamel’ (the “l” is very soft in pronunciation) comes in small pieces, each wrapped individually and usually sold bulk or pre-packaged.
Konfeta (Konfety — plural) — Small chocolate bar. This is what’s on picture beginning of the article. Each konfeta is wrapped individually in paper and sometimes foil. Comes in hundreds of styles, fillings, and tastes. Each Konfeta is roughly 4-5 centimeters (1,5 — 2 inches) in length. Same as karamel’ it is sold bulk or pre-packaged.
Batonchik — Chocolate bar. Same type of product as Konfeta, but comes in larger size (same size as western brand chocolate bars). This type of product has much fewer varieties compared to konfety and karamel, but still widely popular.
Plitka shokolada — Chocolate bar. This type of chocolate is usually thin, larger, flat chocolate bar made of pure chocolate, sometimes with some basic filling. It comes in fewer varieties, but it has more cocoa in it. This product is what Russian people refer to as “shokolad” (chocolate).
There are other types of chocolate products, but mentioned above are the most popular ones. Russian chocolate makes an excellent gift. For this you can buy konfety in gift packaging. Usually, these are large carton boxes with one type or mix of konfety inside. The boxes are nicely painted in traditional Russian style and box alone often is a true piece or art.
You can buy chocolate in any grocery store or better go to a specialty store. (Please send me a message via Facebook or Linkedin if you need a specific recommendation on places with better choice of Russian chocolate in Moscow). Grocery stores stock limited variety of chocolate (mostly pre-packaged) while specialty stores have large selection of different products. In specialty stores, you can buy a little of everything to try and decide what you like the best. Specialty chocolate stores are self-service, and staff is very helpful.
There is one interesting soviet traditions remains today. For New Year, kids would receive a gift: a sack full of varieties of karamel’, konfety, batonchik. In companies very often parents get some money together to buy such gifts for all their kids, or company would pay for those gifts. This does not cancel other holiday gifts. But this is something like symbolic or maybe truly traditional that people adore. Those gift sacks with chocolates is one of New Year symbols that gets passed from soviet generation into today. So, do not be surprised if you kid brings such sack from school or some event.