On a recent weekend jaunt to Stockholm, I clocked up some 20km a day traversing the waterways, bosky escapes and immaculately curated design shops. Normally I seek coffee as a pick-me-up, but snaking my way through the neighbourhood of Södermalm before I find a caffeine fix, I’m met with a sugar high – one so delicate and delightful it is worth the extra calories.
Pärlans, with its 1930s lettering and elegant chefs packing caramels in mint-green boxes, attracts me from first sight. Inside, mountains of the candies lure a frenzy of sweet-toothed adults and children. I try a spoonful of the caramel from a jar, its sweetness perfectly offset with the bitterness of liquorice.
Started in 2010 by former food-product designer and Lindy Hop fanatic Lisa Ericson, Pärlans’ caramels are now stocked throughout Stockholm but are still made in store. The caramel is cooked in a large French copper kettle; first, sugar and glucose syrup is caramelised, then they add cream, butter, a pinch of sea salt and flavourings such as spices, chocolate and cocoa nibs, and lemon and vanilla. Once set and cut, the caramels are wrapped in cellophane by a charmingly retro 1950s machine.
I buy a few salted caramels, which strike the optimum balance between salty and sweet. The passion-fruit caramel is also delicious, while my friend is entranced by the liquorice ones. But it’s watching the making process that really adds to the element of delight in these sweet, sweet treats.