Flavours of Chocolate
The difference between chocolate flavours is based on the processing and ingredients included in each chocolate formula. Real chocolate only has a short list of ingredients so read the label carefully.
Dark Chocolate flavour ingredients:
- cocoa, cocoa liquor (the essence of the cocoa bean)
- added cocoa butter (optional but usually present)
- spices such as vanilla
Dark chocolate can come in a variety of flavours which are categorized by the industry as unsweetened chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, semisweet chocolate:
Unsweetened Chocolate or Brute Chocolate
Unsweetened chocolate is mainly used for cooking purposes as it usually has a cocoa liquor component of 99%.
(FDA requires the chocolate contain 35% or more cocoa liquor)
Unfortunately there is a big difference in the flavour between chocolate with 35% and 84% cocoa liquor. The higher the cocoa liquor the less the percentage of sugar. Your own palate should determine the percent of cocoa liquor that you prefer. Please note that percentage of cocoa liquor does not determine quality. You can make a 70% chocolate with badly processed beans that don't taste very good.
Semisweet Chocolate or Sweet Chocolate
Again there is a wide range of chocolate liquor percentages in this category. What is interesting to note - to be considered semisweet or sweet chocolate, all the bar has to contain is 15% cocoa liquor.
(FDA requires the chocolate to be 10% or more cocoa liquor)
Milk chocolate flavour ingredients:
- cocoa, cocoa liquor
- cocoa butter
- milk or cream powder
Milk chocolate flavour has a lot to do with the type of milk or cream product that is used in its manufacturer as well as the strength and taste of the cocoa liquor. Because the added milk or cream softens or masks the flavour of the chocolate liquor most manufacturers rely on bitter chocolate flavour bean such as forestero to deliver flavour.
Dark milk chocolate - there is a trend by artisan chocolatiers to use a "dark" milk chocolate which contains a higher percentage of cocoa liquor. This gives the creamy milk chocolate a more pronounced flavour.
White chocolate flavour ingredients:
- cocoa, cocoa liquor
- milk or cream powder
Because there is so little "chocolate" in white chocolate, the different products available seem to all taste the same. The flavour is mainly one of milk, vanilla and sugar. FDA requires the chocolate contain 20% or more cocoa liquor.
Single Origin, Vintage or Grand Cru Chocolates
These are chocolates whose origins are specific to a region or plantation. Quality is not a given and can depend upon the agriculture and processing practices - so make sure to taste before buying. These chocolates can come in a variety of flavours such as semisweet chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate.
What does cocoa percentage mean?
Sometimes chocolate manufacturers indicate the percentage of cocoa on the label. This basically tells you the percentage of cocoa liquor (i.e. the essence of the bean). The rest of the product is made up of sugar or a combination of sugar and dry milk powder in the case of milk or white chocolate.
Important note:This percentage does not indicate quality as you can have lower quality beans made into a high cocoa percentage bar. Use the percentage only as an indication of sweetness.
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Like fine wine, chocolate comes in all flavours, levels, and categories. Learning the nuances of chocolate is a wonderful journey, a journey which some of our artisan chocolatiers are always on. Enjoy your chocolate travels
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