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Good Chocolate vs Bad Chocolate

We all know how popular chocolate is - it is, after all, an $83 billion industry! In fact, the yearly chocolate consumption is estimated to be around 7.2 million metric tons worldwide!

Chocolatiers in Dubai, Artisan Chocolates, Real Chocolate Makers
Chocolate gifts made with real couverture chocolate sourced from high quality cacao beans

But how do you know if the chocolate you are consuming is genuinely good chocolate? Luckily, we are here to take you deeper into the taste, texture, aroma, and cocoa content that come together to create a real, good chocolate.

But before we dive right into what makes a chocolate good, do you know about the sweet origins of chocolate? If not, check out our blog post, which talks about what chocolate is, where it comes from, and how it is made.

Not everything with a 'chocolate' flavor can be considered 'real' chocolate. This is because some products use alternatives to cocoa beans to save money - these products almost always have an inferior quality and taste compared to 'real' chocolate.

In order to determine whether a chocolate is real or not, you can look at the ingredients list - this is true for commercially-produced chocolates. If the chocolate is high quality, you will be sure to find cocoa in some form as its main ingredient. The product will also contain a minimum amount of chocolate liquor (don't worry - chocolate liquor is just pure cocoa; it doesn't contain any alcohol)! Chocolate that does not contain a sufficient amount of cocoa as per FDA standards is referred to as compound chocolate.

While compound chocolate may still use cocoa to flavor the chocolate, the essential ingredient, the fat, comes from alternate sources. In most cases, this is vegetable oil. If you see hydrogenated vegetable oil or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, particularly from sources such as cottonseed, palm, or soybean, these are red flags. Without cocoa butter, the quality of the product will be severely compromised, and you will not get the melt in the mouth texture that defines a real, good chocolate.

Now you may ask why companies use vegetable oil as a replacement for cocoa butter - this is because vegetable oil makes the chocolate easier to work with, and is far cheaper than cocoa butter. While this is a benefit for commercial chocolate producers, a true chocolate artisan (us included) would always ensure they use cocoa butter in the production process.

Cocoa butter requires a special technique, called tempering, to ensure the chocolate turns out smooth and creamy in texture, glossy in appearance, and produces a crisp snap when broken in two. Without cocoa butter, the product will miss all three of these characteristics that define a real chocolate.

Therefore, compound chocolate, the type of product that doesn't use cocoa butter, will always be inferior to chocolate made with cocoa butter, i.e. real chocolate. It will be lacking in the right texture, the look, the flavor, and the sound when you snap a piece off to snack on.

Cocoa Percentages - Do They Matter?

Now that we have digested the ingredients that go into real chocolate, we can talk about cocoa percentages. The percentage of the cocoa is what affects a chocolate's flavor - especially dark chocolate.

What does the cocoa percentage mean? It's simply the amount of cocoa in the cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, and the cocoa powder, expressed as a percentage. A high cocoa percentage does not automatically mean the product is a real chocolate; while it denotes how much cocoa is in the product, it does not necessarily denote quality. For example, a chocolate with 70% cocoa could be of a lower quality than a chocolate with, say, 50% cocoa, simply due to the number of ingredients involved in the production process.

What the cocoa percentage greatly affects is the taste. The higher the cocoa percentage, the more intense the chocolate flavor and the darker the chocolate's color. The cocoa percentage and sweetness are inversely proportional, so the higher the cocoa percentage, the less sweet the chocolate will be. A chocolate that has a high cocoa percentage would also have more flavonoids; apart from adding a darker tint to the chocolate, it may also offer health benefits such as:

  • lowering cholesterol levels

  • decreasing bad cholesterol

  • lowering blood pressure

  • lowering the risk of blood clots

  • supplying essential minerals to your body

  • increasing blood flow

  • boosting your mood

Is there a visible difference between good and bad chocolate?

You can actually perform an assessment of how good a chocolate is without ever touching or tasting it! Just by looking at the chocolate, you can make a preliminary assessment about whether the chocolate is of a high quality or not. A good chocolate would not have any bubbles or blemishes, and would appear shiny, or glossy, to the naked eye. If you see discoloration or cloudy areas, you can expect that the chocolate is of a lower quality.

Gray or white spots, however, do not necessarily mean the chocolate is of a low quality. These spots, often referred to as chocolate bloom, occur when cocoa butter rises to the surface of the chocolate and crystallizes. This occurs when a chocolate melts and solidifies again. This is especially noticeable in chocolates with liquid fillings. Chocolate bloom does not necessarily indicate that a chocolate is of a lower quality or has spoiled; rather, it mostly occurs due to improper handling, and is not harmful to the quality of the chocolate.

Your nose knows!

Your nose has special cells in your olfactory receptors (this is in the upper part of the nose) that helps you smell. Up to 80% of what we taste is actually credited to our olfactory receptors, or in simple terms, our noses. Only 10% of taste is actually credited to our tongue!

Bring a piece of chocolate to your nose - does it have a strong chocolatey smell? If you smell something that isn't chocolate, it could indicate improper storage. The chocolate could have been frozen too long, or might have been placed among strong smelling food items. Chocolate tends to absorb scents from nearby items, which could lower the quality.

In order to test a chocolate's aroma, touch it gently. Along with giving you an indicator of the texture (it should be silky), it heats the chocolate enough to release its aroma. A good chocolate will have a rich chocolatey aroma; the stronger the aroma, the higher the quality of the product.

Use your ears!

While your chocolate won't tell you whether it is a genuinely good chocolate or not, you can use the sound it makes as you snap it as an indicator. Bring the chocolate up next to your ear and break it in half. A high quality chocolate will produce a crisp, clean and sharp snap. A bad piece of chocolate will bend instead of snapping, or will produce a dull sound when snapped, or will crumble into pieces when you snap it.

Put your tongue to the test!

It's now time for the best part - to taste it! This is where everything comes together; the quality of the ingredients and the skills of the manufacturer affect the flavor and texture of the final product.

A high quality product made with cocoa butter (i.e. real chocolate and not compound chocolate) will have a velvety and smooth mouthfeel. If the chocolate has a waxy or gritty texture, you can presume the chocolate has not been made with high quality ingredients. The beauty of cocoa butter is that it melts at body temperature; this means that real chocolate will melt quickly in your hand, and in your mouth.

When you are tasting the chocolate, take a bite and let it melt on your tongue. This way you will be able to experience the flavor depth in its entirety. A good quality chocolate's taste will linger in your mouth for a few minutes, even after you've devoured the chocolate.

So there you have it - you now know what goes into a good quality chocolate, what to look for when buying chocolate, and how to test a piece of chocolate to determine its quality.

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At Chocobrosia, we source the highest quality cocoa beans to sweeten your event. Our handcrafted chocolate creations can be customized to match any occasion, theme or event you may have, leaving a lasting impression on all recipients. We at Chocobrosia are passionate about chocolate, and always go the extra mile to provide unforgettable chocolate creations that will take your gifting experience to the next level.

Our promise is to exert our best efforts to satisfy your requirements and provide you with outstanding service, quality and punctuality. We strive towards building a long term relationship with you and becoming your number one choice for special occasions.

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