Frequently asked questions about chocolate

The most commonly asked questions about chocolate and the chocolate making process. do you know your cocoa from your cacao?

What do the percentages on the back of the chocolate wrapper or label mean?

In recent years, chocolate has become a gastronome food, tasted and talked about in much the same way as wine. The percentage you see on the wrappers of chocolates is the percentage of cacao (i.e. ground up cocoa beans) in the chocolate.

Some people prefer bitter chocolate with high cacao content (up to 99%), others, and myself included, prefer a mainstream bar, with about 55% cacao. The percentages tell a chocolate connoisseur about how ‘chocolatey’ the chocolate will taste. The more cacao, the healthier the bar - at 99% cacao, there isn't much room for sugar! Personally, I think it’s too bitter. What is meant by bitter? The definition of the adjective bitter is; the property of having a harsh unpleasant taste; causing a sharp and acrid taste experience; one of the four taste sensations; sharp and disagreeable; like the taste of quinine. So tell me, why would you want to eat chocolate that is so bitter?

How do you know if a chocolate is good?

The thing about chocolate is that ultimately, only you can decide what tastes good to you. Just because there are "experts" who call one chocolate better than another doesn't mean you are going to like the same things. In general, if the manufacturer uses high quality ingredients, you'll probably get a reasonably good chocolate.

What is Fair Trade Chocolate?

Fair trade is about decent working conditions, local sustainability, sustainable prices which never fall below the market price and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. Fair Trade cacao is typically organic and shade-grown, meaning it is grown under the canopy of the rainforest rather than in a clear cut field. Products become Fair Trade Certified based on the standards set forth by Fair trade Labelling Organizations International, a consortium of trade groups throughout the world who establish the criteria for Fair Trade products.

What does "organic" mean?

Organic food is grown without the use of most conventional pesticides, without synthetic pesticides or sewage sludge, without genetic modifications or radiation. Organic farmers also tend to favour renewable energy and other conservation practices.

What is "bloom?"

There are two types of chocolate bloom, fat bloom and sugar bloom. Both of them produce a greyish film on the surface of the chocolate.

Sugar Bloom: This is the result of surface moisture which forms when chocolate is stored in a humid environment, or when it is moved quickly from a very cool environment to a very warm one. The moisture dissolves sugar, and, after evaporating, leaves behind minute sugar crystals which feel grainy when touched.

Fat Bloom: If chocolate is improperly tempered, stored in an excessively warm environment, or exposed to quick temperature changes, cocoa butter may separate from the chocolate and build up on the surface. It feels greasy to the touch.

Although both types of bloom are harmless to eat, sugar bloom can be really unpleasant and grainy. Fat bloom can usually be fixed by melting and tempering the chocolate. Both can be avoided by proper chocolate storage.

What is the best way to store chocolate?

Store in a cool (14-18C), dark, dry place (relative humidity 70% maximum) away from strong-smelling items such as peppermint. Chocolate has a tendency to absorb other odours. Do not store chocolate in the refrigerator.

Is chocolate bad for you?

Cacao, the substance that chocolate is made from, is good for you. It is a powerful antioxidant. But chocolate is made from cacao plus other things, like sugar. Sugar, obviously, isn't all that good for you. The key to finding healthy chocolate is to select products with a high cacao content and quality, preferably organic ingredients.

What's the difference between chocolate and chocolates?

It isn't just the "s." know-it-all!! Chocolate usually refers to the actual chocolate, while "chocolates" are confectionery made from chocolate, such as truffles and creams.

Date: 15/02/2011