How to recognize quality chocolate?
The basic indicator of the quality of chocolate is its composition. As with other foods, the shorter the ingredients, the better. The basic ingredient in chocolate is cocoa mass (also known as cocoa beans). Depending on the type of chocolate, cocoa butter, sugar(cane or coconut) or natural vanilla flavouring can also be found in the composition of good quality ones. Other indicators of quality include labelling:
- single origin - cocoa beans from a single growing area guarantee a unique and unmistakable taste;
- bean‑to‑bar - used to distinguish small batch chocolates from mass‑produced products. The entire process (harvesting, fermentation, drying, roasting...) is carried out by a single producer, guaranteeing maximum quality. It is also possible to encounter tree‑to‑bar labelling.
On the other hand, when choosing chocolate, it is a good idea to avoid added fats (coconut, palm, milk), flavourings, flavourings or various 'fillers'.
The term cocoa solids is also often found on the packaging of chocolates. This term refers to the total dry matter content of the cocoa mass, butter or powder in the product. However, it is not clearly indicative of the quality of the chocolate; generally speaking, the more the better.
White coating on chocolate
' Blooming chocolate ' is most often caused by improper storage at high temperatures or humidity. This causes the cocoa butter or sugar contained in the chocolate to precipitate and a white powdery coating to form on the surface of the chocolate. However, this chocolate is not defective and can be consumed without any concerns. And how to avoid blooming chocolate? Eat it before it starts to 'bloom'.
Types of chocolate
Nowadays, there are many different types of chocolate, which differ in the proportion of each ingredient. The three basic types are dark, milk and white chocolate:
- dark chocolate contains at least 35 % cocoa solids and 18 % cocoa solids. Quality can be considered to be from 50 % of the content. High‑percentage dark chocolates get their name from the fact that they are usually 'drunk' in order to consume them regularly;
- milk chocolate contains milk powder or condensed milk in addition to the cocoa components (at least 25 % of the content);
- white chocolate, unlike the previous types, is based on cocoa solids, which must contain at least 20 %. It is also characterised by its milk component, which may be supplemented by sweeteners and other ingredients. It therefore contains no cocoa and shares only its name with real chocolate.
In English‑speaking and other countries, a distinction is often made between dark and bitter chocolate. The difference is again the dry matter content of dark chocolate, which exceeds 70 %. In the Czech environment, however, these names are commonly confused.
Uses of chocolate
Chocolate is a high‑calorie delicacy that many people consume simply as an (un)healthy treat. Eating chocolate in reasonable quantities - thanks to its fibre, antioxidant, mineral and other bioactive content - can be thought of as beneficial to health, with proven effects on brain, heart and skin health. However, consumption must not degenerate to a table a day.
However, different forms of chocolate have different uses. Chocolate cakes are perfect for breakfast cereals, table or broken chocolate can be used to make toppings for desserts, and we've got a hot chocolate drink instant mix. You can also choose from vegan chocolate, chocolate without added sugar, lactose‑free, gluten‑free or organic. So which will you reach for?