Article

Something You Don't Know About Chocolate

Daisy

The beloved bar has come a long way in quality and complexity. Here’s a primer on how it’s made, and how to choose the best and most ethically produced.

You probably think you already know everything you need to know about chocolate.

For instance: The higher the percentage of cacao, the more bitter the chocolate, right? The term “single origin” on the label indicates that the chocolate expresses a particular terror.

Americans spend $21 billion on chocolate every year, but just because we eat a lot of it doesn’t mean we know what we’re eating. And misunderstandings at the store can make it especially hard for chocolate lovers to figure out which of the myriad, jauntily wrapped bars crowding the shelves are the best to buy, in terms of both taste and ethics.

One thing that’s clear is that there are more varieties of handcrafted chocolates on offer than ever before.

According to the Fine Chocolate Industry Association, sales of premium chocolates grew 19 percent in 2018, compared with 0.6 percent for mainstream chocolate like the classic Hershey bar. Over the past decade, the number of small American bean-to-bar chocolate producers — the kind with cacao percentages and places of origin printed on those hyper-chic labels — has jumped from about five to more than 250.

 

Here’s the confusing part. While most people assume that the higher the cacao percentage, the more bitter the chocolate, that’s not always true. In some cases, a chocolate maker’s 68 percent might taste more bitter than its 74 percent.

One thing that’s clear is that there are more varieties of handcrafted chocolates on offer than ever before.

According to the Fine Chocolate Industry Association, sales of premium chocolates grew 19 percent in 2018, compared with 0.6 percent for mainstream chocolate like the classic Hershey bar. Over the past decade, the number of small American bean-to-bar chocolate producers — the kind with cacao percentages and places of origin printed on those hyper-chic labels — has jumped from about five to more than 250.

 

Here’s the confusing part. While most people assume that the higher the cacao percentage, the more bitter the chocolate, that’s not always true. In some cases, a chocolate maker’s 68 percent might taste more bitter than its 74 percent.

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