There are a lot of different types of chocolate available, but how do you select the best dark chocolate bars for you? Well, the first step is to know and understand what ingredients are in the dark chocolate bars you are considering. Additionally, you may want to take a look at the manufacturer’s website for a little more information if you truly want to find the best chocolate because many important facts you should consider may not fit on the back of the chocolate bar label.
1. Percent cacao – This is listed first because it is a matter of preference. When selecting the best dark chocolate bar it is important to take into account what you like the best. Premium chocolate will usually list the percent cacao in each chocolate bar. This refers to the total amount of cocoa solids and cocoa butter. The higher the percent listed her generally means the more intense and pronounced the chocolate flavor will be. It also means that there is less sugar and so the chocolate bar will be far more bitter than a dark chocolate bar with a smaller percent cacao.
2. Beans – When selecting a dark chocolate bar the variety of bean is very important because with each type of bean grown there is a different flavor profile that goes with it. Although there are hundreds of beans grown worldwide there are only three main types: Forastero, Criollo, and Trinitario. Because of its hardiness and the ease of which it can be grown, the forastero beans make up 90% of all cacao beans grown worldwide. However, these beans lack the depth of flavor and aromatic fruitiness of the criollo bean. The criollo bean, however, is more susceptible to disease and although it is arguably the highest quality and most flavorful bean it is not grown as much due to its need for extra care during the growth process. The third type of bean, trinitario, is regarded as a fusion of the previous two bean types as it is a flavor bean and also easier to care for.
3. Mouthfeel - When people speak of the term mouthfeel they are referring to the way the chocolate melts on the tongue. High quality chocolate will easily melt in your mouth and create a smooth creamy texture. This texture is created by increasing the conching stage during production. With lesser quality chocolate it is easy to identify graininess which detracts from the overall experience. However, it is important to differentiate between graininess caused by poor quality chocolate and texture resulting from the inclusion of nuts, spices, or herbs. It is important to note this difference because anytime inclusions are added to chocolate the resulting texture will be altered from its original creaminess.
4. No Hydrogenated oils/Trans fats – Because of the demand for cocoa butter by the cosmetic industry the price of cocoa butter has sky rocketed. So, to keep costs down many companies have started using hydrogenated vegetable oils aka trans fats. These types of oils are bad for us and there is information everywhere lately talking about how we need to cut trans fats out of our diets.
5. No Vegetable oils – Similarly to the use of hydrogenated oils, companies have begun using vegetable oils to cut the costs of their chocolates. The use of these types of oils ruin the health benefits of chocolate and disrupt the true chocolaty flavor. The best chocolates will not have vegetable oil listed in the ingredients.
6. Minimum processing – This is very important because during the processing of chocolate is when most of the flavonoids and antioxidants are removed. Of course, overly processed chocolate is not going to advertise this fact. A good rule of thumb for determining how processed a dark chocolate bar is its price. A highly processed chocolate bar is going to be far more inexpensive because they use inferior ingredients, like hydrogenated vegetable oils. In order to incorporate these ingredients into the chocolate requires more processing as they must first have the cocoa butter removed before it can be replaced with a less expensive substitute.