Got a question about chocolate? We answer your questions about chocolate here.
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What is up with those percentages on the wrapper? Who cares?
In the past few years, chocolate has become more of a gourmet food, tasted and talked about in much the same way as wine. The percentage you see on the wrappers of some of the better chocolates is the percentage of cacao (i.e. ground up cocoa beans) in the bar.
Some people prefer bars with a very high cacao content (up to 99%), others, myself included, prefer a middle of-the-road bar, with about 55-70% cacao. The percentages tell a chocolate connoisseur about how chocolatey the bar will taste. The more cacao, the healthier the bar – at 99% cacao, there isn’t much room for sugar!
What makes you such an expert on chocolate?
I’m not an expert on chocolate, I just really like the stuff! 🙂
I got interested in learning about chocolate early in 2005 and have been eating it and recording my impressions ever since. I guess chocoholic + freelance writer = chocolate website.
What’s the difference between chocolate and chocolates?
Okay, smarty-pants, it isn’t just the “s.” Chocolate usually refers to the actual chocolate, while “chocolates” are candies made from chocolate, such as truffles and creams.
Is chocolate bad for you?
Cacao, the stuff that chocolate is made from, is quite 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. Dr. Andrew Weil “recommend[s] a piece of good-quality dark chocolate as a snack.” Read more about chocolate’s health benefits.
What is the best way to store chocolate?
Store in a cool (60-70° F), dark, dry place away from strong-smelling items such as peppermint or dirty socks. Chocolate has a tendency to absorb other odors. Do not store chocolate in the refrigerator.
What is chocolate “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: 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, causes sugar bloom. The moisture dissolves sugar, and, after evaporating, leaves behind tiny sugar crystals. It feels grainy when touched.
Fat Bloom: If chocolate is improperly tempered, stored in an overly warm environment, or exposed to quick temperature changes, cocoa butter may separate from the chocolate and accumulate on the surface. Known as fat bloom, it feels greasy when touched.
Although both types of bloom are safe to eat, sugar bloom can be really nasty and grainy. Fat bloom can usually be fixed by melting and tempering the chocolate. Both can be avoided by properly storing chocolate.
How can I find good chocolate where I live?
I guess it depends on where you live, but you can find quality chocolate just about anywhere. If you are looking for bars from around the world, you can find many online. Check out our Where to Buy Chocolate page. In the US, try natural food stores, gourmet food stores, and importers such as Cost Plus World Market. Just keep your eyes peeled, and you will find all sorts of stuff you’ve never heard of or tried.
If you want chocolates (like truffles and such), I recommend looking for a small, local manufacturer (not a chain). Although many of the famous chocolatiers sell their products online, it’s good to support your local economy. You may be surprised at what you can find locally, and it should be nice and fresh, too.
What does “organic” chocolate mean?
Organic food, including organic chocolate, is grown without the use of most conventional pesticides, without synthetic pesticides or sewage sludge, without genetic modifications or radiation. Organic meat is free of growth hormones and antibiotics. In the US, the USDA must inspect a farm before its wares can be labeled organic. Organic farmers also tend to favor renewable energy and other conservation practices.
What does Fair Trade chocolate mean?
When farmers and laborers are paid a fair price for the products they produce, rather than being exploited for cheap labor, that is considered “Fair Trade.” Because they are paid a fair price, producers can avoid cost-cutting practices that sacrifice quality and are destructive to the environment. For example, 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 Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International, a consortium of trade groups throughout the world who establish the criteria for Fair Trade products. A similar movement is called Equi-Trade. Read more about Fair Trade chocolate.
How do you know if a chocolate is good?
That’s the thing about chocolate – 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. And that’s okay! In general, if the manufacturer uses high quality ingredients, you’ll probably get a reasonably good chocolate.
You can read more about it on our Chocolate 101 and Chocolate 102 pages.
If you would like to learn more about chocolate, let us know!