How to Choose Chocolate that’s High Quality and Tastes Good

Chocolate seems to be everywhere—in supermarkets, bookstores, convenience stores, hotels, at the airport, in salons and spas. You can find milk chocolate, dark chocolate, chocolate with nuts, chocolate with fruit, and gourmet chocolate with superfoods such as acai, goji berries, and cacao nibs. Science has established that chocolate is full of antioxidants, flavonoids that can lower cholesterol levels and may prevent cell damage, and tannins which prevent tooth decay. Raw organic cacao (unsweetened chocolate) is the best way to consume chocolate, but many people have yet to incorporate this into their diets. Candy bars are much more appealing.

Before you rush to the store for a chocolate fix, there are certain things to know and look for. The drawback with buying prepackaged products is that you can’t see what you’re getting. Start with the ingredient list, then try out several different brands. In time you’ll find the right one.

Ingredients – The better the chocolate, the higher the chocolate content. Look for 50-70 percent cocoa solids in the ingredient list. Avoid vegetable fat and artificial flavors. Look for cocoa butter instead. A high percentage of sugar is an indicator of lower quality. The preferred sugars are unprocessed crystallized cane sugar, fructose, and agave syrup.

Appearance – Good chocolate should have an even color. Look for a dark or mahogany brown without streaks, blemishes, cracks, or air holes.

Touch – If you hold a piece of chocolate between your fingers, it should begin to melt in a few seconds. The more cocoa butter (fat content) the chocolate contains, the faster it will melt.

Aroma – The smell of good chocolate is amazing. Ask any woman (you can ignore those few who don’t drool over chocolate). Good chocolate has a wonderful aroma that’s well-balanced. You don’t want it to be overly sweet and there should be nothing that smells sour or off. Look for rich, heady, something that feels extravagant. These are signs of good quality.

Feel – You can tell a lot about chocolate by the way it feels when you break off a piece. A clean snap shows a high quantity of cocoa butter. If vegetable fats or other fats have been used, the chocolate will tend to crumble or splinter.

Texture – How chocolate feels in your mouth is one of the keys to its success in the food industry. People love that melting experience which is due to the fact that cocoa butter has the same melting point as our own body temperature. What you’re looking for is a smooth melting along with an explosion of flavor. Avoid anything that’s grainy, waxy, or powdery. Look for rich creamy chocolate with a buttery feel and complex flavors.

Finding good chocolate takes trial and error. Two bars with the same percentage of cocoa may taste worlds apart. Be patient and have fun. Help support small farmers and the ecology by buying organic and fair trade chocolate. Look for these words on the label. Remember that dark chocolate is healthier than milk chocolate. The amount of cocoa (or chocolate liquor) in these bars can range from 50-85 percent. The higher the number, the more bittersweet the chocolate.

Written by Nanette

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