Chocolate: on Types, Taste and Quality

by Le Schmitz February 22, 2017

Chocolate: on Types, Taste and Quality

Chocolate is perhaps one of the most comforting food of all times. Smooth and rich, it is the very taste of luxury. There is a wealth of wonderful chocolate products available, with an often confusing array of types, qualities, and flavourings.
This is a brief guide on what you should look for and how to enjoy chocolate at its best.

Types of Chocolate

  • Dark Chocolate (Bittersweet Chocolate)
Dark or bittersweet chocolate must contain a minimum of 34% cacao solids, but generally speaking, the higher the proportion the better the chocolate. Not so long ago, dark chocolate containing just 30% cacao solids was considered high quality. Nowadays, as our taste and awareness of chocolate grows, 60% is the preferred minimum. 
High quality dark chocolate contains a correspondingly small proportion of sugar - just enough to enhance the flavour but not so much that the flavour is destroyed. Quality chocolate contains pure vanilla, an expensive flavouring sometimes called Bourbon Vanilla, extracted from a type of orchid grown in Madagascar. It also contains the minutest amount of lecithin, a harmless vegetable stabiliser.


  • Milk Chocolate

To some aficionados, milk chocolate is not really chocolate, as some mass-produced milk chocolate contains only 20% cacao solids and a high sugar content, often up to 50 percent. Increasingly however, there are good brands around that are not difficult to find.  A good brand will have a cacao solid content of around 40% and over 20% cacao butter.


  • White Chocolate

This is basically cacao butter without any cacao solids, with some added sugar, flavouring and milk. White chocolate does not have the same depth of flavour as dark chocolate. It does provide an attractive color contrast in chocolate and desserts. The best quality brands use cacao butter and does not contain synthetic flavourings.


  • Couverture

This is a high-quality chocolate in the professional league, used mainly for coating and in baking. Couverture usually has a minimum of 32% cacao solids, which enables it to form a much thinner shell than ordinary chocolate. 


Assessing Quality

All of our senses - sight, smell, sound touch and taste - come into play when assessing the quality of dark chocolate. There are several points to watch for:

Appearance: The chocolate should be smooth, brilliantly shiny and pure mahogany-black in colour.
Smell: The chocolate should not smell excessively sweet.
Sound: Dark chocolate should be crisp and make a distinct "snap" when broken. If the chocolate splinters, it is too dry.
Touch: Chocolate with a high cacao butter content should quickly start to melt when held in the hand - this is a good sign. In the mouth, it should feel ultra smooth with no hint of graininess, and it should melt instantly.
Taste: Chocolate contains a kaleidoscope of flavours and aromas that continue to develop in the mouth. The basic flavours are bitterness with a hint of acidity, sweetness with a suggestion of sourness, and just a touch of saltiness which helps release the aromas of cocoa, pineapple, banana, vanilla and cinnamon.


    Not only chocolate absorbs surrounding odours easily, but humidity and heat are chocolate's greatest enemies as both can cause "bloom" to appear on the surface. Humidity-induced blooms are more damaging as a result of sugar crystals being drawn to the surface to eventually recrystallise and form an unpleasant grey coating. Ideally, chocolate should be kept in an airtight container, in a cool and dry place that is slightly warmer than the refrigerator, at about 10°C to 18°C. 




    If stored properly, you will need to allow an hour or so for your chocolate to reach the recommended tasting temperature of 19°C to 25°C.

    If tasting dark chocolate, allow it to sit in your mouth for a few moments to release its primary flavours and aromas. Then chew it five to ten times to release the secondary aromas. Let it rest lightly against the roof of your mouth so you experience the full range of flavours. Finally, enjoy the lingering tastes in your mouth. 

    If tasting filled chocolate, let the chewed mixture melt slowly in your mouth so that you experience a new range of flavours. Enjoy the lingering tastes. 


    What to drink with chocolate

    Generally speaking, chocolate and wine do not mix. The lingering intensity of the chocolate competes with the aroma of the wine, and chocolate's bitterness can mask the tannins essential to the wine's flavour. White or sparkling wine drunk with chocolate is a particularly uneasy combination - same as water, as it cleanses the palate.

    At the end of a meal, coffee, perhaps accompanied by a fine cognac, whiskey or bourbon, is the best choice. Just remember to keep chocolates only for special occasions and you will enjoy them all the more. 

    Le Schmitz
    Le Schmitz


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