Chocolate is one of the world’s favorite treats, and there is no end to the varieties available. From traditional fillings like caramel to more exotic offerings like chocolate-covered potato chips (a favorite in Japan), you’ll likely never get tired of eating chocolate.
How much do you know about the chocolate itself, though?
Chocolate refers to any type of food made from the seeds of the cacao plant. The bitter seeds must be fermented, dried, and then roasted before they can be used to make chocolate. This process can take several weeks.
When the cacao beans are ready, the manufacturer liquefies them, creating chocolate liquor, the main ingredient for most sweet chocolate. The chocolate liquor can be further refined into cocoa powder and cocoa butter. All chocolate is created using these three cacao products. However, by combining them in different ways, we get several distinct varieties of chocolate.
Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate are all very common, and they each provide very different taste sensations. You may prefer one type or like all three equally. But how are they made and why are they so different? Keep reading to learn more about the three main types of chocolate.
All chocolate is composed primarily of cocoa products mixed with fat, sugar, or milk. In fact, most chocolate contains very little cocoa. Even dark chocolate, the most cocoa-heavy type, only needs to have a 35% cocoa solid content in order to deserve the classification, according to European standards. In the United States, dark chocolate is usually 50% cocoa solids.
Because dark chocolate contains less fat and sugar and almost no milk, it is significantly more bitter than milk or white chocolate. It can be more of an acquired taste, but many people prefer the rich flavor.
While “dark chocolate” encompasses any chocolate with a relatively high cocoa solid content, there are many different varieties:
- Unsweetened. This chocolate is almost pure cocoa, without any added sugar, and is generally used for baking only.
- Bittersweet. This chocolate is mostly made of cocoa products mixed with a little bit of sugar, making it slightly sweeter than unsweetened.
- Semisweet. This is the most commonly eaten form of dark chocolate. It’s between 35-50% cocoa, with added cocoa butter and sugar.
Dark chocolate is perfect for baking and for those who want a sharper-tasting treat. Because of the higher cocoa content, it is also the healthiest variety of chocolate.
Cocoa provides many health benefits. It is rich in antioxidants and high in fiber. It lowers blood pressure, reduces cholesterol, and contains a significant amount of necessary minerals like iron, magnesium, and copper. Choosing dark chocolate gives you more of the benefits of cocoa with fewer of the unhealthy side effects of milk and sugar.
But that doesn’t mean you need to avoid milk chocolate, as we’ll explain below.
On the other end of the sweetness spectrum, we have milk chocolate, which generally only has a cocoa liquor content of 10%. This means that over 90% of a milk chocolate bar is milk, sugar, and cocoa butter. While this gives milk chocolate a sweet, creamy taste, it does make it less healthy than dark chocolate.
Although more people are choosing to eat dark chocolate, milk chocolate is still the clear favorite in the United States, with over half of adult consumers preferring this sweet variety. In terms of health, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing: milk chocolate can still be good for you.
Eating too much fat and sugar can negatively impact your health and harm your teeth, but milk chocolate still provides heart-healthy benefits and contains calcium. While you should be careful about your chocolate intake, you don’t need to feel guilty about indulging your sweet tooth once in a while.
Many people don’t consider white chocolate to be real chocolate because it doesn’t contain any cocoa solids at all. However, it is made from cocoa butter, the fatty part of cocoa liquor, so it does come from the cacao plant.
Because the only “cocoa” white chocolate contains is cocoa butter, it lacks the health benefits of dark and milk chocolate. It doesn’t have the antioxidant properties of other chocolate, and it can often have a 55% sugar content.
On the other hand, white chocolate is the only chocolate product that is safe for dogs to eat. Chocolate liquor contains the stimulant theobromine, which can increase a dog’s heart rate to fatal levels if eaten and not treated. Because white chocolate doesn’t contain chocolate liquor, you don’t need to panic if your dog finds his or her way into your white chocolate stash.
Though white chocolate isn’t as popular in the United States as the types that contain cocoa solids, many people do enjoy its intense sweetness and versatility.
The options for chocolate are vast. The next time you want to try something a little different, check out Abdallah’s chocolate selection. We have dark, milk, and white chocolate choices, as well as a wide variety of flavors and fillings to fit any taste.