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On my most recent trip to California I wandered into a chocolate shop in Fashion Island. I overheard a woman talking with her friends and educating them on which chocolate to choose. She stressed that as long as the label says 60% or higher, it’s guaranteed to be the best quality and best for you.

Not entirely true.

When cacao beans are harvested and processed the initial product is 100%. From there any number of things can be added to the cacao to produce a variety of products from cocoa powder to baking chocolate to chocolate bars. With each additional ingredient, the “percentage” of cacao decreases until the final product is ready for market.

But, for the consumer, here’s a little information about those percentages.

The number you see on the label refers to the percent of that product that came directly from the cacao tree. This could be any combination of cocoa liquor (a non alcoholic product) to cocoa butter. Then other ingredients such as sugar, lecithin, dry milk solids (for milk chocolate), vanilla, and inexpensive, stable fats like hydrogenated vegetable oils are added. This is where not all chocolate is created equal. The high end European chocolate takes longer to produce and often times has less sugar added than even premium American chocolate does. They also use more cocoa butter in the mix producing a smoother mouth feel, creamier texture and overall more satisfying eating experience. I find some of the American made chocolate has a chalky or waxy feel which is indicative of the use of cheaper ingredients and cutting corners on production time.

In the end it boils down to personal taste and preferance. My favorite eating chocolate is either Valhrona extra bittersweet or Caffarel’s dark chocolate Gianduja infused with orange peel.

I’d be curious to hear what your favorite is.

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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Tuliplady wrote May 28, 2009
    • I haven’t tried enough different higher quality chocolates to really say I have a favorite.  Usually my favorite is whatever is in my mouth at the moment.  But I will certainly agree that all chocolate is not created equal.  One of my great pet peeves is a waxy tasting chocolate.  My mom eats Hershey’s Dark bars and exclaims over how good they are.  As far as I’m concerned, I might as well be eating candle wax if I’m going to eat one of those!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Tuliplady wrote May 28, 2009
    • One might say, not all taste buds are created equal either. tongue out



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Daphne wrote May 28, 2009
    • I LOVE milk chocolate with nuts...most especially macadamia or almond!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Termite wrote May 28, 2009
    • My favorite is smooth milk chocolate. I am not very fond of dark chocolate, but my hubby loves it!!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Doreen XoXo wrote May 28, 2009
    • My favorite is dark chocolate. Pair that up with a nice glass of cabernet and Im good to go!!

      xoxo



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Hbrose wrote May 28, 2009
    • I don’t know much about the various chocolates, I think I prefer dark chocolate—especially one that you mentioned:
      dark chocolate Gianduja infused with orange peel. Mmm, I really NEED some chocolate now! :)



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Cynthia Schmidt wrote May 28, 2009
    • Bernadette, that waxy taste you get with cheap chocolate is generally the use of hydrogenated oils. These fats are shelf stable, slow to melt and as you said can be shipped all over. Another thing the higher end chocolate producers do is a longer conching time in the overall production. Valrhona conches their cocoa mass for, think, 12 hours or even longer. It’s like the difference between slow cooking to bring out flavor and texture in food versus tossing it in the microwave.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Vikki Hall wrote May 28, 2009
    • I will admit that I have not experienced any european chocolate other than what Canada serves...
      I also am not a dark chocolate lover but love smooth milk chocolate....does that make me bad?

      I will say tho that symphony bars and cadbury are my favs...

      I am willing to try others if anyone is interested in sending me options!estaticestaticestaticestaticestatic



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Kmarie wrote May 29, 2009
    • My favorite chocolates are also Belgian Chocolate, I do also enjoy the Valhornia and Godvia too When I want to embrace choldhood memories See’s is what my Mother gave every holiday, and i still like them more for the memories,but the quality os not the same as my other favorites



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Yana Berlin wrote May 29, 2009
    • Dark is my favorite chocolate, dark truffles by Cynthia, are a soooooo good that I don’t even share....estatic



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Sis Howell wrote May 30, 2009
    • Bissinger’s - an old chocolatier in St. Louis was a family favorite when we were in that part of the woods.  I order from them sometimes.  For a short time during blackberry season they coat fresh berries in dark or milk chocolate and ship them COLD and FAST!  Try them...dark is best.  YUM!
      Does anyone know the quirky indy film (15 years or more ago)where a woman unlucky in love is bathing in hot chocolate because she hopes it will have the same effect as eating chocolate - without the pounds?



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      (華娃娃) ChinaDoll wrote Jun 2, 2009
    • I also vote for chocolate from Belgium and Switzerland.  Now I need to add one more - from Hawaii, only through one vendor: Cynthia.  estatic



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Btcsweets wrote Jun 12, 2009
    • Our family went with my father on a business trip to Switzerland when I was 10 years old and we had Frigor’s chocolate...never could enjoy a Hershey bar again!   Except maybe covered up in a blanket of marshmallow in a summer s‘more...but imho that’s about the only way to eat American chocolate.   Great post about chocolate content.   Love reading your blog!



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