It can’t be denied that these days the chocolate craze is stronger than ever. These delicious sweets start as uninvitingly looking cocoa pods, each containing numerous slimy seeds. First, they need to be fermented, usually by leaving them for a week under the sun, covered only by banana leaves. Next, the seeds are left again to dry completely. After that, you have to roast, winnow and finally grind the cocoa nibs into what’s called the cocoa mass. That leaves the final step — the molding.
While the process of making chocolate is more or less uniform, the taste is anything but. In simple terms, not all chocolate products are made equal. There are, in fact, several ways in which you can differentiate between a good quality chocolate and a cheap one, including checking the cocoa solids content, checking the type of oil used in its production, examining the amount of sugar in it, looking at the price, determining the aroma and flavor and inspecting the appearance and texture of it. Read on and learn how to avoid cheap chocolate knock-offs.
Cocoa Solids Content Level
Cocoa solids are the key ingredient that gives chocolate its rich, distinctive flavor and color — many chocolates from the best milk chocolate list have a high amount of them. The cocoa solids content of chocolate is usually between 50 and 75 percent. But the quality of this ingredient is crucial to how good your chocolate will taste.
Chocolate made with low-quality cocoa solids will have an inferior flavor and tend to be very greasy. To make sure you’re getting the best possible product, check for chocolate that’s at least 50 percent cocoa solids. If it’s less than that, it’s probably not worth your time or money.
Type of Oil Used in Production
Most chocolates nowadays are made using vegetable oils, and it’s even possible to find chocolate made with olive oil or soybean oil. These oils are used almost exclusively in mass-produced chocolate, where the quality of the final product is of little importance.
Chocolate with high-quality cocoa butter is also made with dairy fat, especially in the case of milk chocolate, where the chocolate with the highest cocoa butter content is most often used. Chocolate made with dairy fat has a richer, creamier mouthfeel that vegetable oils can’t replicate.
Sugar Content Level
Most cheap chocolate products are packed with sugar, which is used to cover up the flavor of sub-par cocoa butter. Quality chocolates are usually sweetened sparingly, if at all.
The most popular types of quality chocolate are dark chocolate and milk chocolate. Dark chocolate usually contains no sugar, while milk chocolate contains very little — between 2 and 4 percent. As a general rule of thumb, the more sugar is contained in your chocolate product, the lower quality you can expect.
Appearance and Texture
The appearance and texture of chocolate can tell you a lot about its quality as well. Cheap chocolate often has a shiny, oily appearance because of the high amounts of vegetable oil it contains. Cheap chocolate also tends to melt quickly and does not maintain its shape for a very long time.
Quality chocolates usually have a matte-like finish and maintain their shape much better than cheap chocolates after melting. This is because they contain fewer vegetable oils and more cocoa butter.
Specific Aroma and Flavor
It may be the most subjective of all the criteria, but it is nonetheless an important one. Good quality chocolate has a particular aroma that you’ll pick up and recognize right away. It offers a strong and rich smell that many describe as “nutty,” “fruity,” or even “musky.”
When it comes to cheap chocolate knock-offs, that specific aroma is almost always missing. Moreover, quality chocolate tends to taste much better than cheap ones. As such, the specific flavor is also one of the key ways to tell between good and bad quality chocolate. Good quality chocolate has a very strong and rich chocolate flavor that’s almost unmistakable.
Price May Be Indicative of Quality
While price isn’t always indicative of quality, it’s pretty evident that low-quality chocolate products are much cheaper than their high-end counterparts. Quality chocolate is an acquired taste. Because of this, most people are not willing to pay top dollar for it.
It means you can expect to find chocolate priced under $10 at just about any store or marketplace but struggle to find a high-quality product that will suit your palate. Besides, if you’re looking for the best possible chocolate, be prepared to pay for it.
Chocolate is, without a doubt, one of the world’s most beloved sweets. It has been around for thousands of years, and it does not show any signs of stopping. With that in mind, it’s essential to understand the differences between good-quality chocolate and cheap knock-offs.
The cocoa solids content level, type of oil used in production, and the chocolate’s appearance and texture are key factors that can help you determine the quality of the product you wish to purchase. Hopefully, now you know what indicators to look for, and you’ll be easily able to tell if you’re getting the best chocolate product or something that’s not up to par. Good luck!