Types of Chocolate

                               Different types of chocolate

Chocolate may be considered as one of nature’s gifts to mankind. Its flavor and effects have been well-accounted for in thousands of years since it was first documented for its medicinal usages during ancient times. And through the years, many have benefitted and indulged in this oftentimes sinful and tempting confection, making it evolve and the market introduced with different types, kinds and variations of the original.

By definition, chocolate is any product and bi-product made from cocoa, mixed with cocoa butter and sweetener, and sometimes with milk and other flavorings. Produced from the seed of the Theobroma cacao tree, chocolate confections are typically classified as unsweetened, dark, milk, cocoa powder, compound, raw and white. For some countries, white chocolate is considered more of a confection than a classification of chocolate since it doesn’t really have cocoa solids in it.

From those main classifications sprung different variations depending on the amount and percentages of ingredients used to create each type. Some countries even have their own special ones just to confuse ordinary choco-lovers. But for those reading labels and such, these terms will be familiar. So, let us discuss each classification and variations under them to distinguish one from the other and understand what makes them different.

Also known as cooking chocolate, baking chocolate or bitter, the unsweetened classification is what we regard as pure chocolate liquor (not an alcohol) mixed with fat. It comes as roasted or ground and is used to make cakes and pastries.

Dark chocolate or black chocolate is made by adding a little bit of sugar and fat to the cocoa and has a higher content of cocoa solids and practically no milk in it. Because of classification rules followed by different chocolatiers all over the world, different types have emerged. There’s the semi-sweet, which is often used in cooking and baking. It contains almost half sugar and half cocoa (as defined by the Swiss). Bittersweet, on the other hand, has only about one-thirds sugar added, vanilla and more cocoa butter. Some brands include lecithin as an emulsifier. Couverture, a term used for dark chocolates rich in cocoa butter, are usually bought from gourmet shops and used by professional pastry chefs because it’s great for tampering and coating candies. The high percentage of chocolate liquor in couverture makes it more expensive than the ordinary kind. It also comes in three varieties: white, dark and milk.

Milk chocolate, the most popular classification that is common in the market today, is made cocoa with milk products added to make it richer and creamier. This classification began as a drink in the 1870s by Daniel Peter, a Swiss confectioner. There are different rules concerning percentages in the content of one milk chocolate candy bar. US regulations only require 10 percent of chocolate liquor, whilst European regulations require around 25 percent of cocoa solids. Wherever these candy bars have been made, people surely loved it. It certainly made one Milton S. Hershey extremely popular because of the unique process he invented in creating one of America’s favorite candies.

White chocolate, as what was mentioned before, has no cocoa solids at all. It is composed of milk products, sugar and cocoa butter. There are some made with vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter. It has no distinct chocolate taste. Its flavor and aroma is attributed to added flavoring such as vanilla. It can also be used in cooking and baking especially for desserts such as panna cotta and mousse.

Used for drinking and baking just by adding milk and sugar, cocoa powder is available as unsweetened natural cocoa and Dutch-process cocoa. Both are processed by extracting all cocoa butter from the deflated chocolate liquor to create a powdery substance. Dutch cocoa is milder in flavor whereas the natural type is a bit acidic with a strong chocolate flavor. Dutch cocoa is also more favorable as a drink because of its creamier taste and it is easier to blend with liquids. However, it does not have the flavonoids present in cocoa anymore after going through several processes. Therefore, a special blend of both natural and Dutch cocoa is now available in the market as a more nutritious chocolate drink.

Compound chocolate, also known as confectionary coating or summer coating, may not be called as an official classification in some countries. Technically, it is made from cocoa and vegetable oil or palm oil instead of cocoa butter. Sometimes, hydrogenated fats or tropical fats are used. Cheaper than the other types, it does not have a strong chocolate flavor and does not contain a lot of chocolate liquor. It is best used for melting and molding into different shapes and sizes. It can withstand high temperatures and are often used in candy-making and is often used in coating fruits, nuts and other candy.

Raw chocolate, from the term itself, is unprocessed, unheated and unmixed with any other ingredient. This type is often regarded as the healthiest form. It is sold in chocolate growing countries such as Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ghana, Grenada, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea and Samoa among many other countries within 10 degrees south and 10 degrees north of the equator where cocoa beans thrive. Côte d’Ivoire or the Ivory Coast leads in producing more than a million tons of cocoa beans in a year, followed by Indonesia and Ghana.

European style of chocolate making has another type they use. It is called Gianduja, which comes in dark and milk varieties. It is practically a mixture of cocoa and nut paste. Almond and hazelnut is often used as a paste. Softer in consistency at room temperature, it is often used as a spread, frosting and icing. This type may be soft in consistency, but it is too soft to be molded into shapes unlike the compound type.

Now, the following are not really types of chocolates but they still need some special mention. Because it is rather considered as a form of art in some countries, there are specially crafted candy bars and creatively shaped chocolate candy sold limitedly, hand-crafted, elegantly boxed and therefore, more expensive than your common store-bought confection. Each box’s price would range from $50 to thousands of dollars. These confections are sometimes filled with liquor, berries, fruits, nuts, marshmallow, caramel, cereals, rice crispies, nougat and other decadent fillings. Some are flavored with mint, peppermint, cherry, raspberry, strawberry, orange, coffee, vanilla and many more. Some of these confections are seasonal and made with famous holidays in mind like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Halloween and many more.  Famous and often expensive brands include: Ghirardelli, Godiva, Knipschildt Chocolatier, Noka, Richard Donnelly, Debauve & Gallais, Vodges Haut Chocolat, Pierre Marcolini, La Maison du Chocolat, Richart, Michel Cluizel, Jacques Torres Chocolates, Delafee and Chuao to name a few.

International competitions for professional chocolatiers have been held in different countries throughout the years as well. It is where chocolate has been seen not just a dessert or a source of happiness, but as art.

Without a doubt, the chocolate candy industry is a large enterprise with approximately 50 million individuals depending on it as a source of livelihood. Most of these people are located in ravaged, third world countries where cocoa beans are not just a sweet indulgence, but a way of life.