Types of Chocolate
Ingredients in Chocolate
Chocolate is one of those words with endless, multi-hyphenated descriptions that most everyone has an opinion about, but not the real understanding of what it really is – the ingredients, where it came from or is the sugar content the same as any other candy bar available in the market. Since almost everyone in the world likes it, information about it is beneficial for smart eaters and health conscious people.
Where does it come from? Who are the first people to indulge in nature’s gift to mankind? How is it made? What does it contain? What makes chocolate so tempting? These are just a couple of questions that people indulging in this sweet and decadent treat must know the answers to since a smart eater must know what he or she is eating.
For over three thousand years, chocolate has been taken as a beverage by the Aztecs, calling it “bitter water.” This reference to the bi-product of cocoa beans was reported to be the earliest documentation of it. Its bitter taste was due to the intense bitter flavor from the cacao tree where the beans to make this sweet confection was cultivated from. Several processes and fermentation is needed to arrive to that sweet and highly addictive flavor, which will alter on be molded and shaped into different-sized candy bars we know today.
According to its general definition, chocolate is any product made from cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Regardless of its kind, type and how it is/was manufactured, it is made up of five main ingredients: cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, nutritive sweeteners or sugar, milk products and emulsifiers. The amount of each ingredient depends on what kind or variety is being made.
Cocoa butter derives from the fat extracted from cocoa beans, which is edible. It is achieved through mechanical processes by pressing roasted, shell-free cocoa nibs and through other extraction methods.
Chocolate liquor, despite its name, does not really contain alcohol. It is made by grinding the cocoa beans into a smooth liquid form. It is also referred to as chocolate, baking chocolate, unsweetened chocolate or bitter chocolate.
Nutritive sweeteners or sugars, also known as sucrose, are dry ingredients that are free of monosaccharide bi-products since the presence of moisture in making chocolate can affect the process and the finished product. When you see your candy bar with white spots in it, it does not mean it has gone bad. These white spots called “chocolate bloom” indicate that the sugar and/or fat had separated because of poor storage and is not deemed a health risk.
Milk products can either be non-fat, whole or powdered. This is a primary ingredient in making the milk chocolate variety. Some manufacturers evaporate or condensed liquid milk to create milk crumbs that they can store and use when needed.
Emulsifiers can reduce viscosity of the mixture and improve the manufacturing process. The most common emulsifier is soy lecithin, which is used in very small amounts only, about 1 percent.
Since the most important ingredient of chocolate is the cocoa bean, careful harvesting and processing is a must. Without the cocoa bean, famous brands like Hersheys, Cadbury, Mars, Ritter and others would not exist. Cocoa beans are harvested from the Theobroma cacao tree, which are mostly found in Central, North and South America. Then, because of sea voyage and trade (the ancient Mayans and Aztecs sometimes used it for currency) during the 16th century, chocolate was subsequently introduced in Europe as a drink that only royalty, the wealthy and well-connected can indulge in.
Whether it is pure, unsweetened, sweet and semi-sweet, the nutritional content of chocolates is also dependent on its type and variety. The number of calories, additives and fat content varies on the type, brand and variety. However, every candy bar contains sodium, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, sugars, protein and riboflavin.
A sense of well-being and happiness can also be gained from consuming chocolates. This is because of serotonin, a monoamine neurotransmitter that promotes a sense of calm and happiness that also regulates intestinal movements that is present in cocoa beans. This substance is mostly found in the dark and milk varieties.
Based on numerous scientific researches and studies about the health benefits and positive and negative effects of chocolate, there is without a doubt that dark chocolate is the healthiest variety. It contains fiber and has substantial amounts of antioxidants like flavanols that helps reduce the risk of exposure to free radicals found in modern environment. The pure, unsweetened dark variety mostly contains cocoa solids and cocoa butter, and has zero sugar and milk that is great for dieting. For consumption, the disk-like chocolates sold in the market from Central America can easily be crumbled or pulverized and used to make hot cocoa. Some has sugar already added to it, but some do not.
When sugar and fat is added to the cacao mixture, dark chocolate will then become sweet chocolate or milk chocolate, the most popular in today’s market. It contains condensed or milk powder and sugar. It also requires a 15 percent concentration of cocoa liquor and around 20 to 35 percent of dry cocoa solids. Fruit, nuts and berries coated with chocolate candy uses the sweet variety.
White chocolate contains sugar, milk and cocoa butter. Even if the texture is similar to the dark and milk varieties, it does not have cocoa solids and therefore do not have theobromine and phenythylamine, which is highly toxic to some animals including cats and dogs. Because of this, some countries do not consider this variety as chocolate at all and animals can consume it without being poisoned. The fiber and antioxidant component present in dark chocolate is sadly lacking in the white variety as well.
Special eating chocolates can contain various flavorings such as vanilla, raspberry, cherry and different liquor and alcohol. Nuts and fruits can also be added to provide variety, made into different shapes and sizes and sometimes created with different holidays in mind. Prices can be quite steep for these types of chocolate since some of them are rare, handmade, specially boxed and/or wrapped and limitedly distributed. It ranges around $50 to $850 a pound. Famous brands include Ghirardelli, Richard Donnelly, Vodges Haut Chocolat, La Maison du Chocolat, Michel Cluizel, Godiva, Richart, Knipschildt Chocolatier, Noka , Delafee, Pierre Marcolini, Debauve & Gallais, Chuao and Jacques Torres Chocolates to name a few.
So, why do people buy these expensive candies when there are cheaper ones readily available in the market? It is not just a matter of price and the added health benefits like fiber and flavanols. It is also about how good it tastes. Expensive chocolates have a quintessential guarantee that it smells and tastes good. The feeling of having one melt into your tongue is better than cheaper versions. It may wreak havoc to an otherwise perfect diet, but indulging can sometimes bring more happiness and a sense of well-being not found in some green-leafy vegetable.
The chocolate industry is a rather large one. About 50 million people sorely depend on cocoa as a source of livelihood with two-thirds of the world’s supply of cocoa coming from West Africa, where child labor is very rampant. Despite this fact, many still like their candy and chocolates, and will continue to do so.