Have you ever faced two near-identical chocolate bars but varying percentages of cocoa inclusion? Are you confused about which chocolate bar to go for and how to make the right choice? You are not alone. There are many things to consider regarding the cocoa percentages, and it is a bit of a minefield.
Essentially the percentage you are seeing tells you by weight how much of the chocolate bar is made from derivatives of cocoa beans. This, however, can be any part of the bean, both cocoa butter (the bit that makes your chocolate creamy) and cocoa solids (the non-fat part of a bean). While, as a general rule, a higher percentage means that the chocolate will be less sweet with a more intense flavour profile, this isn’t always the case; this is because the percentage of cocoa butter, vs cocoa solids, alongside sugar and extra ingredients such as vanilla, can play a massive role in the overall makeup and final taste of the chocolate.
If chocolate has a high percentage of cocoa and the majority is made of cocoa butter instead of cocoa solids, the result will still be creamier than a bar with the same percentage but higher levels of cocoa solids. The percentages, however, do give you a good indication of how much sugar a chocolate bar has. High percentages of cocoa generally mean lower percentages of sugar because a high level of cocoa leaves far less room for other ingredients.
By its very name, milk chocolate contains milk or cream alongside its percentage of cocoa beans and sugar. According to UK law, milk chocolate must contain at least 25% cocoa solids to be considered milk chocolate. In the US, this is much lower, with just 10% cocoa required, which is tiny. That is why American chocolate tastes very different to UK chocolate and is often much sweeter. Milk chocolate is sweeter and Creamier than dark chocolate, both because of the milk or cream content and because it generally has lower percentages of cocoa. If you want milk chocolate that is more chocolatey and less sweet, go for varieties that are 30% and up in terms of their cocoa content.
Big fan of white chocolate? You might be shocked to learn that white chocolate doesn't contain ANY cocoa solids! The percentage of cocoa on a white chocolate bar refers to the amount of cocoa butter on the bar instead. The higher the percentage of cocoa butter, the creamier the bar will be. White chocolate must have at least 20% cocoa butter in the UK.
Percentages are a good indicator of the level of 'other' ingredients in your bar, whether that's more milk or more sugar or other aromatics, but don't get too bogged down in the details. It is a quantity measurement but not necessarily an indication of quality. While higher percentages are synonymous with quality as they have fewer non-cocoa ingredients, you need to consider the product's end-use and your preferred tastes.
Here at Rita Farhi, we have numerous avenues to consider regarding our chocolate. Although the consensus for a pure chocolate product is that more cocoa and less sugar are supreme, when it comes to chocolate-covered fruits and nuts, other factors are at play. When coating nuts or fruits in chocolate, you need to account for the interaction between your chocolate layer and the flavour profiles of the products they are paired with. We want our nuts and fruits to have an equal chance to shine, so choosing the perfect percentage of cocoa derivatives was not an easy task. We needed to ensure the chocolate didn't overwhelm and conceal the beauty of the nut or the fruit underneath.
To choose the correct percentage of cocoa for our chocolate, we needed to do a lot of R&D. This consisted of lots of taste testing sessions and even blind taste testing sessions to ensure that we were only swayed by taste and not by what we thought the percentage should be. After many chocolate-covered nuts and fruits had been consumed (all in the name of science, of course), we decided that for covering fruit and nuts in chocolate, our dark chocolate needed to sit at 53%. Although this means our dark chocolate contains less cocoa than some chocolate bars you might be used to, this was the sweet spot for Farhi. The perfect balance of flavours between our rich Belgian chocolate and delicately roasted nuts. It meant that the tasting notes of the nuts and fruits were never overpowered by chocolate, and the two sang harmoniously together in every bite.
At 100%, your chocolate is pure and naturally much more bitter than the chocolate you might be used to. It will be dark chocolate that has no milk or sugar in it. Made from the cocoa bean, this isn’t for the faint-hearted as the taste is pretty strong, but at 100%, you are getting the real benefits of the cocoa bean. A high percentage of chocolate is practically healthy. High in fibre and iron (which helps in the production of red blood cells) as well as copper and magnesium, it is a fantastic source of antioxidants, flavonols and polyphenols. According to some studies (significantly), dark chocolate can also help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow.
Is the average marker for most dark chocolates in the UK. Of course, dark chocolate is above 50%, but this seems to be the benchmark for most bars. This means that 70% of the bar you’re eating has been made from the cocoa bean, and the other 30% is anything from sugar, vanilla and other flavour enhancers. It won’t be as bitter as 100%, but it will still have a distinctively deep and dark taste.
When it comes to milk chocolate, you are looking at much lower cocoa percentages. This is due to needing to add both sugar and, of course, milk or cream to get that consistency and sweetness we all know and love. 30% and above is a good point of reference when checking the packaging.
White chocolate only needs to contain 20% of cocoa butter and has no cocoa solids. Its taste is much more delicate and creamy because of the cocoa butter content. We use white chocolate to enrobe delicious roasted nuts for a truly sensational taste in every mouthful.