Baked into cakes, stirred into hot milk, drizzled over fruit skewers or simply broken from the bar and devoured on the sofa, we are a nation that’s completely and utterly in love with chocolate.
In honour of Chocolate Day on July 7, and the launch of our new range of Extra Special premium chocolate bars, we chatted to fine chocolate expert Jennifer Earle in praise of really great quality chocolate.
Check out Jennifer’s tips on how to spot good quality chocolate, why the ingredients matter and how it all contributes to making a great tasting product...
What are the benefits of buying good quality chocolate?
“Good quality chocolate is simply better for you as it has a lower sugar content.
“It is also much more sustainable for the planet. The more expensive chocolate on the shelves is actually the real price of chocolate. That’s how much chocolate really costs because it’s such a labour-intensive process."
All of our dark Extra Special bars contain a minimum of 70% single-origin UTZ certified cocoa, so you know you're getting an ultra-decadent chocolatey hit that's 100% sustainably and ethically sourced.
What is “single origin” chocolate?
“Single origin chocolate means that all of the cocoa beans come from the same country. Companies and brands use this to prove that their beans are traceable and they haven’t just bought them from a middleman.
“There are some fairly distinctive flavour notes you get from some countries. Typically, Madagascan chocolate will have really fruity notes – sometimes it’s more citrusy and sometimes more red berry notes. Ecuadorian chocolate tends to have relatively herbal notes, like fresh lemongrass, but not always.”
If you're after something with a lot of body, try our single-origin Ugandan dark chocolate for a luxurious bar packed with coffee notes and hints of spice. Or, if red wine's your usual tipple of choice, pick up our incredible Peruvian dark chocolate for a deep, dark chocolate with elevated red berry notes.
Why does dark chocolate display a percentage and what does this mean?
“To be considered a fine quality dark chocolate, the minimum cocoa percentage should be 60%. This refers to the amount of the ingredients that come from the cocoa bean – both cocoa powder and cocoa butter.
“In lots of good quality dark chocolate, the only components of the bar are beans and sugar. If you’ve got a 60% cocoa bar of dark chocolate, this means that 40% of the bar is sugar. Realistically, any more sugar than this is trying to hide and cover bad quality or bitter-tasting beans, which suggests it’s a bar of a lower quality.
“You’ll find some bars that go all the way up to 100% cocoa which looks and feels and smells like chocolate, but it has no sugar in it and so it will taste awful (if you’re not used to chocolate that strong) and will be a bit of a shock when you put it in your mouth!
What should you be looking for in a good quality chocolate?
“The biggest thing about good quality dark chocolate is that it doesn’t taste bitter.
“The other thing you’ll notice with really premium chocolate is that it naturally has other flavour notes without having to add other flavourings. You’ll find notes like raspberry, orange, almond or walnut in there. Coffee and smoky notes are also common and both delicious.
What makes a good quality milk or white chocolate?
“Like with dark chocolate, you shouldn’t see any other fats. There shouldn’t be any palm oil, butter fats, shea butter or any other fats in there – just cocoa butter. If you replace cocoa butter with other fats, not only does this get rid of some of the chocolatey flavour, but you also won’t get the same texture."
Our Extra Special Milk Chocolate not only contains a minimum of 39% cocoa solids, but also is made exclusively with the best quality Peruvian cocoa mass and butter that's then flecked with delicious, natural vanilla, so you know you're getting the silkiest, smoothest and most luxurious milk chocolate possible.
What’s the difference between cooking with baking chocolate and eating chocolate?
“The main difference between baking chocolate and eating chocolate these days is the amount of cocoa butter in it. Baking chocolate tends to contain a little bit more fat than the type of chocolate you’d eat on its own. Nevertheless, a good quality brand of either can be substituted for the other type of chocolate.
“I usually say to people that if you’re baking a cake with melted chocolate in, then I would still recommend something with a high cocoa content as it will simply taste better than something more sugary. But, once you mix the chocolate with sugar and butter and eggs and all the rest, the chocolate flavour isn’t as dominant, so it doesn’t matter as much whether you’re using baking or eating chocolate.”
“If you’re making a chocolate tart, or a mousse or a ganache that isn’t being baked, then it’s probably worth spending a little bit more on a bar."
Our Extra Special range of dark chocolate contains nothing but cocoa, sugar, emulsifier and natural vanilla, making sure you get the purest, most chocolatey hit possible.