Yesterday I took my kids on a fun first-week-back-to-homeschool field trip. We went with a bunch of friends to Chocolate Kingdom. Yes, there is such a place. We live in Central Florida – there’s a theme park for pretty much anything.
Chocolate Kingdom had a lot of education interwoven with the fun and games, so we learned a lot about chocolate and its history. For most of the tour I just enjoyed listening to the docent, watching the kids interact, and trying all the little tastes of various kinds of chocolate along the way. In the last room, however, my hidden teacher sprang into action. Lined up along the front of the counter where the custom chocolate bars were made sat this great visual aide! Layered like sand art in tall cork-stoppered bottles was an explanation of just what it means to have dark, milk or white chocolate. And also what the various percentages mean with dark chocolate. Take a look….
The top left jar labeled 100% dark chocolate is simply cocoa powder and cocoa butter. This is what you get when you buy unsweetened chocolate for baking. This one has the highest content of antioxidants and good tropical fats. Next, in the top right photo, you see two more kinds of dark chocolate. 72% and 58% are their labels. The only additional ingredient is sugar. This is what you get when you buy semi-sweet chocolate. But as you can see when the percentage of chocolate goes down it is the percentage of sugar that goes up. You can feel pretty virtuous and still enjoy the 72% dark. It still has 36% cocoa powder and 36% cocoa butter to get that 72% rating. With the 58% however, you are now almost half and half chocolate and sugar. By the time you get to the milk chocolate 62% of it is not chocolate. One surprising thing to note is the milk chocolate has less actual sugar than the 58% dark. Finally the white chocolate is 69% sugar, no cocoa powder and just 31% cocoa butter. Many chocolate purists say white chocolate ISN’T chocolate. The folks at Chocolate Kingdom say it is since it contains cocoa butter. But they give a big thumbs down to the fake white chocolate made with hydrogenated oils instead of cocoa butter agreeing it is nothing like chocolate when it’s made that way.
So, bottom line is if you’re looking to justify that chocolate bar be sure to reach for the 72% dark or higher so you can avoid as much added sugar as possible. And be sure, as always, to read the labels and always avoid anything with hydrogenated fats of any kind. Lastly, although very little was said about it during our tour, please try to choose fair trade certified chocolate whenever possible. There is a lot of horrible stuff still going on in the bu$ine$$ of chocolate, and fair trade certification helps to reduce the likelihood of people being taken advantage of.
major chocolate producing countries->