Fine Chocolate

Written by Robert Mac
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Fine chocolates are just about everyone's favorite, whether it's for an anniversary, Valentine's Day, or just as a special treat. And as the food industry has evolved in the last few decades, gourmet chocolates have become a real niche item, available just about anywhere you shop. If you are a chocoholic, don't settle for mass-produced, low-end varieties--fine chocolate products are for discriminating tastes.

What Makes Fine Chocolate Fine?

Just like wine and other complex foods, chocolates vary tremendously from the low end to the top of the line. But if all chocolates come from cocoa beans, how can they be so different? A quick way to tell is by the percentage, by weight, of cocoa in the final product: high end chocolates have 30-55% of their weight come from cocoa, while cheaper chocolates have about 10%.

First, a little background on how chocolate is made. In the Dutch process, cocoa beans are separated into dark cocoa and cocoa butter, which is actually the fats of the bean. Since cocoa beans are fairly expensive, some chocolatiers replace the cocoa butter with hydrogenated vegetable oils to bring the cost down.

Chocolates with added oils may contain other fillers as well. Fine chocolates, on the other hand, use only the natural cocoa butter; it is the true taste of the bean. Prove it to yourself: have a side-by-side tasting of a finer chocolate with a high cocoa percentage, and a cheaper one with less cocoa. You'll taste the difference and never settle for the cheap stuff again.

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