(This expands upon some comments I left on another journal.)andrewducker posted
about how American chocolate tastes terrible compared to other chocolate. The linked discussion turned out to be about how Hershey's milk chocolate has a slight sour/rancid flavor which Americans are accustomed to, but which Europeans tend to dislike.
As I'm now vegan, I haven't had Hershey's or other milk chocolates in so long that I barely remember what they taste like compared to dark chocolates. As an American kid growing up in Germany, though, I ate all kinds. The few milk chocolates that I miss (Toblerone, aerated chocolate, etc.) don't include Hershey's, but I was still surprised that some people feel it has a sour/vomit flavor. I don't remember that at all.
The difference that I have noticed (in regards to dark chocolate), and which I had actually expected the article to be about, is that German/European chocolate tends to be much more smooth and silky than American chocolate. Not in every case, certainly (there are so many different brands, and in some cases the texture deteriorates due to bad storage), but that is my overall impression.andrewhickey
pointed out that differences in chocolate texture may be due to the amount (or lack of) cocoa butter content. And that Hershey's has replaced the cocoa butter in some of their products with other cheaper vegetable fats.
The dark chocolates I eat are true chocolate, though, with cocoa butter as the only fat*. They are categorized by the amount of chocolate, eg. 64%, 70%. I wasn't certain whether the ratio of non-cocoa butter solids to cocoa butter is always constant - whether 2 different bars which list the same percent of chocolate would always have the same percent of cocoa butter or not. More on this further below.
*Many dark chocolates nowadays also include "butter oil" as an ingredient
, but as I'm vegan, I haven't tried them.
Chocolate ingredients can be confusing. For the bars I currently have, the 1st item is alternately listed as "cocoa mass", "chocolate", "cocoa beans", or "chocolate liquor". The 2nd ingredient is sugar, and the 3rd is usually cocoa butter. From what I understand, "cocoa mass", "cocoa beans", and "chocolate liquor" are based on the full cocoa bean, so they would already include cocoa butter. So it seems that both the 1st and 3rd ingredients add to the chocolate's cocoa butter content.
When eating 2 different brands of dark chocolate with the same chocolate content, they will still often have a different texture. The better ones feel more creamy, silky, and rich, while the poorer ones feel more chalky and tend to leave a more bitter aftertaste. So this is why I have wondered if the processing makes a difference - perhaps the cocoa is not ground as finely, or not blended as well. However, chocolate that has been stored a long time also tends to get more chalky and brittle. So some of the difference could be also due to storage rather than the processing or the amount of cocoa butter.
This page: Finding the Flavor of Chocolate
, indicates that chocolate flavor is also affected by the DNA of the cocoa bean itself, and that beans from different areas have different flavors.This page
gives more info on the varieties of cocoa beans (criollo, forestero, amelonado, trinitario, and nacional) grown in different regions.
It turns out that the ratio of cocoa butter to non-fat cocoa solids is *not* always constant, even given the same chocolate percentage.
Comments on this page
say:When the ingredients label says cocoa butter, it's referring to the cocoa butter that's added beyond what comes in with the cocoa beans (AKA cocoa, cocoa mass, chocolate liquor). But that cocoa is itself half cocoa butter already.
andAccording to a recent article in Cook's Illustrated, the cocoa percentage refers to combined amount of cocoa solids and cocoa butter, so the proportions of each can vary among chocolates that have the same cocoa percentage.This page
says: Chocolate with added cocoa butter is correctly labeled in terms of its ‘% cacao’, and, any added cocoa butter is included in this percentage, since it is also a derivative of the cacao bean.
That page also explains various chocolate terms.This post
says:The percentage number on a bar's wrapper represents the bar's weight that actually comes from the cacao bean; that is, it's the bar's content of honest-to-goodness cacao bean components. Natural cacao beans contain 54 percent fat by weight; the other 46 percent, as with most seeds, is solid vegetable matter. Thus, the percentage number on the wrapper of a chocolate bar is the sum of its cacao fat (called cocoa butter in the United States) and its cacao solids.
andManufacturers often add some of the separated [cocoa] fat to their formulas for chocolate bars to adjust the smoothness and melting properties. Because this added cocoa butter changes the cacao's natural 54-to-46 ratio, it is listed separately as an additive in the list of ingredients. The percentage number on the wrapper includes this added fat.
(Other pages indicate that the 54-to-46 ratio is only an an approximation; the ratio varies depending on the variety of cocoa bean and the growing conditions.)This page
usefully explains how you can calculate the amount of cocoa butter content of a given chocolate bar.
But also, a comment on this page
says: chocolate can have a fantastic texture without overloading the fat content with cocoa butter or vegetable oils or other "texture-enhancers." Particle size achieved through the grinding and refining has much to do with the finished texture.