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What Do You Mean We’re Not Eating REAL Chocolate? By Lisa Mecray Rogers

The surprising truth....

I can’t tell you how often some people that discover my chocolates at local farmer’s markets and events say this, "Oh…chocolate. My kid makes chocolate. Is this your hobby?” This wouldn’t happen in Europe… Aside from my immediate ouch feeling, it's important to know that being a Chocolatier is a real business and an art form for which training is required. Another important fact is that Chocolatiers use REAL chocolate...

What most people don’t know is that those cute chocolate kits, kid’s (and adult) chocolate making classes and even some local chocolate shops don’t use REAL chocolate! Wait a minute…it’s brown, the box and the store personnel say it is chocolate…so how can it not be chocolate?? Even if you ask people in the store or at the class, they will insist its real chocolate. Frankly it comes down to lack of knowledge as to what real chocolate is or they are trying to pull something on you. Time to demystify.

  • Chocolatiers are trained professionals that use real chocolate

  • Kids “chocolate” classes and kits use “compound chocolate”

  • Low quality “chocolate” shops use “compound chocolate”

Why not use real chocolate?

Compound chocolate is easier to use and it’s cheap. Real chocolate is harder to work with and is expensive.

Real chocolate should contain chocolate liquor (a combination of cacao and cocoa butter), just like the cacao (cocoa) bean contains both. Using real chocolate requires training in how to properly use it.

Here’s a great description I found which helps give you an idea that making chocolate bon-bons is MUCH MORE than just melting and pouring it into molds or rolling it into truffles.

“Real chocolate, due to the cocoa butter, requires more painstaking preparation. When chocolate is melted and then cooled, the cocoa butter may re-crystallize in two different forms, called alpha (Awful) and beta (Best). The alpha form is unstable and will rise to the surface of the chocolate, resulting in unattractive, grayish-white streaks (called "bloom"). To get the desired beta form requires careful melting and conditioning by the process called "tempering". Briefly, tempering is the development of the proper crystallization of the cocoa butter crystals. This development takes place when chocolate goes through a predetermined cycle of temperatures and agitation. Properly done, tempering will provide perfect gloss, hardness and snap to the chocolate.”

Compound chocolate, substitutes chocolate liquor with cocoa powder and vegetable fats, tropical fats and/or hydrogenated fats. Not exactly what I want to ingest or enjoy. It just doesn’t have a real chocolate flavor either. And how can it?

Compound chocolate is also known as coating chocolate, compound chocolate coating, decorator's chocolate, confectioners' chocolate, confectionery coating, chocolate flavored coating or confectioners’ coating chocolate. The awful thing is that labels may not call it such. In many countries it may not legally be called "chocolate".

Compound coating is handled differently than real chocolate. Melt and make whatever you want. That’s why kids can make things with it. It’s easy and requires no training.

…and now let’s talk about REAL chocolate.

Many of you have seen chocolate labels that say 64%, 72% and other percentages…a good sign its real chocolate. Compound chocolate won’t have percentages. The % cacao that you see on chocolate labels basically indicates the % of chocolate liquor vs sugar. So the higher the %, the darker the chocolate and the less sugar, the more the chocolate flavor…and the healthier it is for you! Check out the health benefits you can get from dark chocolate here. Compound chocolate does not qualify.

There are chocolate-containing products that don’t list the percentage on the label. Why? The truth is the amount of real chocolate is extremely low, which makes these products mostly ALL SUGAR and a mix of other flavorings, fillers etc. Whoa is right! Chocolate by nature is not sweet. Sugar is sweet. Candy is sugar. If it is mostly sugar, isn’t it really candy? Hersheys®, Nestlé®, Cadbury® are essentially candy, as is all milk chocolate…when you really think about it. Milk chocolate is mostly sugar regardless of the brand. There is nothing wrong with liking candy, but perhaps it shouldn’t be called “chocolate”? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a regulating body does have requirements to be called “chocolate”, but frankly could you call beverage “wine” and it only contained 10% of fermented grapes? Seems like the fruit juice debate doesn’t it?

Here are some interesting facts:

  • White chocolate doesn’t contain chocolate. It’s true. It primarily consists of cocoa butter, sugar, milk and vanilla

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate the naming and ingredients of cocoa products. Here are the minimums they stand by in order for manufacturers to use these terms…

  • “Milk Chocolate”, ≥ 10% chocolate liquor

  • “Sweet Chocolate”, ≥ 15% chocolate liquor

  • “Semisweet or Bittersweet (Dark) Chocolate”, ≥ 35% chocolate liquor

  • The EU and Canada have different definitions

  • A Hershey’s® Bar is about 11% Cacao (and it is probably because the U.S. FDA REQUIRES a minimum of 10% cacao solids)

  • Snickers® is less than 2%

  • In 2007, the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, whose members include Hershey's and Nestlé began lobbying the U.S. FDA to change the legal definition of chocolate to allow the substitution of "safe and suitable vegetable fats and oils" (including partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) for cocoa butter in addition to using "any sweetening agent" (including artificial sweeteners) and milk substitutes

  • Currently, the FDA does not allow a product to be referred to as "chocolate" if the product contains any of these ingredients. To work around this restriction, products with cocoa substitutes are often branded or labeled as "chocolatey"

And again, why are manufacturers not using more real chocolate? Most likely because sugar, vegetable oils, artificial flavors, fillers and milk solids are much cheaper than cacao. Candy manufacturers, just as other industries, are always looking to cut costs. More sugar and “other stuff”, less chocolate.

Someone once said "Today the taste that most people associate with chocolate springs primarily from the vanilla and other spices mixed with the chocolate. Cocoa butter has yielded to flavored forms of vegetable shortening, and now people ingest real chocolate in such minute quantities that most of the narcotic effect has been sacrificed to the sugar rush that substitutes for it.”

So are you eating real chocolate?

~Lisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.


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