Does the quality of the ingredients matter?


Cacao trees

For a start, there are three main types of cacao tree.

Criollo produces the most highly-prized beans, with the most intense, aromatic flavour. But production is tricky, and limited primarily to Venezuela, Ecuador, Jamaica, Trinidad and Indonesia; Criollo provides less than 10% of world production.

Most chocolate is made of Forastero beans; the flavour is less intense, but the trees are hardier. They grow in the C├┤te d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast, by far the world's biggest cocoa producer), Ghana, Nigeria and Brazil.

In addition there is Trinitario, a cross between Criollo and Forastero that was developed in Trinidad, but now grows in most cacao-producing regions.

Cocoa butter

The amount of cocoa butter used in manufacture is also critical. Cocoa butter melts at a lower temperature than the human body, giving chocolate that essential ability to melt in the mouth. The heat exchange as it melts generates the cooling sensation noticeable when eating good-quality chocolate.

British chocolate manufacturers have been in the habit of substituting vegetable oil for cocoa butter (up to 5% of the total weight). European manufacturers, who disdain this practice, have been keen to keep this kind of British chocolate out of their market. Their lobbyists at the EU have suggested that such chocolate should be rebranded as some kind of non-chocolate (the cheeky term 'vegelate' was coined). But a review of the relevant EU directive in 2000 decreed that it can be sold in Europe if labelled 'family milk chocolate', and provided that the vegetable fat content is listed in the ingredients.

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