How To Tell If Your Homegrown Dark Chocolate Is Good Quality - Plush Ink How To Tell If Your Homegrown Dark Chocolate Is Good Quality - Plush Ink

How to tell if your homegrown dark chocolate is good quality

How to tell if your homegrown dark chocolate is good quality

In the layered and fascinating world of chocolate, dark chocolate has slowly but surely become a hero. Most associate chocolate with decadence and indulgence, a thing to be cut out of restrictive diets and healthy meal plans. But dark chocolate—to collective relief—stands out as the chocolate you can eat—in moderation—and enjoy without worrying about your health. Research has shown dark chocolate is a powerful source of antioxidants, can help improve blood flow and decrease levels of bad cholesterol. But not all dark chocolate is made equal, and the mass-produced bars you find yourself reaching for may not be as good for you as you think. 

Chocolate consultant Patricia Cosma first tasted craft chocolate seven years ago. She was on a ketogenic diet and sweets were strictly forbidden, except for dark chocolate. It was, as they say, love at first bite. Sparks flew as Cosma was hit by a complex range of flavours and suddenly, the real-estate professional originally from Romania knew she had to dive deep into the world of chocolate. Soon, she was visiting cocoa farms and chocolate factories, learning how cocoa beans are processed and even experimenting with making chocolate herself. Cosma is now the co-founder of the Indian Craft Chocolate and Cacao Festival, along with chocolate-maker Ketaki Churi. The festival is an initiative to bring India’s craft chocolate community together and educate people about the complexities of good chocolate. The first edition of the festival took place in Bengaluru in November 2022, with workshops and talks centred around cocoa farming, chocolate making, tastings, pairings and more. Ahead of the Mumbai edition (18-19 February), we caught up with Cosma to explore the world of dark chocolate. 

How do you identify good dark chocolate?

The easiest way to make sure your dark chocolate is good is to simply turn the packaged bar around and get reading. A plain bar of craft dark chocolate should have just two ingredients: cocoa beans and sugar. Cocoa butter is fine too, since it is typically added to make the chocolate silkier. “You shouldn’t see other ingredients such as oils or added flavourings in the list,” Cosma warns. “These ingredients mask the flavour of cocoa beans, so their presence should make you question the quality of the chocolate. The ingredients list should be short and easy to understand.”

The other thing to look out for on the packaging is the origins of the cocoa beans. “Craft chocolate will always emphasise the origins of the beans,” says Cosma. Look out for the name of the farm that the beans are sourced from. Go beyond words like “artisanal” and look for phrases like “bean-to-bar” and “tree-to-bar”. “The package shouldn’t just say artisanal chocolate because that can simply mean that the makers are buying couverture chocolate and making them into chocolate bars.” For the uninitiated, couverture chocolate is a fine-textured chocolate made with a high percentage of cocoa butter, typically used by pastry chefs to dip, coat or garnish desserts. 

While organic and fair-trade certifications are good signs, they are not the sole indicators of quality. To find out more about the brand’s trade practices, Cosma recommends being proactive and connecting with the makers directly to gain more context about the origins of the cocoa beans. 

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