How to judge the quality of chocolate


All chocolate is not created equal. There is a great difference in quality between different chocolates, which is often reflected in the price (but not always). Chocolate expert Clay Gordon, author of Discover Chocolate helps us recognize quality when we see it (and taste it).

How to judge the quality of chocolate All chocolate is not created equal. There is a great difference in quality between different chocolates, which is often reflected in the price (but not always).
  • First, have confidence in your sense of taste—not everyone likes the same kind of chocolate.
  • When reading ingredients on a chocolate bar label you can judge the quality of chocolate:

-You are looking for chocolate or cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, flavoring such as vanilla. Look for natural vanilla as opposed to artificial vanilla.

-You want to stay away from things that change the texture of the chocolate, such as butter oil or milk fat which add a pasty texture to the chocolate.

  • You also might find something called an emulsifier, like lecithin, that makes the chocolate smoother and easier to mold.
  • Another important means of judging the quality of the chocolate you are considering is where the cocoa beans are grown.

-Where the cocoa is grown affects the taste--but identifying specific origins requires a sophisticated palate.

-Cocoa butters and cocoa powders differ greatly depending on where the cocoa beans are grown.

  • The way the chocolate feels and melts in your mouth is very important to consider.
  • White chocolate has a milder flavor, and is made of cocoa butter, milk and sugar.
  • Cocoa is very high in antioxidants, but eat chocolate in moderation due to the high fat content.
Transcript LISA: I’m Lisa Birnbach for Houdini; remember when buying a bar of chocolate was easy? You went to the vending machine and put in a few coins and chose your favorite. Chunky, Snickers, or Almond Joy, whatever. Nowadays it’s so complicated with cocoa percentages, spices, far flying imported chocolates from rainforests in who knows where. Here is chocolate expert and author Clay Gordon whose new book called Discover Chocolate. Hi Clay.

CLAY: Lisa thanks for having me here.

LISA: What ingredients make a chocolate bar considered a quality bar?

CLAY: Well if your looking for a high quality chocolate bar your looking for an ingredients list that includes chocolate or cocoa mass, sugar and cocoa butter, and maybe a little flavoring, vanilla, but you want natural vanilla not artificial vanilla. And you might have something called an emulsifier, Lecithin, which is designed to make the chocolate a little thinner and easier to mold.

LISA: Are all cocoa butters and all cocoa powders created equal?

CLAY: No not at all. Where the cocoa beans grow has an enormous effect of the flavor of the chocolate then the quality and the taste of the cocoa butter.

LISA: Um, if the ingredients are the same, should you go for the less expansive one if you can?

CLAY: Ultimately, the decision of what chocolate to buy is based on your sense of taste. So, if you like a chocolate, and it’s inexpensive, then go with that. And if you don’t like a chocolate and it’s really expansive, then don’t go with that one.

LISA: Don’t buy it, idiot.

CLAY: Don’t buy it, that’s right.

LISA: But also the other thing is that when you talk about the flavor and the pleasing ness of the chocolate its also the consistency and the creaminess that your going for not just the flavor.

CLAY: No, you’re right, absolutely. It turns out the mouth feel; the way the chocolate feels as it melts in your mouth is really an important part, an important consideration in the chocolate.

LISA: Now is there anything that’s particularly put in chocolates, like additives or emulsifiers that we should avoid, anything that is not good for us?

CLAY: Well, um, in general you want to stay away from things that will change the texture of the chocolate. So if you look at a chocolate and it says it has butter-oil, or milk fat in it, that fat will add a pasty texture to the chocolate. And you might look at it and it will say hydrogenated palm kernel oil.

LISA: Oh, I think I’ve seen that.

CLAY: Yeah, those are, those are, if you can’t pronounce it you don’t need it.

LISA: Don’t buy it. My friends and I have a debate; I don’t believe white chocolate is actually chocolate, is it?

CLAY: Well as a matter of fact it is. There is something that the FDA publishes that is called Standards of Identity, which tell you what can and cannot be in a particular food product, if you want to use that name. And so in 2004, the FDA graded a standard of identity for white chocolate. So legally there is such a thing as white chocolate.

LISA: It’s a mistake.

CLAY: But there are three ingredients in white chocolate, there’s cocoa butter, there’s milk, and there’ sugar. So basically white chocolate is sweet fat.

LISA: Clay, a lot of these chocolates come with, with stuff on the label suggesting they’re actually good for us. Are they?

CLAY: It turns out that cocoa, which is what chocolate is made from, has a lot of very healthy components into it. It is very high in antioxidants –

LISA: Right

CLAY: Which can reduce blood pressure, um, help even with diabetes-

LISA: To prevent heart disease.

CLAY: Prevents heart disease, all sorts of wonderful things, but you have to be very careful. Because it turns out when you eat chocolate it also comes with a lot of fat. So you need to be careful about eating the chocolate in moderation. My sense about this, I want to feel good about eating chocolate, I don’t want to feel good about eating chocolate.

LISA: Good Point.

CLAY: So, when I eat chocolate, I want to eat the best that I can afford. Right, and just sit there and savor the experience.

LISA: Okay, thank you Clay.

CLAY: My Pleasure.

LISA: For Houdini I’m Lisa Birnbach.
meet theexpert
  • Clay Gordon

    Clay Gordon Author, Discover Chocolate Clay Gordon shares his passion for chocolate through writings, classes and events, and especially via the web at and He founded The New World Chocolate Society as a broader platform for consumer education. more about this expert »

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