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Understanding Cocoa Percentages: A Guide to the Depths of Chocolate

A man holding dried cocoa beans

For many chocolate enthusiasts, the cocoa percentages on a chocolate bar wrapper can be somewhat enigmatic. This guide aims to demystify these figures, enabling you to better inform your customers and engage them during tasting sessions.

Essentially, the cocoa percentage communicates the weight of the chocolate bar that originates from the cocoa bean, known as the cocoa mass. This mass is divided into two components—cocoa solids and cocoa butter—both of which are integral to the chocolate-making process.

A man holding a cocoa pod

In both milk and dark chocolates, the cocoa mass (comprising cocoa solids and cocoa butter) contributes to the total percentage listed. Consider the following example:

Colombian Milk Chocolate (min. cocoa solids 45%, min. milk solids 20%)

In this case, the combination of cocoa solids and cocoa butter accounts for 45% of the total ingredients, while milk constitutes 20%. White chocolate, on the other hand, only includes cocoa butter, thus its percentage calculation differs slightly.

cocoa butter on top of cocoa solids

You may be wondering: what are cocoa solids and cocoa butter? Cocoa solids are pure cocoa, extracted from roasted beans and ground into a smooth liquor. This liquor is then pressed to separate the fat, creating cocoa butter, a key ingredient also found in cosmetics and toiletries.

While the cocoa percentage provides insight into the chocolate’s intensity and depth of flavour, it doesn’t necessarily indicate the quality of the chocolate bar. This is a crucial point to communicate to your customers.

Like a fine wine, the quality of chocolate is influenced by its origin and the expertise of the chocolatiers who process the beans, in addition to the other ingredients used.

Our chocolate, sourced from the renowned cocoa-producing region of Colombia, carries the distinguished Fino De Aroma classification, an honour bestowed upon only 8% of the world’s cocoa. This assures you that you’re stocking high-quality chocolate with exceptional flavour.

Choc Affair employee with chocolate mould

To further delve into cocoa percentages, consider that mass-market chocolates often use less of the costlier cocoa and more of cheaper ingredients, resulting in a cocoa percentage of around 20%. This doesn’t necessarily detract from the appeal of the chocolate—it remains a household favourite for many. However, as a purveyor of artisanal brands, you might stock chocolates like Choc Affair milk chocolate, which boasts a higher total of cocoa solids and cocoa butter, amounting to 45%.

Generally, a higher cocoa solid percentage equates to a more intense, complex flavour and less sugar, while a lower percentage indicates a sweeter taste profile. This is because the remaining percentage is composed of sugar, milk, vanilla, and often soya lecithin.

The increasing awareness of the health benefits associated with dark chocolate has spurred a trend towards higher percentage chocolates. It’s now common to find brands offering dark chocolate bars with 85% cocoa or more. In Colombia, the national drink enjoyed daily is 100% cacao, containing only cocoa solids and cocoa butter—an intensely rich chocolate experience.

While the intense flavour of high percentage dark chocolates (80% and above) can be an acquired taste, it doesn’t deter everyone—my 2-year-old nephew relishes 85% chocolate, always clamouring for more!

A woman wrapping chocolate bars

Encourage your customers to sample different chocolates to discover their preferences. Sampling reduces the risk for them, allowing them to taste before making a purchase. Over time, tastes evolve, often veering from milk to darker chocolates.

Remember, the joy of chocolate lies in its diversity and the pleasure of exploration. Delve into the depths of cocoa percentages and awaken your customers to a world of flavours waiting to be discovered!