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What Is Dark Chocolate?

At She Chocolat we use only the finest dark chocolate in our handcrafted creations.  Why are we so passionate about pure chocolate?


Across the globe, chocolate is becoming the new wine or cheese of this decade. It is the gourmet word that is tingling on the lips of lovers of all things fine. A passion that is sweeping the planet with words like single origin, cacao mass, and cacao nibs buzzing on the packaging. Individuals are just beginning to uncover whisperings of the potential of what this rich sensual ingredient can bring. Customers are beginning to enquire in restaurants and cafes as to ‘what chocolate do you use in your desserts’, before indulging in this food known as the Food of the Gods.

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An article by Oonagh, our master chocolatier

So what is pure chocolate? Well the majority of New Zealanders pay $3.00 for 250gs (about $12/kilo) for what they know as chocolate. But what else is out there???

In Europe, the origin of the chocolate bar as we know it today (as distinct from the origin of the original chocolate which goes back thousands of years), contains three ingredients: cacao butter, cacao powder and sugar. The cacao butter and powder together are known as cacao mass. So if 70% is written on the packaging then 70% of the ingredients is cacao mass and the remainder is sugar. True dark chocolate does not contain dairy. In Europe there are rules as to what constitutes dark chocolate, and the cacao mass must be over 50%. All the health benefits now being recognised are in the cacao mass, so the darker the chocolate the better it is for you!

So what places chocolate in the different price brackets from the $12/kilo supermarket bar to the $156/kilo Swiss bar that is now available at She; the most expensive chocolate bar currently available in NZ?

Three simple reasons:
Firstly, the quality of the beans used in the making of the chocolate. Instead of using beans from anywhere around the planet, of varying qualities; boutique chocolate makers are now travelling the globe in search of the finest cacao plantations, and making their chocolate bars with the beans from that plantation only. This is known as ‘Single Origin’. On their packaging they explain the characteristics and provide tasting notes in a similar way to wine.

For example, in a plantation in Fiji, growing through the Cacao groves were winding creepers of vanilla beans, mangoes, oranges, banana trees, pawpaw, wild sugar cane, chillies and so much more. The cacao bean is extremely porous and absorbs all of these flavours as it grows. These infused flavours are retained in fine chocolate.

The Second aspect that affects the price is the cacao butter. Valuable to the beauty industry for its moisturising qualities, it is an expensive ingredient in chocolate. The price is heavily dependent on how much cacao butter it contains. This is a secret that is never revealed. The manufacturers only have to disclose the amount of cacao mass; cacao butter and cacao powder together. You will never see a break down of how much cacao butter it contains versus how much cacao powder is in the mass. How can you tell? By the taste experience. The cacao butter melts at body temperature - part of its magic. It gives viscosity, flavour and creaminess to the chocolate. Substitute fats are often used instead of the cacao butter, which give a higher melting point, and a different taste experience.

The third aspect is the processing of the chocolate. For chocolate snobs such as myself, chocolate should dissolve on the tongue - a full melting experience. The tongue can detect texture above 22 microns. Fine chocolate is rolled to below this point. The result, a complete melting experience where there is no texture, just dissolving, melting smoothness into the full flavour of the chocolate moment, transcending to another place and time with flavours from the earth to savour. No artificial flavours. This process is expensive, as it requires significantly more time in the rolling process (known as conching). It also means that the finer the molecules are rolled, the more cacao butter that is required to increase the viscosity of the chocolate. So a finer mouth feel means more cacao butter, which means more flavour, more creaminess and more money!!

It is all about how we eat chocolate really. Is it to be a munch and a chew, and reaching for one piece after and another, which a $3.00 bar allows. Or is it about breaking a small piece and allowing it to dissolve on the tongue slowly at body temperature, being taken on a journey from the moist richness of the Amazon jungle to the mystique, mystery and complexity of an ancient food. When that piece dissolves noting how the flavour lingers for minutes on the palette, fully satisfied with just one piece. It is simply about chocolate presence versus a chocolate munch, a matter of taste, preference or mood. You can obviously tell my preference!

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