What are the Major Types of Chocolate?
Tasty Habits uses only premium or couture chocolate types. We explain here what that means and why is it different from cheap grocery store chocolate
“Chocolate is good for you when you know which type and quality to choose”
Start by answering these questions – do you eat chocolate? If you do, what type do you eat? If you are not all that interested in the tastes and benefits of chocolates, you probably do not know what the various types of chocolates are. Perhaps you just want to eat and enjoy the taste. But should you do that? My simple answer is: No!
It does not matter if you are a producer or a consumer, it is best to know about the various types of chocolates. If you don’t, you cannot get the best out of them or enjoy your chocolate eating experience. So, who exactly says what the different types of chocolate are? Well, this is based on the government regulations that define their ingredients. And the ingredients in turn define the benefits. These standards can differ from one country to another, but the overall general consensus is mentioned here in this article.
The individual features of each chocolate depend on how it is made. Therefore, by reading this article, you will gain insight into the various types of chocolates and what formally defines them as chocolates in the USA, Canada, and Europe. These types of chocolate are:
- Dark chocolate
- Milk Chocolate
- White Chocolate
- Ruby Chocolate
- Gold Chocolate
Even more, the core types of chocolate can take various forms by making little changes to the production process. These variations are:
- No sugar (zero sugar) chocolate
- Compound Chocolate
- Modeling Chocolate
- Single source chocolate.
Benefits of chocolate
The general term ‘chocolate’ refers to a range of foods that are derived from cocoa and blended with fat, such as cocoa butter, and finely processed sugar. The end product is usually a solid sweetmeat. The classification of chocolates into types is based on the specific proportion of cocoa used in its production.
Many people do feel guilty after eating chocolate because of the idea they have about it contributing to massive weight gain. Well, once you discover the immense health benefits of eating chocolate, you won’t have to worry so much about adding a little weight. This doesn’t mean there are no negative consequences for your health from eating chocolate, especially when eaten in excess. But the seeming ‘dark side’ of chocolate should not be your reason for labelling chocolate bad.
To start with, eating chocolate is a great way to keep your heart healthy. Scientific studies show that one of the components of chocolates, flavonoids, affects your veins and arteries, helping them remain supple. In one piece of research, 144,000 participants were served dark chocolate for a week. The risk of developing a heart attack was reduced by up to 37% while the risk of developing a stroke was reduced by about 29%. A release by Harvard Medical School also suggested that taking two cups of hot chocolate daily contributes to keeping the brain healthy and reducing memory decline in seniors.
Likewise, a high concentration of flavonoid in chocolates can make the skin withstand a double portion of UV light compared to how much a person on lower doses can tolerate on their skin. Chocolate has also proven effective in reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, otherwise known as “bad cholesterol”. Other health benefits of chocolate include anti-inflammatory properties, lowering of high blood pressure, improved blood sugar sensitivity, strengthening of the immune system, as well as supplying magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, and antioxidants.
Main ingredients of chocolate
Every piece of chocolate contains at least 4 ingredients. Those are cocoa solids, cocoa butter, sugar, and milk powder (or alternative milk). Sometimes an emulsifier is included. However, walking into a store to buy chocolate is no guarantee you will be getting a good measure of the ingredients. In simple terms, your knowledge of the ingredients can impact how you pick your chocolates.
Various cocoa components are separated during the production of cacao into chocolate liquor or chocolate mass. The cocoa mass is the first product obtained in the process – it is made by grinding the shelled cocoa bean. The cocoa mass is then passed through various processes to produce either cocoa powder or cocoa butter.
Let’s take a deeper look into each category:
- Cocoa mass (unsweetened chocolate): Cocoa mass is produced during the first liquid stage of the process. This is described as ‘micronizing’ the cocoa beans and the aim is to slacken the shell from the nib of the bean before it is ground and milled. Cocoa mass is an unadulterated form of chocolate – the pure and ground state of chocolate that gives a strong and deep flavor. The cocoa also goes through some other stages to release cocoa liquor – the base ingredient in manufacturing chocolate.
- Cocoa powder: Cocoa powder is produced when the cocoa butter is removed from the cocoa mass. This is a mechanical process. The powder is an unsweetened chocolate product which gives a deep chocolate flavor to desserts and beverages. Chocolates that are rich in cocoa powder retain a higher concentration of cocoa butter. The exception is ‘white chocolate’ which has no cocoa powder. Since the cocoa powder is dissolvable, it is the main ingredient in chocolate drinks and ice creams. The cocoa powder is then further categorized into natural cocoa and Dutch-processed cocoa. The natural cocoa has a lighter brown color as well as a slightly acidic strong chocolate taste. On the other hand, the Dutch-processed cocoa has a deeper and warmer color with a milder taste. In essence, the Dutch-processed chocolate is natural cocoa that has been subjected to alkalinity testing to make it pH neutral.
- Cocoa butter: Also referred to as theobroma oil, cocoa butter is the fat component extracted from the cocoa beans. The fat is pale yellow, edible and it retains the cocoa flavor and aroma. Although it is used in the production of some ointments, pharmaceuticals, and toiletries, it is still mainly used in the production of chocolates. Cocoa butter is one of the major ingredients used to produce almost every type of chocolate, especially white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate.
Types of chocolate
- Dark Chocolate: This is arguably the second most popular type of chocolate. It has a deep brown color and is not as sweet as milk chocolate, and the recent revelations of the health benefits it poses have increased its demand. They are produced by using a high concentration of cocoa. All the fat content is taken from the cocoa butter other than the milk: the exception is “dark milk” chocolate which is sort of a hybrid. They are also called “plain chocolate” and can either be eaten as they are or used in cooking. The form that contains no sugar and used in cooking is called “unsweetened chocolate”. Dark chocolate is further classified into three groups:
-Semisweet: Semisweet chocolate is the label that has been conventionally used in the United States to describe dark chocolate based on the quantity of added sugar. The cocoa content in semisweet is about 60%. It is usually used interchangeably with bittersweet chocolate. The usual production form is the baking chips, but it is also produced in bar or block forms.
-Bittersweet: Bittersweet chocolate has almost the same description as semisweet chocolate. It is also used to describe dark chocolate based on the quantity of added sugar. Bittersweet has less added sugar compared to semisweet. Likewise, the cocoa range of the bittersweet chocolate is around 70%, and it is used for the same purpose as semisweet – you can use it either in baking according to your recipe or eaten as is. Bittersweet chocolate gives the recipe a less sweet, yet deeper taste flavor.
-Couverture chocolate: This type of dark chocolate comprises a high percentage of cocoa solids. The concentration of cocoa butter is also higher than in other forms of chocolates. The high quality of couverture chocolates makes them the chocolate of choice for professionals for dripping, layering, decorating, and garnishing.
- Milk Chocolate: Largely the most popular type of chocolate, milk chocolate is the classic. Milk chocolate is produced in solid form and it has a brown color, a beige feel, and a sweet taste. It is produced by combining chocolate liquor – which comprises cocoa solids and cocoa butter – with sugar and milk. In some cases, an emulsifier, such as lecithin, could be added to boost the texture. The concentration of the milk and sugar can vary but the FDA recommendation is at least 10% chocolate liquor and 12% milk. Milk chocolate is a lot sweeter than dark chocolate and it also has a softer texture. However, it is not as sweet and smooth as white chocolate. If your wish is simply for a pleasurable chocolate eating moment, then milk chocolate is a great option. Milk chocolate can also be used in baking if you want a calmer chocolate taste.
- White Chocolate: There is no way you would see this type of chocolate and not identify it – it has a distinguishing cream or ivory color. Basically, it is produced by combining sugar, cocoa butter, milk, vanilla, and lecithin – the emulsifier responsible for keeping the ingredients together. Just like the other types of chocolates, the ratio of the individual ingredients is usually defined by a governmental body. Based on those ingredients, the sweet vanilla aroma of white chocolate comes as no surprise. Since white chocolate is also rich in cocoa butter, sugar, and milk, this gives it a rich, soft, and creamy texture.
One of the unique points of white chocolate is that it contains no cocoa solids. The cocoa solids are responsible for the dark brown color associated with chocolate, so its absence leads to the cream color of white chocolates. In any case, it is not the ‘dark brown chocolate color’ that defines chocolate: it is the coca butter and other ingredients used in the production, and white chocolate is produced from the cocoa bean.
If kept under proper storage conditions, white chocolate has a shelf life of up to four months. As well as the satisfying taste that makes it very suitable for eating, white chocolates can also be used for baking, cooking, and decorating.
- Ruby Chocolate: When this type of chocolate was launched back in 2017 it was dubbed the fourth type of chocolate. The ruby chocolate was proposed by Barry Callebaut, the Belgian chocolate maker. Ruby chocolate has a very distinctive red-pink hue which distinguishes it greatly from the other chocolate types. Contrary to some preconceptions, the ruby chocolate is not a colored white chocolate. Instead, the color is a result of the specific cocoa used in the production process known as the ruby cocoa bean. The bean is primarily grown in Ecuador, Brazil, and Ivory Coast.
Because the variety is quite new, there are no standard definitions yet for the varying quantity of each ingredient. Nevertheless, the ruby chocolate contains 47.5% cocoa content and 26.3% milk. That contributes to the fruity aftertaste and the crisp sour tones. Ruby chocolate is a great option for creating a true and fruit-forward chocolate delicacy.
- Gold Chocolate: Alongside ruby chocolate, gold chocolate has been one of the most demanded chocolate types of recent times. And that demand would continue to increase. In fact, its thick caramel chocolate taste – like of mixture of toffee, cream, butter, and a sprinkle of salt – is now becoming something of an obsession for a lot of people. The warm taste and amber color of gold chocolate are both a characteristic feature of the caramelized combination of milk and sugar. You can purchase it in the standard block form or have it brushed over some Spanish doughnuts. Alternatively, gold chocolate can be used as a dipping sauce, molded, or a hot chocolate.
Only tasting this chocolate for yourself would answer why many more people are falling in love with it. Gold chocolate is fairly new to the market and does not have the same reputation as some other types of chocolate yet, but that in no way limits its quality. More and more stores are including gold chocolate on their list. It would be of little surprise if this type of chocolate becomes a market leader in the near future.
Chocolate Types Summary
Higher cocoa and cocoa butter concentrations with lower sugar and milk percentages
Most popular with at least 10% (US) to higher (20% or 25% Europe and Canada). More sugar and milk % than Dark
Smooth taste with only Cocoa butter (no cocoa solids) and milk as main ingredients
Natural pink-ish color woth fruity taste.
Close to white chocolate in composition but with caramelized taste and golden color
Variations of Chocolate Types
- No sugar (zero sugar) chocolate: The percentage of sugar found in chocolates has always been a concern to a lot of people- especially with the increase in the number of people coming down with diabetes. There have been many debates on how to replace sugar in the chocolate and still retain the ‘chocolate’ taste. And today it has become way more than this as chocolate makers now use various methods to produce chocolates with no added sugar.
Take Barry Callebaut for example, their initial approach was to create chocolate with reduced sugar, and also, they later used Maltitol to produce chocolate with zero sugar. They described maltitol as the best sugar alternative based on its taste and production cost. The only limitation is that such chocolates require high concentrations of polyols, and so the producers are obliged to warn consumers of the possible laxative effect. They also have other chocolate products with sugar alternatives like stevia, but its availability is different from one country to another. Other known companies like Valrhona also have their no sugar versions. Other companies are also competing in this area.
The Keto diet has become extremely popular lately. If you are already on the diet or you are considering going on the diet, it does not mean you cannot enjoy the desirable taste of chocolate. The aim of the diet is to eat fewer carbs and more fat. That is why no sugar chocolate is your best option. The absence of sugar means an increase in fat content. So, you can continue your diet and get the chocolate satisfaction you desire anytime.
- Compound Chocolate: This type of chocolate is produced by combining cocoa with vegetable fat and adding sweeteners. Compound chocolate is the opposite of the couverture dark chocolate. It replaces the cocoa butter in couverture chocolate with vegetable oil. Compound chocolate is often regarded as a cheaper alternative to ‘true’ chocolate. The hard vegetable fats used in the production such as coconut oil or palm kernel oil are a lot less expensive than cocoa butter. This impacts the overall taste experience.The compound chocolate is largely used as a substitute for enrobed chocolate, especially on less costly chocolates. Compound chocolate application is rleativelysimple: you melt it and apply. The usual concern with compound chocolate is that it has a 44-degree melting point, which could result in digestive difficulties. Usually, compound chocolate is found in grocery stores, some are produced by small scale chocolate makers, referred to as artisans. You can even make compound chocolate yourself if you know the craft intimately. If you are after a great taste experience this is not the best choice.
- Single Origin Chocolate: This name is quite straight forward: these chocolates are produced from cocoa beans harvested from a single source. If you are looking for the ultimate tasting experience of chocolate, this is where you can start looking. Each type of single origin chocolate tells a story about the environment and place the cacao tree grew in. Each single origin chocolate will have a unique and distinct taste and will surprise you with discoveries that you can make on your own. Some will have earthy residual taste like some African types. Some will have a smokey taste as the cacao fields are close to tobacco fields. Some will have some spicy taste as the crop was in area where spices are grown or processed and so on.
- Modeling Chocolate: This ‘chocolate paste’ is produced by melting the chocolate – either dark, white or milk chocolate – and combining with a syrup. It could be corn syrup, golden syrup, or glucose syrup. This type of chocolate is mostly used by cake-makers and patisseries who use chocolate to decorate the cake and pastries which is possible since the chocolate can be made into various shapes and forms. It can be easily molded alongside other soft palatable ingredients like buttercream, marzipan, fondant, and frosting. Summarizing the words of people who have used modelling chocolate, they fell in love with it because it didn’t quick to dry out too quickly, and it remained solid at room temperature. They also claimed that the edges worked perfectly in line, and it can easily be remodeled, reworked, crashed, and built again until you have your desired quality. It is meant for shaping relatively complex 3D design more that for tasting.
What makes a chocolate type formally ‘chocolate?’
- In the USA: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for naming and the ingredients used to produce chocolates. The Chocolate Manufacturers Association has made various efforts geared at influencing the FDA to allow the substitution of cocoa butter with vegetable fats and oil.
- Europe: In Europe, the regulations are far more liberal than in the United States and Canada. However, those regulations are in some cases further limited by each country. For instance, the products that are labelled as “family milk chocolate” in some parts of Europe can be freely branded as “milk chocolate” in other places like the UK, Republic of Ireland and Malta.
- In Canada: In Canada, the equivalent of the FDA is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The body is responsible for the implementation of the Food and Drug Regulation (FDR) and the Food and Drugs Act (FDA).
You may feel like knowing the various types of chocolate is a hassle you want to avoid. But if you really want to enjoy chocolates, you need to know the types of chocolate and what distinguishes each. Simply put, the more you know about chocolates, the better they become.
So now you have learnt about the types of chocolate, choose the one that satisfies your craving and go for it!
It is such a pleasure to know and experience the awesome taste of each chocolate type.