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What Does “Percentage of Chocolate” Mean

At Saturday’s Dark Chocolate class at Rendez-Vous Chocolat, someone asked for an explanation of what it means when a chocolate bar states that it is 70% chocolate.  One doesn’t see this as much on Belgium chocolate as in the USA, but it does exist.  So, I decided to do some research so that I could answer this question from both a US and Belgian chocolate perspective. There is a wealth of information on the web about chocolate and percentages.  Though the articles may different in how they go about explaining what the percentages means, they are all in agreement that the answer is not as simple as a mere explanation of ingredient ratios.
On the surface, the percentage refers to the percentage of “Cocoa mass” (a controlled term used in the EU) and cocoa butter in chocolate.  This percentage excludes the other contents of chocolate such as sugar, vanilla and soya lecithin.  However, the quality of the “cocoa mass” can vary such that two chocolates with the same percentages can taste remarkable different.  In the US, the focus seems to be on the percentage of chocolate, completely ignoring the fact that the chocolate may have a fat other than cocoa butter.  Better to stick with Belgian Chocolate where you know what you are getting: chocolate made from the finest cocao with pure cocoa butter.

Below are the articles I found helpful.

Chocolate by the Numbers
By:  CHOCOLATE.COM
URL: http://www.chocolate.com/articles/chocolate-by-the-numbers.html
This article deconstructs the meaning behind the different percentages of chocolate.  First it explains cocoa mass and then it explains how different percentages of cocoa mass impact the taste of chocolate.

Chocolate and Percentages: What Does it All Mean?
By:  Patric Chocolate
DATE: March 3, 2008
URL:
A very detailed look at what percentages of chocolate mean.

Chocolate Linguistics Part 2: Cocoa Mass v. Cocoa Solids
By:  Chocolate in Context
DATE:  August 7, 2007
URL: http://chocolateincontext.blogspot.com/2007/08/chocolate-linguistics-2-cocoa-mass-v.html
This article provides definitions of cocoa mass and cocoa solids from three industry professionals to demonstrate the differing perspectives on these terms and how this confuses the concept of “percentage of chocolate” in labeling.

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2 Comments

  1. ..A little of what you fancy does you good or great news about chocolate….. ..New Zealand……………..Chocolate..is not only delicious but now seems to be good for you in fact very..good for you. Long regarded as seductive but highly calorific and..guilt-inducing junk-food chocolate in fact appears to have..remarkable health benefits according to recently published Dutch..research1.

  2. ………Few folks have a good understanding of chocolate and the huge world of the good stuff beyond Nestles morsels and Bakers squares. So I feel strongly compelled to offer some basic facts that I feel everyone who cooks should know. Believe me this information will save you a fortune in mistakes down the road and the knowledge is critical if you intend on making some of the chocolates and candies I will eventually be posting..Chocolate is made from the cocao bean that is dried roasted and ground. The grinding produces cocoa liquor and from this liquor two distinct items are extracted .A fat that is called cocoa butter and a solid that is called cocoa mass and which is refined to make cocoa powder…Depending on what is then added to the cocoa mass the different varieties of chocolate are produced.

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