"How to buy better Chocolate? And which chocolate should I buy?" - most likely the questions I get asked via e-mail and on social media the most. As a former Chocolate Sales Rep, this is something I could talk about for hours.
Chocolate is a very complex topic but it shouldn't be an intimidating one.
Grocery stores and even houseware stores such as Sur La Table and William Sonoma have started carrying a selection of artisan chocolates. While I pick my wine by the pretties label, I do not recommend this tactic when it comes to chocolate. Just look at that beautiful packaging so many artisan chocolate bars come in these days.
Buy better chocolate at grocery stores
- Buy the best quality chocolate you can afford
- Check if a company uses ethical sourced cocoa.
- Read the ingredients - less is more!
- Avoid products with phrases such as "chocolatey" and "made with chocolate"
- If you don't enjoy the product on its own, don't bake with it.
Buy the best-quality chocolate you can afford
First and foremost, buy the best-quality chocolate you can afford. If the chocolate is the main ingredient, like a flourless chocolate cake, you should spend a bit more, if you can. Store brand does not always mean the product is low-quality. I am a big fan of Aldi's Specially Selected 62% Dark Chocolate Chunks and Trader Joe's Pound Plus products.
Check online if a company uses ethically sourced cocoa. Please be aware that Organic does not mean ethically sourced. A few brands that are widely available and use ethically sourced cocoa are The Endangered Species, Equal Exchange, Guittard, TCHO, Theo Chocolate, Valrhona, and my favorite Austrian hometown hero Zotter. Things to look for on websites are: where do they source their products from, do they talk about sustainability, what do they say about their cocoa farmers?
A few common symbols you may have seen on chocolates before including the Fairtrade Logo, Rainforest Alliance Certified, Fair for Life and Certified B Corporations.
Fairtrade (top left)
Fairtrade International believes that there can be sustainable development that benefits the world’s poorest if the trade is equitable and has transparency. There are many versions of the Fair Trade Certified logo including a Fairtrade International and Fairtrade USA logo. Guittard Chocolate is one of many chocolates Fairtrade Certified
Rainforest Alliance Certified (top right)
The Rainforest Alliance certification seal means that the product (or a specified ingredient) was produced by farmers, foresters, and/or companies working together to create a world where people and nature thrive in harmony. Endangered Species Chocolate for example is Rainforest Alliance certified.
Fair for Life (bottom left)
“Fair for Life” is a brand-neutral third-party certification program for social accountability and fair trade in agricultural, manufacturing, and trading operations. Theo Chocolate is Fair for Life certified
Certified B Corporations (bottom right)
Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Valrhona is a Certifed B Corperation.
Check the ingredients of your chocolate
Read the ingredients. When it comes to chocolate, less really is more. The main ingredients should be
- cocoa (may be also listed as cocoa, cacao, cocoa mass, cocoa liquor, or cocoa solids)
- milk (in milk chocolate, white, and some dark chocolate)
- emulsifier (soy lecithin or sunflower lecithin)
- flavorings such as vanilla.
"Chocolate" products you should avoid
Then there are words and phrases you should never see on any chocolate packaging. If the label states "Made with chocolate" or "chocolatey" the product does not contain enough cocoa (10 percent in the US) to legally be called chocolate. It may also contain fats other than cocoa butter such as vegetable oil. I also recommend avoiding products with artificial sweeteners, or milk substitutes, any of which would also prevent it from being legally designated “chocolate". Do not buy those products.
And here is the big one
And last but not least: If you wouldn’t eat it on its own, you probably won’t want to bake with it.
A few notes about buying chocolate online
When you buy chocolate online, please be aware there are many "resellers", especially on Amazon.com . This is mainly the case with chocolate chips/ callets /pistoles. When I worked in the Chocolate Industry, I have encountered many times customers who purchased products online just to inform them that they received a knock-off or less quality product.
I try to buy directly from a manufacturer such as Valrhona.com and tcho.com to make sure I get what I paid for.
Ideas how to use craft chocolate
Here are a few ideas on how to use craft chocolate in your baking
Endangered Species Chocolate and Equal Exchange have a wide selection of chocolate bars that come in a variety of flavors. Next time you make my gluten free brownies, I recommend topping them with some chopped-up pieces of Endangered Species Chocolate Tart Raspberries and Dark Chocolate Bar. Use Equal Exchange Organic Dark Chocolate Lemon Ginger With Black Pepper in my gluten free Dark Chocolate Ginger Scones.
Use Valrhona Feves or broken up Valrhona Chocolate bars, which you can find at selected Trader Joe's locations, for my Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Try an artisan bar instead of chocolate chips in my Gluten Free Chocolate Pudding. Make sure to avoid a product with inclusions such as pieces of toffee or pretzels.