Dark chocolate is one of the most delicious and healthy treats. It can be consumed as a snack or an after-meal dessert. It is made from cacao beans, which are grown in tropical areas.
The process behind making dark chocolate has been around for centuries. Many people tend to skip dark chocolate because it may contain bitter flavors.
Despite its long history of use, many people are still unaware of why dark chocolate tastes bitter even though it contains sugar.
More importantly, people do not know that there are different types of bitterness that can be found in this product. Even those who love eating dark chocolates may wonder why they prefer some brands over others or one type of dark chocolate over another.
This article provides detailed information on why dark chocolate can be bitter and how this bitter taste can be minimized by adding sugar.
Chocolate is a food that is derived from the seed of the tropical cacao tree. It has been known to be enjoyed for centuries by people all over the world.
The word chocolate is derived from Nahuatl, which is one of Mexico's indigenous languages. The term means "food with a watery base."
Of course, today chocolate does not necessarily have this watery base anymore since there are many ways in which it can be prepared and made into confectionaries and chocolates.
There are many different types of chocolate available today, but dark chocolate remains among the favorites in most countries around the world because of its rich flavor and texture.
Dark chocolate refers to a variety of cocoa-based chocolates that have 60% or more cocoa content. The cocoa content will be in the form of cacao beans and cocoa butter.
One key criterion to claim the chocolate as dark chocolates is that it does not contain milk or milk products in it. If the chocolate contains any milk or milk products or milk solids, then the chocolate will be considered as Milk Chocolate.
Like the 24-carat gold standard, 100% dark chocolate is considered to be pure chocolate because it does not contain any type of dairy product such as milk, heavy cream, butter, etc.
Ingredients of Dark Chocolate
The ingredients of dark chocolate are
- cocoa beans,
- sugar, and
- cocoa butter.
The occasional addition of vanilla enhances the taste.
Most high-quality brands will use 100% pure cacao bean to make their chocolates and they are called Bean to Bar Chocolates or Artisan Chocolates.
They also tend to have rich flavors because it brings out the natural taste of the cocoa than other flavors or additives would do.
Real chocolates should not contain any allergens or artificial sweeteners or chemical substitutes.
History of dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is said to have originated from the Mesoamerican civilization that existed in Mexico more than three thousand years ago.
The Aztecs appreciated dark chocolates for their health benefits, which is why it became one of their main products for trade and commerce. Aztecs would mix them with other ingredients like cornmeal, chili pepper, vanilla, etc. to make a beverage that was enjoyed by the nobles during special occasions or festivities.
At some point in time, this drink spread across Europe eventually reaching the United Kingdom where it was perfected.
Today, dark chocolate is used across many countries all over the world because of its sweet taste and distinct flavor. However, there are some people who do not prefer its bitter taste which leads to questions about how bitters are added to chocolate.
Read here - to more about the history of the chocolates.
Making of Dark Chocolate
There are so many methods to make dark chocolate and the most popular process of making dark chocolate is the Bean to Bar method.
This method is similar to how coffee beans are roasted, ground, and brewed.
The beans are then roasted for several hours which changes their color to reddish-brown. They start to expand which allows more air into contact with them so they can develop complex flavors.
Once they have cooled down slightly, they are put into a milling machine that crushes the softened beans. Their shells are removed so the "nibs" can be further crushed.
The ground beans, cocoa nibs or powder, and cocoa butter are combined in a vat where they are heated to a certain temperature. They will have a smooth texture once they have been stirred properly with heat.
The final product will have solidified into one hard bar of dark chocolate with a unique flavor and taste due to their ingredients and maturation time under specific conditions like humidity and temperature.
What gives Dark Chocolate its Bitterness?
The bitter taste is elicited by the alkaloid found in cocoa beans and this accounts for dark chocolate's bitter taste.
There are two key alkaloids in cocoa beans that can be known as caffeine and theobromine.
Theobromine is a mild stimulant while caffeine has stronger effects. Theobromine is the primary reason why dark chocolate tastes bitter.
This alkaloid can be found in other types of quality chocolate but it tends to have a more bitter taste when combined with dark chocolate.
Theobromine is a bitter alkaloid found in chocolate and it has effects similar to caffeine. Theobromine is found in 35% of the cocoa bean while caffeine makes up 1.5 to 2%.
Dark chocolate will get its bitter taste from theobromine because this alkaloid stimulates your central nervous system by increasing the production of neurotransmitters that affect mental processes such as mood, motivation, memory, etc.
This process releases dopamine which gives one a pleasant sensation and makes them happy. These neurotransmitters can cause feelings of anxiety when there is too much stimulation going
Theobromine has cardiac stimulating properties which can help dilate blood vessels while its diuretic effect aids weight loss efforts by eliminating excess water from the body.
Other Chemical Compounds
Another reason for the chocolate taste to be bitter is the fact that cocoa beans contain more than 300 chemical compounds.
These include phenylethylamine, anandamide, and tryptophan which are also found in other foods.
What determines the bitterness in the chocolate?
There are several factors that contribute to the bitterness of dark chocolate bars.
These include the extent and method of fermentation, roasting, and also how much cocoa is used. Dark chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa will taste more bitter than those that have a lower percentage of it.
The beans and their source and processing conditions can impact how they flavor the resulting chocolate bars. Higher quality beans will produce more flavors while poorly fermented or unroasted beans will give an overpowering, acidic flavor which makes them impossibly bitter for some people's taste.
Bitterness and Cacao Content
Another factor that determines the bitterness of dark chocolate bars is their cocoa content. The higher this percentage, the more bitter it will be.
If a chocolate bar has a cocoa content of 100%, then that means that no sugar was added. The taste of this type of dark chocolate can be too bitter and strong.
In order to counterbalance the bitterness of high cocoa levels, manufacturers add sugar so they can reduce the sharpness in its flavor profile while also giving it sweetness.
These percentages may vary from brand to brand so you should try them out to know which one you prefer.
Why dark chocolate is liked even though it is bitter
As aforementioned, dark chocolate has a bitter taste but people still love it. This is because of its rich flavor due to the process of making chocolate by fermenting and roasting cocoa beans or nibs.
This makes an intense flavor that perfectly complements the sweetness found in sugar.
People prefer dark chocolate because this type of chocolate consists of more than 70% cocoa solids. It can contain a minimum of 55% cocoa butter which is good for your heart especially if you are taking it as medication prescribed by your doctor.
Health Benefits of Bitter Dark Chocolate
For most people, dark chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa is a healthy alternative to regular chocolates which contain a lot of sugar and fat.
Aside from being bitter, dark chocolate has even more health benefits that make it a better choice over other confectioneries.
Dark chocolate contains high levels of antioxidants that help combat free radicals in the body. Antioxidants can also be found in fruits and vegetables but their concentration in dark chocolate is way more than what they have.
This will slow down aging and increase your lifespan because antioxidants protect cells from getting damaged by these free radicals.
Dark Chocolate releases serotonin which helps elevate moods making one happier when they eat it.
This chemical compound works by stimulating the production of dopamine which regulates one's mood, behavior, and motivation.
Dark chocolate contains chemicals that can help control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
This will protect their body against ailments brought about by diabetic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, blindness, etc.
Dark chocolate is rich in polyphenols which help reduce cholesterol levels making your heart healthier than before.
This has been studied extensively over the years to come up with conclusive results that quality dark chocolate stimulates blood flow while lowering blood pressure giving its user a stable heart rate after eating it.
Read here - to know more about the benefits of chocolates.
Pick your Dark Chocolate
The reason why dark chocolate has a bitter taste is mainly due to the process of making it from cocoa beans and the nature of the cacao beans.
It is actually sweet but its flavor becomes more intense after fermentation and roasting. This, in turn, produces chemicals that affect the brain by stimulating good emotions which will make you happy.
Dark chocolate also gives health benefits such as reducing blood pressure, cholesterol levels and controlling diabetes among others. It even boosts antioxidant levels in the body which makes it a better alternative to other sweet-tasting chocolates out there.
Now that you know all about dark chocolate, it's time to pick your favorite brand. Do some research and find the one that has the right percentage of cocoa for your taste.
Don't forget to take note of the ingredients used in the preparation and make sure that raw cocoa is one of them. This will give you more benefits than normal chocolates which are filled with sugar and fat.