Scoop of chocolate

The Scoop On Chocolate


A continuation from the Introduction to Chocolate

More from this Article Series:   Making Chocolate —  Selection – Tasting – Connoisseurship
 Food – Health Benefits    Resources – Fun Facts Side Notes


The Types of Chocolate:


Dismayingly, dark chocolate does not have a legal definition or standard by the FDA.  Whereas, milk and even “white chocolate” does.  How implausible when dark chocolate is generally the only recommended type by health and nutrition professionals.     This may be due to lobbying by the giant chocolate manufacturers.  Nonetheless, thanks to connessiuers there is certain guidelines as to what should be considered dark chocolate.   However, they are different according to the source.  But it’s safe to say that no chocolate insider considers anything less than 35% cocoa to be dark chocolate; and most do not consider anything less than 45%.  Health and nutrition experts generally advise at least 70% if you are eating chocolate for the health benefits.   Howbeit, if only it was that simple… the thing is, of those percentages you could be getting disproportionate cocoa constituents such as more cocoa butter than cocoa mass; also the definition of “cocoa mass” could even be different according to who you ask.  So basically, after the shell of the cocoa seed is removed and the cocoa butter is separated from the rest of the cocoa solids, that’s what we’re talking about here.  Not that cocoa butter in moderate amounts is not healthy (as it does contain Vitamin E and other nutrients if minimally processed), but it lacks the flavanols and other nutrients of the other cocoa solids.  So a chocolate bar containing “70%” cacao is by no means necessarily the same as another bar containing “70%” cacao.   It’s mind numbing and pathetic.  If ever there was a reason for the FDA to exist – it’s for reasons like this, and they failed the consumer greatly when they had the chance to benefit the consumer.


Generally up to 45% but usually no more than 35% cocoa solids with a milk product for smoothness and creaminess for texture and flavor.   The regulations in the United States for a product to be labeled as milk chocolate as the product itself, is that it must contain at least 10% cocoa solids and at least 12% milk products. Milk chocolate is seldom used in baking since it’s already a diluted cocoa product.  More milk chocolate is sold than any other type of chocolate in the United States.  Generally, if you are eating milk chocolate you are eating it as a candy and not for any health benefit.


Most chocolate connoisseurs and pundits do not consider “white chocolate” to be chocolate at all.   It is usually omitted from chocolate connoisseurship as well.  Perhaps ironically, white chocolate (if it can or could in fact be called “chocolate”) is the most faked type of “chocolate!”  This is because it is easy to simulate the look, feel, and taste of real white chocolate; and because the key ingredient that makes it genuine white chocolate – which is cocoa butter, is more expensive than the alternatives and substitutes that the manufacturers generally use.   Also, another incentive is that many chocolate manufacturers would like to sell the cocoa butter separately to manufacturers of such things like skin care products.  Still, some do consider it to be chocolate, as it does in fact have a cocoa component.  The FDA requires that when a product is sold as white chocolate, it must contain at least 20% cocoa product (which is nearly always cocoa butter).  See our pictorial didactic “The Little White Chocolate Lies” below for more info…

See Pictorial Didactic:

The Little White (Chocolate) Lies

The Types of Bean:

There are three (and possibly four – depending on your perspective and source) primary types of chocolate beans (which are actually seeds;  beans —  being a known misnomer, but accepted and preferred terminology in chocolate circles).  Of those primary species, there’s additional (mostly slight) variances of species…


This is the most common type of bean.  The most economical, stable, and sustainable type of bean.  Less prone to disease.  Originally from the Andean highlands of Peru/Ecuador and the origin itself of the chocolate bean.   Since this tree is the most stable and sustainable of the chocolate variety, when it was brought to Africa it survived and now thrives there.   Now, the primary source of the market for this bean comes from Africa; particularly the Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Sao Tome.


This is the highly prized bean known for its smooth flavor.  More prone to disease and therefore more costly to produce.   Originally from Mexico, the Aztecs thought the Criollo was the original bean, while they thought the Forastero was the “foreign” or “outsider” bean, they so named it.  And they named the Criollo which roughly translated means “local-original.”  Of course, this was later discovered to be false, yet the names stuck and remain to this day.  Now primarily sourced from Latin America, Central and Southeast Asia.


The name Trinitario comes from the name “Trinidad” because that’s where the tree was originally conceived and produced.  Sometime between the 1670’s to 1680’s, Criollo trees were transplanted to Trinidad, and the trees did begin to produce high quality Criollo beans.  However, around the time period of 1725-1730, the Criollo trees there began to die, and it is not exactly agreed upon as to why.  To make a log story short, the Trinitario tree is a crossbreed of the Criollo and Forastero trees out of a desperate effort to save the Trinidad economy after cocoa production took a nose dive with the crop failure.  By the 19th Century, Trinitario trees were growing in Samoa, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Papa New Guinea.   A little more expensive to produce chocolate with than the Forastero but not quite as much as the Criollo.  Now primarily sourced from the Caribbean including Trinidad, Jamaica, Grenada, and Haiti.

Some other primary offshoots of the above include:

  • Nacional:

Also known as the Arriba, some consider this to be the fourth primary species.   This tree was once thought to be extinct, but some were found growing in the wild once again; and has since been farmed.  It is actually a type of Forastero, but some consider it to be unique enough for its own major distinction classification.  The region of origin is Peru/Ecuador and still primarily sourced from there.

  • Caranero:

A further crossbreed of the Criollo and Trinitario; this tree is originally from Venezuela.

Chocolate Guidance Pictorial:


Baking + Other Types of Chocolate:


This is the type most often used for baking. It’s basically dark chocolate but always has a minimum of 35% cocoa solids, and less than 33% sugar content. In most cases, the more cocoa content and less sugar the better (although it’s still desirable to have some sugar), even if you want to make a sweet treat. For example, if you’re making chocolate chip cookies, most of your sugar and sweeteners will be in the other ingredients of the cookie. The chocolate would be the highlight flavor.


Basically dark chocolate but some ultra-define this to include dark chocolate with extra sugar content. This type is commonly used for baking, but not so much as the bittersweet variety.


Exactly as the name implies, but hardened and not originally intended to be eaten alone as is. It can be used for baking, and that’s its primary purpose. However, a few hardcore nutrition enthusiasts will eat it straight like this. Though it’s primary purpose is for baking, the bittersweet variety is still more commonly used for baking, and usually the recommended choice. It’s nearly always recommended to use the unsweetened type only when a recipe specifically calls for it, and should not be substituted for other kinds of chocolate in recipes.


This is just a term for chocolate that signifies that the cacao products have not been roasted. It is usually combined with a natural sweetener, but is known to have a bitter taste to it. Some nutrition enthusiasts claim that this type of chocolate is healthier because it retains more nutrients such as enzymes and antioxidants. But others claim it is less healthier because unroasted cacao beans are more susceptible to bacteria and disease spreading.


Any type of chocolate can be certified as organic, whether dark, milk, raw, unsweetened, semi-sweet, or bittersweet. Chocolate is just another food that’s either certified with organic ingredients or it’s not. Be careful not to be so scammed when buying organic chocolate however. For example, if the package says: “Made with 70% organic ingredients […]” …just how much of that bar is the milk, sugar, and other ingredients in the bar? If the bar is only 30% chocolate, and they claim 70% of the bar is organic, you could theoretically have absolutely no cocoa specific organic ingredients in your “organic” chocolate bar!


This term has grown over the years primarily because the large chocolate manufacturers wanted it to so they could get in on the market. Originally it was used to signify chocolate native to Mexico and processed the original Mexican way using ground cocoa nibs, cinnamon, and sugar; and sometimes nutmeg and/or chilies.


There’s other types of chocolate such as blond, modeling, compound; —there always will be. This is omni-terminology and we will therefore not cover these less known and less used types of chocolate at this time.

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