Simran Sethi ’92 is the author of Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love.
A LOT OF CHOCOLATE BARS carry labels with a “virtue halo” over them, as they proclaim to be fair trade, Rainforest Alliance Certified, organic. Those factors are important, but they’re not really connected to why we crave a chocolate bar: taste.
To judge its taste and not just its eco-worthiness, look for where the cacao was actually grown and not where it was processed (i.e., Belgium). Select chocolate from Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Ecuador or anywhere in the very thin band around the equator. Often, when companies mention a single origin, they want to signal something about the flavor and the terroir—something we often associate with wine, but that also applies to chocolate. Although each microregion has different qualities, generally speaking, chocolate from Madagascar is known for its bright, slightly acidic notes, while chocolate from Ghana has deep cocoa flavors and is considered the baseline for “chocolate” flavor.
Second, look at the ingredients. Avoid fillers, like peanuts and caramel and high-fructose corn syrup. They’re not necessarily bad, but once you have enough of those, the taste of the chocolate begins to matter less.
SAQ, Fall 2016