Thursday, February 1, 2018

Unsweetened Chocolate: A winter tradition that keeps getting better

Several years ago, I started an annual tradition of eating only very dark chocolate and 100% dark chocolate in January and February. I look back at those early days trying out Lindt and Michel Cluizel chocolate bars, and I see a person who didn't think she could ever get used to unsweetened chocolate. Now I eat it all the time, testing roasts and batches of unsweetened chocolate after it has been in my refiner for 24 hours or more. I make 100% dark bars to see how the beans hold up as bitter chocolate, to check acidity levels and creaminess, and see what kind of 'cringe factor' it inspires (and by that I mean the instant reaction to a 100% dark chocolate, and whether or not it evokes the cringy-face a baby makes when eating a dill pickle), and I also now eat it because I enjoy it.

Since I first started writing about tasting unsweetened chocolate in 2012, more bean-to-bar chocolate makers have opened their doors (at a rather rapid pace, I might add). This led to more 100% dark chocolates being introduced across North America and the rest of the world. Not every chocolate maker makes a 100% bar, but some do, and it has certainly become easier to find a good selection.

I also think health trends have driven the introduction of more bars, and a lot of good education by bean-to-bar chocolate makers, which is beginning to have an effect on customers, who are becoming more and more curious about the taste of pure cocoa.

In fact, no sugar chocolate has become a bit trendy. Zotter Chocolates of Austria made unsweetened milk chocolate popular a few years back, when they introduced their 'Milk Chocolate Dark Style' bar, where 70% of the ingredients list was cocoa solids (cocoa beans + cocoa butter/fat) and the other 30% of the ingredients was just milk powder. No sugar added. No alternate sugar added. It was - and still is - a melt-in-your mouth combination that takes just a moment to get used to, and soon enough you find yourself craving it. Then in 2016, East Van Roasters in Vancouver created an unsweetened chocolate bar with cashews ground into it, making a smooth combination that took the edge off of the acidic and fruity Madagascar cocoa beans they were using for the chocolate.

And now, I have discovered that Hotel Chocolat in the UK makes an 80% Supermilk Saint Lucia origin chocolate bar, which takes Zotter's no sugar-milk-chocolate creation one step further. So I thought I'd start the annual tradition with this one.

What I discovered is that perhaps this unsweetened milk chocolate trend can only go so dark. Hotel Chocolat's 80% Supermilk bar is more bitter than Zotter's, and unfortunately it is not quite as smooth. I think between it's texture and the bitterness level (and slight taste of earthy/soil/mould), it lacks the potential for me to go back to it again, in the way Zotter's does. Although I have to say the aftertaste that lingers is pure milk, which is a nice effect.

Another new one that I found at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in November, was Zotter's Protein Kick, with 75% cocoa solids and 25% whey protein. 

This too was not as inspiring to me as their original 70% dark-milk chocolate (with 30% milk).  Granted, the texture is lovely, but the taste of the whey protein takes some getting used to. In fact, it took me about a week, and absolutely no sugar in my diet to get used to it. However, I can imagine that people who consume no sugar ever, can learn to like this bar. And although the whey flavour is a bit of a turn-off for me, I do like the idea of protein, and I think that people who lead a Paleo or no-sugar lifestyle, or perhaps weight-lifting-whey-eating folks, might like it as a post-workout snack.

I also tried Zotter's High-End dark chocolate with 96% cocoa solids, and 4% organic coconut blossom sugar.

This was interesting. Since I work with coconut sugar quite often, I know it is less sweet than regular white or organic cane sugar, and it has a detectable flavour. So the 4% coconut sugar offers a bitter-ish taste in this chocolate, and it really might as well be a 100% chocolate. I do like it better than the Protein Kick bar. And I can see a larger customer base enjoying this bar, since the low-acidity cocoa beans chosen for it and the lovely conching work Zotter has done on the chocolate, has made it so palatable. As far tasting the 'terrior' of the chocolate, there is not a lot of that going on. It is really just a straight up Peru, hints of floral flavours and a sweet bean profile. The lingering aftertaste is quite nice and cocoa-y.

In the next post, I will move on to some new pure 100% dark chocolates, including Soma's newest Arcana 100% bar (yup, it's a blend and it changes seasonally with a Venezuela Porcelana as the base cocoa bean), along with Fresco's line-up of three different single origin 100% bars, and Sirene's Tanzania and Ecuador 100% chocolates.

Happy Chocolate Eating!


  1. A few years ago I weaned myself from chocolate with sugar to 100% chocolate. My drug of choice is Callebaut Unsweetened Chocolate Liquor Discs which come in 2.5Kg/5.5lbs bags. (Although today my usual supplier, Chocosphere, seems to be out of them.)

    I think as one adapts to progressively higher percentages of chocolate, one begins to savor the true, nuanced flavors which are masked by milk and sugar. And I found that I was eating much less.

    Back in the days when I was totally lacking in self control, I could scarf down 6 to 8 oz of milk chocolate without thinking about it. (Get thee behind me, Cadbury!) As I progressed to 70%, then 80%, 85%, and 90%, I found my daily consumption dropped to a couple of ounces at most. With the 100% discs, I eat less than an ounce a day and get no extra sugar or milk.

  2. Oh, and my favorite 100% bar is François Pralus. Smooooooooth and tasty.

  3. I think most people would agree with your awesome article which is specially related of cookies and food. I am going to bookmark this web site so I can come back and read more articles. Keep up the good work!
    La Casa Alfajores

  4. i love dark chocolates

    How to pass Nebosh IGC3
    Nebosh IGC Registration
    IOSH MS course in Chennai
    Nebosh Course in Chennai
    Safety Courses in India

  5. I couldn't be happier. The paper was excellent and was done early which gave me time to review it. I felt guilty using the service at first, but I needed help and there is no shame in asking for help. I used the paper as a learning tool and it helped tremendously! Got an A!