Dark Chocolate Cocoa Percentage

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The use of the “% Cacao” or “% Cocoa” designation on chocolate wrappers began in Europe, where chocolates must have a label indicating the product’s minimum total of cacao derived ingredients. That includes chocolate liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa powder. In France and Spain, the total amount of  these three ingredients is listed as “% Cacao”; in Germany, it’s “% Kakao”; and in the United Kingdom, it’s “% Cocoa.” The cocoa powder is usually the part that is  associated with the antioxidants or healthy dark chocolate.

In the United States, chocolate manufacturers are not required to declare the percentage of cacao in their chocolate products. However, in typical capitalism fashion, as more Americans become educated about quality chocolate and have sought out fine imported varieties that bear the designation, many American producers have been listing “% Cacao” or “% Cocoa.” Some have also brought out their own lines of cacao-rich chocolate products.

Dark chocolate must generally contain less than 12% milk solids. In Europe, dark chocolate must contain at least 35% chocolate liquor and have cacao (or cocoa) content of at least 43%. In the United States however, the government requires a minimum of only 15% chocolate liquor for the dark chocolate designation.

Also called sweet chocolate in the US, this is what many people consider dark chocolate usually has been 15% to 43% cocoa content. Semisweet chocolate must contain at least 35% chocolate liquor. The cocoa content is usually in the 35% to 49% range. Usually contains high percentage of sugars. Bittersweet chocolate must contain at least 35% chocolate liquor and generally are in the 50% to 100% cocoa (or cacao) range. Milk chocolate must contain at least 10% chocolate liquor and at least 12% milk solids, with the finer milk chocolates including 30% to 40% cacao (cocoa content). Dark milk chocolate cocoa (cacao) content is more in the 45% to 70% range. White chocolate, technically not chocolate at all, must contain a minimum of 20% cocoa butter, at least 14% milk powder and no more than 55% sugar, but no chocolate liquor at all.

Recently US chocolate manufacturers have been trying to get the government to stretch the definitions so they can add more waxes, fillers, vegetable oils, etc. even to the point of removing a substantial amount up to all of the cocoa butter (substituting cheaper vegetable oils).

What do you think about the government changing the definition of cocoa? Leave a comment below.



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