Frequently Asked Questions


Answers

What does the percentage on chocolate bars mean?
The percentage indicates the mass of the chocolate bar that comes directly from the cocoa bean. The higher the percentage, the lower the sugar content and/or other ingredients. Dark chocolate bars that have 70% or more cocoa content have been found to have the greatest health benefits.


What is the difference between a blended chocolate and a named origin chocolate?
In a blended chocolate, the chocolatier compiles cacao from different regions in order to achieve a desired flavor profile and consistency over time. With named origin chocolates (much like vintage wines), the chocolatier uses cacao from one location in order to expose the flavor of chocolate from that specific region or plantation.


What is Forastero? Criollo? Trinitario?
Cocoa beans come from a family of trees with three basic varietals. The two oldest are called Forastero and Criollo. Forastero was first domesticated in the 1700s and now represents 90% of the world’s production due to its heartiness and greater productivity. Criollo is prized for its delicate flavors and is grown today in select regions. Trinitario is a hybrid of Forastero and Criollo and is named for Trinidad, its island of origin. Each varietal has its own unique flavor qualities that change depending on where the trees are grown.


Do you have any organic or fair trade chocolates?
Yes, Bittersweet offers a selection of organic and/or fair trade chocolates from Green & Black, Divine, Grenada Chocolate Company, Chocolove, and more.


Is chocolate good for me? If so, why?
In recent years, chocolate has been shown to contain bioflavenoids, antioxidants and other active ingredients similar to those found in green tea and red wine. These active ingredients are mostly located in chocolate solids, which is why darker chocolate contains more of them. Current research suggests that consumption of chocolate high in cocoa solids does have a net health benefit. To find out more about this topic, visit the Bittersweet Weblog at bittersweetcafe.blogspot.com to find links to health studies and other articles on the subject. Just remember: all things in moderation, including moderation :-).


Which chocolates go well with red wine?
A lot of chocolates are wonderful with red wine, but since both dark chocolate and red wine are high in tannins, it is best to find a chocolate that will not compete but rather complement the experience of the wine. In general, sweet or fortified wines such as ports, tocajis and maderias offer the best opportunities for pairings. Bittersweet generally does not recommend chocolate with bolder, fruitier wines such as Zinfindels or Cabernets, but other reds like Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Merlot can be great complements to a great bar of chocolate.


White wine?
Sparkling wines and champagnes work best with chocolate, although Muscats, Rieslings, Guwurtztraminers and Viogners can all be good as well! We encourage you to experiment...


Scotch?
We highly recommend chocolate with scotch. Play with combination of single malt and named origin chocolates to elucidate some Dionysian combinations!


Where does chocolate come from?
Chocolate is grown in an equatorial band around the world from roughly 20 degrees north to 20 degrees south. The chocolate tree (Theobroma Cacao) is a tropical plant that needs warm humid conditions and fertile soil to bear its unique fruit.


I've heard rumors of bad labor conditions in chocolate growing countries.
Is this true?

Serious problems certainly can exist where the price of the cacao crop is forced to the lowest common denominator (chiefly in certain areas of west Africa). At Bittersweet, we focus on premium chocolates that have the highest standards all along the production chain, and try to focus consumer spending power on those areas of the industry that have the best shot at having a positive impact all along the line. For a more in-depth discussion of this issue, check out this post on the Bittersweet weblog.


Is white chocolate really chocolate?
White chocolate is made from cocoa butter, milk powder, sugar and vanilla. It does not contain cocoa solids that we typically associate with the flavor and color of chocolate. However, it does contain cocoa butter, which is the fat derived from the cocoa bean. Generally speaking, white chocolate is classified as a confection rather than chocolate.


How long will chocolate keep? How should I store it?
Theoretically, chocolate can keep forever, but like most aromatic foods, it loses the potency of flavor over time. Chocolate that is consumed faster will taste better. Store chocolate in a cool dark place, like a cupboard or basement. If you choose to refrigerate or freeze your chocolate, make sure that it is well sealed, as condensation can cause the chocolate to bloom and may damage its flavor and slowly bring it to room temperature before eating.


Why are some of these bars so expensive?
At Bittersweet we focus on the most unique, premium chocolates in the world. Premium high quality chocolates depend on high quality ingredients and skilled labor at every step of production, and the resulting products reflect this artisinal process.


What is cocoa liquor?
Cocoa liquor (also known as cocoa mass) has nothing to do with liquor! These two interchangeable phrases both refer to the fundamental raw ingredient of crushed roasted cocoa beans.


What is cocoa butter? Soy lecithin?
Cocoa butter and soy lecithin are both fats that are added to emulsify chocolates and give them a better mouthfeel and flavor profile.


Which chocolates are vegan?
All dark chocolate is vegan on an ingredient basis. For process vegans, look for cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, or unrefined sugar in the ingredient list to ensure that the bar contains no refined sugar. White chocolate and milk chocolate both contain milk products.


Do you have anything that is sugar free?
Yes, we carry chocolate bars that are made with maltitol, a sugar substitute, as well as chocolates that are 100 % chocolate with no sugar added.


What is the best chocolate bar?
It depends on who you ask! Ask any member of the bittersweet staff for their favorites, or look for staff recommendations on the shelf.