Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Percentage Matters

Just noticed an article this morning in which several folks dismiss the importance of cocoa mass percentage in chocolate labeling, and I thought it might be worth a quick comment.

As many of you probably know, the percentage listed on a chocolate package indicates the amount (by mass) of that bar that came directly from the cacao seed--i.e. the real raw material of chocolate--which is often referred to as cocoa mass or cocoa liquor. What's the other stuff, then? Mostly sugar, usually with some amount of emulsifying fats (whether soy or cocoa butter) and trace amounts of vanilla.

Percentage isn't everything, but it's certainly more than just a sales tool or a marketing pitch, and it absolutely matters. We know, for instance, that higher percentage chocolates will naturally contain more bioflavinoids and antioxidants, so if you're interested in the health benefits of chocolate, then percentage is an important shopping tool. Being aware of the percentage also gives a general sort of awareness as to the flavor terrritory you may be entering, and can serve as a handy guidepost in your explorations and expansions of chocolate palate.

In the final analysis, of course it's flavor that matters most, and cocoa mass percentage can't offer you much information on that front. Exploring your personal chocolate preferences depends on the hard work of simply eating more and diverse chocolate :-) So go get started! But don't dismiss percentage, or be afraid to use it as a tool along the road.