Different Chocolate Varieties

There are about 20 varieties of cacao tree, but only 3 varieties are commonly used in chocolate production. The difference in flavors and types of chocolate has more to do with how the pods are processed than from the variety of tree from which it originates.

white chocolate

That said, the Forestero variety is used in 80 percent of chocolate because it has a larger pod size and is disease resistant. The Crillo variety is used in between 5 and 10 percent of chocolates and is reputed to be finer, with more sweetness and less bitterness than Forestero. However, the Crillo tree produces fewer and smaller pods and is more difficult to grow. A hybrid of Forestero and Crillo, called Trinitero, is used in the remaining 10 to 15 percent of chocolates and is becoming more popular because it has some of the disease resistance and pod size of Forestero while retaining more of the flavor of Crillo cacao.

The biggest difference in types of chocolate is determined in the manufacturing process, mainly by how much cocoa butter is added to the cacao solids and what additional ingredients are used.

Unsweetened chocolate is 100 percent cacao with no cocoa butter or sugar added. Unsweetened chocolate is very bitter with little sweetness. It is often used in baking because it allows the cook to control the sweetness of a dish by adding the desired amount of sugar. Unsweetened chocolate comes in a solid bar form and in powdered form. The bar form is more generally referred to as unsweetened chocolate while the powder is called unsweetened cocoa.

Cocoa powder can be standard or "Dutched". Dutched cocoa has been put through an alkalization process using potassium carbonate that darkens the cocoa and reduces the acidity. The more the cocoa is alkalized, the darker it gets. It is this alkalization process that gives Oreo cookies their distinct dark color. When cooking, standard cocoa powder should be used in recipes that call for baking soda while Dutched cocoa should be used in recipes that call for baking powder.

Semi-sweet, or bittersweet chocolate, is between 35 and 99 percent cacao solids with added sugar and cocoa butter. This type of chocolate is also often used in baking, and those with the highest cocoa content are darker and more bitter than those on the lower end of the spectrum.

Sweet chocolate has between 15 and 34 percent cacao and less than 12 percent milk solids. This is what most people consider dark chocolate. Milk chocolate contains only 10 percent cacao, 12 percent or more milk and generous amounts of sugar and cocoa butter. Milk chocolate is often not considered a true chocolate, but a chocolate candy because of the small amount of pure cacao it contains.

White chocolate is also not considered a true chocolate, as it contains no pure cacao. White chocolate is made with at least 20 percent cocoa butter and at least 14 percent milk along with added sugar.

<< The Good and Bad About Chocolate | How Chocolate Is Made >>


Xocoatl.org: Varieties
Ghirardelli Chocolate Company: Chocolate Varieties
Facts About Chocolate: Types of Chocolate

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