Why is dark chocolate actually bitter?

Warum ist Bitterschokolade eigentlich bitter?
For many participants, the most exciting realization of our chocolate tastings is that dark chocolate does not have to be bitter. Often there is even a collective fear of the dark chocolates that can be tasted in our tastings. And even before the tasting really begins, the obligatory question usually comes up as to why we only try dark chocolate and where the bitterness comes from. As fans of fine chocolate, we love this question…
Supermarket dark chocolate is almost always bitter. And the fact that some are even euphemistically referred to as "fine bitters" doesn't really make it any better. But on the contrary! And so it happens that the attempt to turn to dark chocolate usually resolves after a few bits of bitterness and then milk chocolate is resorted to again. So is the bitterness due to the higher cocoa content?

High cocoa content = dark chocolate?

As you can imagine: the cocoa content has absolutely nothing to do with the bitter note in the chocolate. We even know 100% chocolate that is not bitter but fruity. What can be the reason? There are several steps in the chocolate manufacturing process that can affect the bitterness of the final product. Improper fermentation or unprofessional drying can lead to bitter notes in the chocolate.

cocoa beans bitter

The roast makes the difference

Large chocolate manufacturers buy their cocoa beans on the commodity market. In order to disguise the inferior taste, the beans are intentionally over-roasted. Estelle Tracy from 37 Chocolates can even support this thesis with pictures. On the left is an over-roasted cocoa pod from a major US manufacturer, on the right is a roasted cocoa bean from a small fine chocolate maker. At the sight, it should no longer surprise anyone why dark supermarket chocolate tastes bitter.

bad roast, bitter chocolate Over-roasted cocoa beans result in bitter chocolate © 37chocolates

The best of the bean

However, well-made dark chocolate does not have to be bitter. Instead of bitterness, you can discover completely different notes in fine, dark chocolate, such as fruity, spicy, flowery, native aromas. Similar to wine, there are endless flavors to discover when it comes to fine chocolate! Convince yourself: get a good 70% chocolate (we have a few suggestions ;-) ) and compare it with a dark supermarket chocolate of your choice. You may even find that the supermarket chocolate not only tastes bitter but also tastes strongly of vanilla/vanillin. This is also a common method to drown out the unpleasant flavors of the inferior beans.

Are you interested in the bean?

You got the taste and want more? Does your team (still) work from home or at different locations? Maybe a chocolate tasting as a team event would be just right for you...

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