In the beginning, there was only darkness…. no milk nor white chocolate; only Aztecs who thought of drying cocoa beans in the sun; crush them, pour some hot water on top, et voila! Shock, oh la la! Then, centuries later, say in 1528, the beverage of the gods created simply with cocoa beans and hot water made its first trip across the Atlantic from the Americas. It was first introduced to the royal court of Spain. It took another century for it to reach the royal courts of France by way of a wedding between Anne of Austria, daughter of King Philip III of Spain and the young French king Louis XIII. Chocolate instantly became the rage in all of Europe and every queen had to sip her cup of hot chocolate for its exquisite taste; its magical exotic powers; and its actually true anti-stress soothing properties due to an abundance of unpronounceable molecules, such as phenylethylamine, anandamide, and theobromine. That last one means “food of the gods” in Greek. The anti-stress paroxysm came with Marie Antoinette on the eve of the French Revolution when people were crushed by taxes and didn't have anything to eat anymore. Peaking at the balcony of her bedroom in Versailles, Marie Antoinette made history and a fool of herself for asking, “What’s all the commotion about?” The court chancellor told her “People are hungry; they don’t have bread anymore.” – “They’re out of bread? Let them have brioche,” said Marie Antoinette. In spite of all the controversy, Marie Antoinette must be credited with the creation of the contemporary French chocolatier tradition of small delicacies made with dark ganache infused with some herbs, fruits, and spices. That is chocolate as we know it today. See, Marie Antoinette had been complaining to the court’s doctors that her medication tasted really bad. “Just do something about it and make my meds taste delicious.” So, the doctors referred the matter to the royal court chemist, Debauve, who injected the meds in little chocolates flavored with fruits and herbs. Hmmmm, delish!
The rest is history and after the French Revolution, when things, settled in the early nineteenth century, French bakers had started using chocolate as well to make various pastries like Éclairs au Chocolat and Pain au Chocolat. As for the royal chemist, he had been granted royal authorization to open a chocolate store in Paris in a pharmacy. It opened to the public in 1800 and the original store, Debauve & Gallais still sells chocolates over two centuries later….without the meds!
Too many consumers believe that Kinder, Mars, and the Three Musketeers are chocolate bliss and kisses from heaven. They’re not. They are only a product of ‘chocapitalism’, a marketing economy driven by low costs and sugary addiction. Dark? Milk? White? Why should it matter that chocolate be white, milk or dark; intense, or of pure origin? From a single estate plantation or a fair trade country? From Cote d’Ivoire or from Venezuela?
White Chocolate is not really chocolate--even though it has chocolate in its name. It contains no cocoa solids but instead has about 20% cocoa butter--the fat extracted from the cocoa beans--which gives it a subtle chocolaty flavor. Milk solids and sugar are added to the cocoa butter, making a rich a creamy faux-chocolate. Essentially, white chocolate is fat and sugar.
Milk Chocolate is usually made of around 10% cocoa solids and 15% milk solids, as well as sugar, an emulsifier, and vanilla for flavoring. Compared to dark chocolate, there are more milk ingredients, more sugar, and less of the nutritionally beneficial cocoa solids. Antioxidants are sacrificed for a smoother taste, which many Americans prefer: 71% of North American chocolate eaters prefer milk chocolate!
Dark Chocolate is made of cacao beans, sugar, an emulsifier to preserve texture, and flavoring such as vanilla. The percentage of cocoa solids in dark chocolate typically ranges from 30% to 70%. Because of the lack of milk additives and the high amount of cocoa solids, there are fewer calories per serving and more antioxidants and flavonoids in dark chocolate than other types of chocolate. Some research studies have shown that antioxidant properties of flavonoids found in cocoa may have potential health benefits. Therefore, opt for the dark chocolate with the highest percentage of cocoa to reap the antioxidant benefits of this delicious treat!
However, even the purported health benefits of flavonoids and antioxidants that might be found in some chocolate cannot outweigh the negative effects of too many calories and too much sugar and bad fat. So when you indulge, try to limit yourself to a square or two, and the darker the chocolate, the better!