What’s your percentage of cocoa?

February 5th, 2013 | Posted by greg in Daily life...

There is something about chocolate that keeps making me come back for more, but it isn’t the percentage of cocoa content. After decades of using chocolate in every other possible form, ranging from dropping chocolate in sub zero 70° proof alcohol to slow cook and caramelize white chocolate, I have seen it all. And when we taste chocolate and people tell me this one is 70% and this one is 71%, honestly, it makes no difference to me. Let’s be frank here, chocolate doesn’t need all that fuss to shine; it is simply one of the most amazing foods ever that just need to be itself.


As I was talking with a friend chocolatier, we both agreed that the percentage content of cocoa in commercial chocolate was coming to an end and it was starting to be very much a gimmick. Although the percentage is a scientific fact, we thought that with so many emerging single origin plantations and other superb blends of cocoa from all over the world, the actual flavor of the roasted cocoa beans was a much more important factor to focus on. And when you think about it, it makes total sense. Take a bottle of wine for example; will the winemaker ever focus on the percentage of Grenache vs. the percentage of Syrah grapes in his wine? Of course not… it is all about terroir, tannin and origin. The flavor, the texture, the mouth feel, you name it…

Of course, the global chocolate US$50-billion-a-year industry isn’t ready to walk that way anytime soon. Forever, brands have focused on the percentage of cocoa rather than focusing on the flavor and surely, the cost incurred to re-brand all this must be phenomenal. Again, I am no fortune teller, nor do I see the future, but I could easily picture a tablet of chocolate with a wine-like label saying: Porcelana Bianca – Pure Criollo – Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela. (Which is one of the best cocoa bean around by the way) and where the mention of percentage would only be on the ingredient label, but not in font size 72 on the front of the package.

Then we would purchase chocolates for what they are, not what they have become.


Today the percentage of cacao is what drives people to buy chocolate, it makes them feel expert in the field: “Hi, I bought that 82% cocoa – awesome!” Awesome maybe, but far from being a culinary breakthrough. Beside the massive cost incurred in re-branding all the industry, it would also involve a sort of savoir-faire, something not many industrial chocolate makers can boast about. Thus, the industry would probably get divided with a new branch of wine-like connoisseur and where this new breed of chocolate would actually evolve.

The chocolate that we know today are excellent, don’t get me wrong, and there is nothing wrong with cocoa content in percentages either, but if I had to give my humble opinion on the future of chocolate then, it would be as such. Of course, I would be a perfect utopian to think it would happen overnight, but as always and as for many other foods, I allow myself to dream of a better tomorrow for chocolate.

PS: This post was featured on the Hong Kong Tatler!

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7 Responses

  • Lyn Middlehurst says:

    The one time when the percentage of cocoa IS important is when you are dairy-free. Then you have to have full-on cocoa or not at all. What are the other ingredients added to cocoa? Dairy, yes?

    • Absolutely Lyn! When I talk about the cocoa content, it is really in relation with flavour. Brands use the percentage argument as a selling point while it doesn’t necessarily reflect the true quality of the chocolate. Of course, the ingredients must be mentioned and as a chocolate purist, I can only say that the more cocoa, the better! Leave sugar and dairies out! ;)

  • The Number Game is merely an easier way out for HKers to pretend they “KNOW IT ALL”, as with wines (however many vintage yrs, regardless of grape varieties, origin, terroir etc). If i’m not mistaken, the percentage is nth more than the amt of cocoa bean used in relation to other ingredients in the choc, e.g. butter (no indication of what type – Cadbury’s uses palm, pricier ones use COCOA!!! ), sugar (again a range of types) etc…

    TSK. encore, les HKers sont si déçevants! >:( such a pity, given its wide range of resources (albeit flown in…), that they hv such a shallow understanding of sth so awesomefab! :”( xx

  • ChefT says:

    For taste:just about all! For health benefits 72% and above!

  • Henry Chow says:

    I agree with you – although to a certain extent the percentage is important to me because I don’t want excessive sugar to take away the real flavours of the chocolate itself. I understand that different beans/conching etc. require different percentages of sugar to bring out their best qualities…

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