This is by far the most popular and widely consumed type of chocolate in the world. Its existence came about due to the diligence of a chocolatier called Daniel Peter in the 1870s. He was searching for a way to combine milk with cocoa to make a creamy, pale chocolate that was less bitter than the dark chocolate of the time. He tried and failed to successfully combine these two ingredients and realised that it was because of the water content of milk. Adding water to chocolate proved to be disastrous but he plodded on, determined to find a solution. After almost eight years of failed experiments I would have been tempted to just give up and accept that there was no answer to the problem. However, luckily for us, he carried on his quest and eventually succeeded by using condensed milk. It didn’t take long for this new creamy variety to gain a popular following. Nowadays, it is made using either condensed milk or milk powder.
As with other varieties, milk chocolate can vary greatly in its composition and flavour. Different guidelines apply in different countries and this too can have a big impact on the taste of the chocolate. In America milk chocolate has to have a minimum of 10% cocoa solids, whereas in Europe this amount is 25%. This means that sugar and milk solid levels vary accordingly. People do tend to get a taste for the particular chocolate that’s available to them. Of course, chocoholics have a taste for all chocolate.
It’s time to talk about the main types of chocolate now and I’m going to start with the purists’ choice – dark chocolate. And why is it the purists’ choice you might well ask? Basically, dark chocolate has the most amount of cocoa solids and therefore the most actual ‘chocolate’ in it. The higher the cocoa solids in a bar of chocolate, the better the quality and, if you like your chocolate authentic, you should be looking at choosing something with at least 70% cocoa content. You also know that if there’s plenty of cocoa in there, there isn’t going to room for much else. Dark chocolate doesn’t have any milk or milk powder in it either so you get more of a true chocolate flavour. However, this isn’t to everyone’s taste, as it can be quite bitter. Also, you need to remember that if the cocoa solids are high then there’s going to be less sugar, which will again make the chocolate taste bitter.
There is a huge taste difference between a good quality dark chocolate and a cheap milk chocolate bar and many people really don’t like the taste of the good stuff. Personally I think this is more to do with conditioning than flavour. We’re so accustomed to the almost sickly sweet taste of everyday chocolate that it’s difficult to get our taste buds round the bittersweet taste and brittle texture of dark chocolate. Once you’ve adjusted your expectations, you’ll soon appreciate what you’ve been missing out on. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for the everyday variety – it’s still chocolate isn’t it?