Dark chocolate is like the Sophia Loren of the chocolate world. It's sophisticated and mature, it has been around long enough to not be affected by the trends anymore, and it's still as desirable as ever! Its like a Châteauneuf du Pape, sometimes overlooked for a cheaper, flashier wine that is the current rage but when you go back to it you wonder why you ever ventured away. There is a purity to dark chocolate that tells you this was the way chocolate was meant to be eaten.
There are basic government regulations defining what it takes for a product to be called “dark chocolate”. In the EU (European Union), dark chocolate is basically defined to be at least 35% pure chocolate. In the US, it's defined to be “sweet dark chocolate” if it has at least 15% pure chocolate, or “bittersweet”/”semisweet” if it has at least 35% pure chocolate.
Some people may think the flavor of dark chocolate is too intense and overpowering and to some extent they are right. But most likely their problem is either that they are trying to eat too much of it or that their tastes are not mature enough. Dark chocolate is meant to be eaten in small quantities, savored bite by delectable bite, and not inhaled just because you need a sweet fix. If eaten too quickly the depth of flavor is missed. If you wish that you could enjoy dark chocolate but find the flavor too strong or bitter we recommend easing yourself into it (sort of like you would do in moving from white to red wines). Start with what in the US is called “sweet dark chocolate”. This contains lower percentages of cocoa which will help you start to appreciate the flavor and then you can move on to ones that have a higher percentage and lower sugar content so you can learn to love the true deep flavor of this pure delight (look for ones that have cocoa solids as their first ingredient).
Did you know that the flavor compounds found in dark chocolate actually exceed those of red wine?! From a chemical perspective, chocolate is absolutely the most complex compound known to science, with over 1500 identified flavor components (compared with about 500 in wine). There are a few reasons for this. One is that there are many varieties of cocoa, just like there are many varieties of grape, Forestaro, Trinitario, and Criollo are just a few. From there then each variety has sub-species that have their own characteristics; this in and of itself creates hundreds of flavor compounds. Others are created by the growing conditions and the environment within which it is being grown (weather, soil, micro flora in the air, etc.). Lastly flavors are effected by the time, temperature and humidity involved in the roasting process.
The absolute best news about all of this is the recent discovery that dark chocolate is actually good for you!! It is an antioxidant and contains flavonoids, which are very good for the heart. Dark chocolate is the substance that contains the most of them, more than green tea, black tea, red wine or blueberries. Of course eating more doesn't mean it is necessarily better for you. It is recommended to eat no more than 1.6 ounces of dark chocolate daily to fully benefit from the healthiness of it. Even the fat in dark chocolate is not bad; it's mostly saturated so it is artery-friendly like olive or canola oil. Milk and white chocolate do not have these benefits so dark chocolate is really the only way to enjoy chocolate guilt free.
Now that you are a little better informed about the wonder that is dark chocolate we wish you happy eating. Enjoy the maturity of what you are eating, the various new flavors that you now know about, and the fact that you are actually doing something good for your heart.