One of the things that a lot of people talk about when you give up sugar is dark chocolate. And it’s often hugely off-putting to people who prefer milk – which is probably most people. Especially younger people with more excitable taste buds who can pick up every hint of bitterness in dark, cocoa-rich chocolate. But it is worth gently leading yourself down the path from milk to dark (if you like white chocolate I can’t help you; it’s also not really chocolate), for all sorts of reasons. These include:
- Lower sugar content. While there are other things added to chocolate, you can get an at-a-glance idea of how much sugar is in it by how much cocoa there isn’t. 70% cocoa? Roughly 30% sugar.
- More of all the stuff that people bang on about that’s good for you. (I don’t pay too much attention to this – I eat it cos I like it.)
- It’s considerably harder to overdose – it’s richer, more bitter, more complex and your palate can only take so much.
I’ve embraced dark chocolate enthusiastically enough that I now have a handful of favourites in the 70%-100% category (yes, 100%). If you are starting from a very sweet-and-milky point, then there are a couple of more interesting options that could start expanding your horizons, such as Green & Black’s 37% milk which dials up the cocoa intensity a bit (compared to the Creamy Milk which is 32%). But if your main experience of dark chocolate is the odd cookie chip or nibble of Bourneville and you’d like to move further down that path, there are some far more interesting options…
Stage one: embracing the dark. Quite a lot of ‘extra dark’ chocolate bars are still only at about 65%, but things don’t really get interesting until the number starts with a seven. Here are my favourites at this level:
Tesco Finest 72% Swiss Dark Chocolate – unexpectedly creamy; this almost tastes like a darker milk chocolate. And it’s usually much cheaper than the alternatives.
Green & Blacks 70% Dark Chocolate – lovely, rich and dense but still quite creamy.
Stage two: dialling up the intensity. As a general rule, as chocolate gets darker, it gets a little harder and less creamy.
Lovechock Pure/Nibs Raw Chocolate – a really unusual one this, since the coconut blossom nectar has an oddly perfumed taste. But it’s really moreish, and the cocoa nib crunch is very satisfying. (Min. 81% cocoa solids)
Tesco Finest 85% Swiss Dark Chocolate – just a touch darker than the 72% but still very creamy, and definitely one of the most forgiving options at this level of cocoa content.
Green & Black’s 85% Dark Chocolate – quite a lot darker, more bitter and richer than its 70% counterpart. One of my favourites.
Divine 85% Dark Chocolate – a fraction more caramel sweetness than the Green & Blacks, but very similar otherwise.
Stage three: I was once accused of “ruining chocolate” by people who simply weren’t ready for it (even though my 4yo has eaten and liked both 90% and 100% chocolate, perhaps because of the novelty of mummy encouraging her to have another piece just to make sure). So be prepared for some adjustment. Hotel Chocolat even recommends taking a little nibble of 100% chocolate to ‘accustom the palate’ before eating a full piece.
Hotel Chocolat Coastal Ecuador Hacienda Iara 90% – gorgeously intense but not outrageously bitter, and still retains a touch of creaminess and a mild hint of fruit. Also comes in a 100% variety that I really like, though 100% is hard work for anyone.
Lindt Excellence Dark Supreme Noir 90% – typically creamy in the way of Lindt chocolate, with a lovely crisp bitter edge.
All of the above are particularly nice combined with a handful of nuts. My husband’s favourite snack is a couple of brazil nuts, a square of chocolate and a few raisins (I omit the last, for sugar reasons).
Am I missing a particularly delicious option? Is there a brand I should try? I’ve tried a couple of Valrhona options I wasn’t in love with (too chalky-bitter), and I was surprised and pleased by Ghirardelli’s darker options, but the above are generally top of my list (and mostly much more easily available).
Disclosure: My very sad disclosure is that NO-ONE SENDS ME CHOCOLATE and I bought and tried all these myself in the service of eating chocolate, rather than reviewing it. I’m open to being sent chocolate. I will be honest, but honest with chocolate, which is better than being honest without it.