In the U.S., women account for 75% of annual chocolate sales, except for sales related to one day. You probably aren’t surprised to hear that that day, is Valentine’s Day. And for that day, men account for 75% of the one BILLION dollars worth of chocolate sales each year. V-Day is big business for chocolate makers, and because of the gender breakdown in terms of the gift-giving, the majority of the business does tend to occur on that same day.
Men, as a generality, tend to be known for procrastinating on gift-buying (I’m sorry guys, but you do have that reputation!). Just walk by any chocolate store tomorrow during lunch or between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., and you will see a flurry of activity and crowds, if not a steady stream out the door. Considering this, I’ve decided that the day before Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any to publish my guide to buying good quality chocolate, which can be used any time of year, but might especially come in handy for those gents that have put off their purchases till the very last minute–or those that are aiming to hit up the after-V-day chocolate sales!
- Look at the labeling on the front of the packaging. Anything that says “milk chocolate flavored” means that the product contains NO cocoa butter, and legally can’t be considered chocolate, hence the wishy washy label.
- Look at the ingredients list on commercially packaged chocolate. Unless it’s a filled chocolate that will have added ingredients that will push it down the list, cocoa butter should almost always be the second or third ingredient listed.
- At chocolatiers that allow to pick the chocolates for your gift box, ask them if they make their chocolates on site. If not, ask them how often they get shipments.
- It is very easy to visually inspect chocolate for a few aspects reflective of good quality. These details include whether or not the chocolate has a good sheen to it, demonstrating that the chocolate has been tempered properly. Chocolate that has a white chalky substance on the surface, something called bloom, indicates that the chocolate has been through an extreme temperature change. The white substance is the cocoa butter rising to the surface of the chocolate. While this does not mean that the chocolate is not safe to eat, it does mean that it will have a subpar texture and mouthfeel because the cocoa butter is no longer evenly distributed throughout the chocolate.
- Recognizable brand names are not necessarily indicative of quality. Many large-scale chocolate makers simply have a much larger budget to spend on marketing. Small, local chocolatiers often make very unique, fresh, small-batch chocolates that will have fewer preservatives and more flavor notes.