How did it come to this?
There’s nothing wrong with dark chocolate, let’s just get that out of the way. I have frequently eaten and enjoyed dark chocolate. What I object to, in part, is the moving of goalposts on what constitutes dark chocolate. Ten years ago, if you purchased chocolate containing 60% cocoa mass, it came with warning labels and was invariably and offensively named after an African nation or river. ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO CONSUME OUR AWASH VALLEY BAR, etc. 60% was out there.
And, at 60%, chocolate is pretty good. It’s, whatever, sort of red wine-y and interesting and it’s not sickeningly sweet. I like stuff dipped in it. Swirl it with some peanut butter, everyone’s happy.
But, somewhere along the line, they broke out the 85%, and it’s bullshit. It’s like the trend towards taking all the parts of the animal we’ve been discarding for centuries because they come in contact with fecal matter and taste bad, then presenting them on menus like it’s a brilliant innovation. How long have we been perfecting what we do with cacao? And now we’re supposed to go back to just grinding it between our molars?
I honestly feel that many of us are eating our chocolate 5-10% darker than we would prefer, because we think we should. There’s no shame in enjoying milk chocolate! (Now, Hershey’s is disgusting and tastes like the inside of a robber baron’s wallet, I’m not trying to defend Hershey’s.) If you try to buy ethically-sourced chocolate (because the chocolate industry sometimes makes the diamond industry look like the craft tent at a womyn’s music festival), you will find that your options often start at 72%, which, again, is better than 85% (which is bullshit), but still not as delicious as it would have been if it spent a little time in a vat with a sweetening agent.
And what of white chocolate? IT’S NOT REALLY CHOCOLATE, someone pipes up fatuously. IT DOESN’T CONTAIN COCOA SOLIDS. Well, who gives a shit? It’s divine. We have made-up names for lots of things! Sweetbreads! It’s a fucking calf’s pancreas, but that doesn’t roll as trippingly off the tongue. Maybe you wouldn’t want to eat an entire brick of it, but, hey, if you eat a whole brick of 85% chocolate you will poop yourself to death and not sleep for two days.
Take a feral human who’s been raised in the woods by animals and has no conception of “fancy,” blindfold him (I mean, don’t do this) and offer him a bite of a white chocolate bunny and an 85% bar with salted almonds and see what he wants more of.
No, here’s the thing. Sugar’s TERRIBLE for you. But if you’re eating chocolate, just buy what tastes good to you, and ideally is not harvested by actual slaves. If you look within yourself and you genuinely enjoy super-dark chocolate, go on, follow your bliss, weirdo.
PARADOX: Have you ever had 90% chocolate? It’s kind of good. It’s like it circles back around and you’re so amazed that it exists and hasn’t plunged the Earth into the sun that you can roll it around in your mouth and taste eternity.
Nicole is an Editor of The Toast.