In an article published last August by the British Medical Journal, a compendium of seven studies involving 100,000 people purported to show that participants who consumed chocolate had a reduced risk of heart disease. The bottom line: those people who consumed the most chocolate had a 37 percent reduction in heart disease and a 29 percent reduction in strokes. And while there was no distinction made between milk and dark chocolate, or bars and other chocolate concoctions, the deciding factor seemed to be regular consumption, rather than consumption of specific items.
But you already knew that even without the numbers and the science, chocolate is good for you. No one has to convince you that you should seek it out, eat it every day and consciously enjoy it. It lifts our mood, begins the day with a bitter cacao hit, or ends it with a mix of milk, sugar and cacao in smoother proportions. But our consumption should not be about grabbing whatever is on sale, first available or offered by a well-meaning but uneducated friend.
I’ll start offering some of the notes I’ve kept on various bars and confections I’ve purchased over the years. Not all will be available in most places. Some are very specific to one location, though thanks to the Internet and overnight shipping, most can be ordered online.
- El Rey Apamate 72.5%: This is a slightly grainy bar, and it’s chewy. Not much of a snap when you break it. Despite the high percentage, it’s not a bitter bar; the cocoa notes are there, with a citrus finish at the end.
- Cote ‘d Or Brut 86%: Very good snap, very rich and intense flavor. The end notes are wood and berry, with no bitterness.
- Theo 75% Ghana-Panama-Ecuador: Despite the name, this is a U.S-made product, with beans from those countries. A lower percentage than the Coe ‘d Or, but more bitter; in fact, there’s almost no sweetness in this bar. The snap and shine are good, but the end note is woody. As close to unsweetened chocolate as I’d come in a bar not labeled as such.
- Green and Black 70%: One of the best-known organic brands, and it’s the one that made me vow never to try another organic bar. The smell of the bar says it’s good, but the taste doesn’t. It has a metallic ping to it that’s unpleasant. The good news is that more companies are trying out organic chocolate lines.
- Michel Cluizel 85%: I lucked into this find at a local gourmet shop, and it’s a longstanding favorite. Shiny, great snap and a pure, deep flavor. Sharp but not bitter. It’s my favorite 85% of all time.