Qualities of chocolate. It's a lot like fine wine or the subtleties of coffee and tea. Each plantation has a different characteristic, each species of tree has a different flavour. Each manufacturer conches a different way, has different milk product sources, uses different sugars. They all make a difference. How would one choose a superior chocolate just by looking at the package ingredients? Let's start with that.
The amount of Cocoa Liquor and Cocoa butter make a difference, they should be the first on the ingredient list. Also the better chocolate contains no artificial flavourings or fillers such as palm or coconut oil. It's the same old story, you get what you pay for. The process to get the cocoa pod into a chocolate bar is expensive and the more filler, the less chocolate used, the cheaper the product. Also there's what's called "mouth feel". If you take a bar of Hershey's chocolate or Cadbury and then have a bar from Lindt, you will notice the cheaper chocolates are gritty and the Lindt is like silk. Why? The time the raw chocolate spends in the conch, the longer the chocolate spends in the conch the smoother it will become, however this also costs more in equipment and labour to product the silky smoothness.
So one day, when you have nothing to do, go buy a bar of Hershey's, Cadburys and Lindt and have a taste test and you will notice a difference in quality.
What is the big deal between the percentages of chocolate on the label. The higher percentage the more chocolate and less sugar. Lindt even makes a 95% chocolate that is very nutty, a tad bitter, and has the mouth feel of peanut butter. The average is abut 53% and each 'grade' percentage tastes different.
However, where the chocolate originates makes a big difference. Chocolate trees grow in amongst other crops, in Madagascar the vanilla orchid grows on the trees, the chocolate from Madagascar has a beautiful hint of vanilla. Chocolate grown in amongst coffee plants in Cuba - well has a very smooth hint of coffee. I like to research where the chocolate I eat and use come from and match the characteristics of that chocolate with the food I'm eating or the application I'm using it in.
White, Milk, Dark. A lot of chocolate snobs say that white or milk chocolates don't count. I disagree.
Although white chocolate doesn't contain any chocolate solids (Liquor) it does contain cocoa butter. A good white chocolate contains no preservatives or fillers, it will have a lot of sugar but will have a high quality vanilla and lots of milk solids. I like white chocolate.
Milk Chocolate is a North American favourite - I love it. However, the brand does make a difference and I do have a preference, you should try different Milk Chocolates, read the ingredients, the first ingredient should be chocolate solids, not sugar. If sugar is the first ingredient, put it down and slowly back away!
Dark Chocolate is self explanatory and the qualities are referenced above and is a personal preference.
This is only a small history and discussion about chocolate. So try different kinds, don't worry about the price! It's a gift from the Gods. Now, since it's -20 outside, here's one of my favourite chocolate recipes:
You can either use steamed milk or heat on the stove top.
Stove Top: Place milk in sauce pan with a handful of your choice of chocolate. Stir with a whisk until milk is warm (not boiling) over medium heat and all chocolate has melted and enjoy.
With steam: Get your milk steamer up to pressure. Put your milk in lettiere with your desired chocolate, about a handful. Steam away until all chocolate has melted, stir and pour into your favourite mug.
Wrap your hands around that hot cup of chocolate, put your feet up and relish the food of the Gods!