When I first started learning about chocolate in a semi-serious fashion last decade, I believed almost anything I read about chocolate. I would read articles which stated there were just three main types of cocoa bean, America made rubbish chocolate and 100% stuff was unpalatable. It seems, just as like most industries, that if you can keep people in the dark aabout what you sell then you can extract more money from them.
Recently we've had it with the Fairtrade debate where multinational companies have suddenly become ethical and compassionate - it seems all they've done is appear so but still don't actually give two hoots about the lives of impoverished cocoa growers/harvesters. There are companies that also may like to appear more skillful than they may actually are. One example is Guylian who allegedly sell very large boxes of 'Artisanal Belgian Chocolates' for just £7. My view is that their chocolate is about as close to 'artisanal' as my musical talents are as close to Andrea Bocelli's.
However, the real inspiration for this post is the company whose mission is to "organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful." If you've ever done a search for "chocolate" on Google you are most like to find their 'knowledge graph' in operation. Essentially if Google thinks you're looking for information about something it believes it can give you the details of without visiting another site it will show it in their search results. But for our favourite food stuff they get it hideously wrong. How can you summarise all chocolate with the nutritional information for a notional bar of chocolate lifted from the USDA website?
We stock hundreds of bars of chocolate, from the rich, creamy and sugary milk chocolate all the way to intense, bitter and potentially life-enhancing 100% chocolate. I suspect no single bar we stock has that profile.
You can't convince everybody!
However much you try and educate people about the fact that not all chocolate is the same, sometimes you just can't help people:
@Mike_Fabricant not all chocolate makes you fat.— Chocolatiers (@ChocolatiersUK) March 15, 2014
Fine chocolate lovers know it's a lost cause trying to educate confectionery lovers (here I mean mass produced chocolate you can buy from the supermarkets and convenience stores) but seeing as you're here and you're still reading, I take it you too do love great chocolate. But if you're still in a bit of a spin about what the truth about chocolate actually is then you do have a few options.
Chocolate Tasting Courses
Our first port of call would be leisurely read the 70% website of reviews and features, but if you're absolutely to find the truth about chocolate then we suggest you consider Martin's Chocolate Tasting Certificates where his team will talk you through the different varieties of the cocoa bean, the basics of determining flavour profiles, how cacao is sourced, the ethics behind chocolate, how chocolate is made, the different types, the economics behind the industry, the machinery used to make chocolate, advanced tasting, how to make filled chocolates and the impact chocolate may have on your physiology.
These courses are suitable for those with a keen interest to those whose fascination for chocolate is unbounded. For those who would like to just have a peak behind the scenes of fine chocolate the C-Spot website (it costs about £13 a year) has a wealth of information about the different strains of cocoa beans, the expected flavour profiles of these beans and origins, profiles of chocolate makers, the history of chocolate and a whole heap of reviews of historic and current chocolate - these reviews may actually leave you more perplexed though as they can be like listening to Mongolian Throat Singing whilst on your drug of choice - you just don't have a clue what's going on. They are, however, entertaining as well as insightful.
As you progress with your knowledge you might like to take a look at Clay Gordon's Chocolate Life website which is full to the brim with useful information. This is aimed more at industry people, but it is interesting to nose about and see what annoys 'chocolate experts'.
Books I like
The Guardian also has some good articles on chocolate (in-between all the recipes). Many of these articles focus on the ethical side of chocolate production. But in terms of books you really should have a look at New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes by Maricel Presilla, Chocolate Unwrapped: Taste & Enjoy the World's Finest Chocolate by Sarah Jane Evans and The Chocolate Connoisseur: For Everyone with a Passion for Chocolate by Chloe Doutre-Roussel - and my personal favourite: Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage by Louis E. Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro.
There are just far too many websites on the internet full of misinformation. It's just very sad that the one website that we seem to trust so much: Google is the one that starts most people's journey into the world of chocolate on the wrong foot. If you are serious about chocolate, the websites and books we list here will help you find the truth about the food you love so much: chocolate.