Cacao, Chocolate and Rum
Chocolate connoisseurs will be quick to set the record straight when someone refers to white chocolate as being true chocolate. They are eager to explain that true chocolate must have a high percentage of cocoa liquor (a flavorful essence obtained from the cacao bean) and a low or zero concentration of additives, such as sugar and vanilla.
The reality about the chocolate industry is, however, that much of what is currently being sold as true chocolate could be better described as “chocolate flavored candy”. Some of the leading brands of chocolate bars have a content of cocoa ranging from 10-20% (some have zero, by the way), fueling the ire of cacao purists who consider this level too low, or neutral, and who’d rather see the number in the 70% range or above.
If this sounds familiar to rum afficionados, it is because the same conversation also takes place when talking about the congener level in rum (akin to the cocoa liquor) and the additives often used in its production. The leading rum brands have limbo-inspired congener levels and are often relying on additives as the main source of their flavor.
Does the parallel between the rum and chocolate worlds mean anything in particular? Perhaps the similarities are simply due to human nature and how each society will always have a majority comprised by price-conscious individuals and a minority comprised by quality-minded ones.
In the chocolate industry, this has been regulated, at least somewhat, by labeling mandates that force manufacturers to include nutritional and other composition data on the labels. The impact of these regulations seems to be semi-sweet, as brand loyalty among consumers appears to be stronger than labeling facts.
Whether you like cocoa-butter, dark chocolate or even if you enjoy munching on the cacao nibs themselves, this issue is devoted to the mysterious, mislabeled and oh-so-delicious world of chocolate!
Luis Ayala, Editor and Publisher