Cocoa Butter As the First Ingredient in a Bar
I love discovering new chocolate bars. Finding one I like always makes for a good day. I have no issues trying all manner of exotic flavor combinations even ones many people shun. Rose flavoring in chocolate, for instance, is polarizing – people love it or hate it. I happen to like it if it’s used wisely.
While in Boston at a conference I encountered a great chocolate shop (World of Chocolate”) on my way to dinner near my hotel. Seeing a bar there from a maker I had not previously encountered, it was a must-try, even at a price point of $8.99 for a modest 2 oz./56 grams. The bar was 70% cocoa (pretty much my minimum requirement to elevate it above a classification as “candy”) and flavored with rose geranium oil and cardamom essential oil.
The flavor was subordinated by the weird mouth feel. It was a bit gritty but it just didn’t melt typically. It got soft and malleable but didn’t quite disintegrate the way a typical chocolate bar does. I checked the ingredient label and was nonplussed:
The first ingredient? Cocoa butter. No cocoa mass at all, but cocoa powder was the 3rd ingredient, behind honey.
With cocoa butter as the lead ingredient, then a sweetener, and then cocoa powder, it seemed like the maker was essentially taking the bean apart and putting it back together. It made me think about a solid wood plank versus a similar size of particle board that’s been chipped and then recombined. Both are “wood” but not the same. The maker never claimed it was “bean-to-bar”, only that it was from Peru and ethically sourced.
The label was very rustic and artisan-style, with all manner of politically correct “free-from” claims (no refined sugar, no preservatives, no soy/emulsifiers, no dairy, no shortcuts, all raw and organic, etc.) including that 25% of the profits go to a listed children’s charity. All fine, but I can’t help thinking that the taste would have been better if they’d kept the cocoa bean a little more intact. With cocoa butter as the lead ingredient, the mouthfeel and overall tasting experience suffered. I’m happy to support causes, but in this case I’d rather buy a great bar and donate money myself. Just MHO.
The coconut oil bar is similar. They are charging $8-10 for a 3.5 ounce block. Virgin coconut oil has a melting point of 76 degrees so I was off by 1 degree. They are using the virgin coconut oil and talking up the health benefits of coconut oil as their selling point. They as a business are aware enough of the issue of using such a low melting point oil that their “bar” is in a plastic tray and is vac sealed so even if it does melt, it isn’t going to make a mess unless you have already opened it. At that point you are on your own!
It seems like this is happening more. I believe you but it’s a bit surprising that coconut oil would liquefy above 75F, as it’s one of the most saturated fats and is used in food processing specifically because it has a higher melting point.
Coconut oil, along with palm and palm kernel oil, are often used to give some solid structure instead of trans fats, which pretty much went out of the food supply after all the negative research on them.
The whole issue kind of brought me back to when I read the labels of cheap chocolate that comes out at Easter time. Big “chocolate” bunnies that I remember biting into a few decades ago and, after finding the taste disgusting, read the label, only to find that it’s a combo of palm kernel oil, sugar, and then something or other from the cacao bean. Since that candy was probably intended for children (and an adult or two with a limited budget), it’s not the best way to train a palate. I’d rather give a kid less but better quality.
That was the thing about this bar – it had the price tag of the really good stuff, and maybe it cost the maker a lot to produce it, being it was a small maker and such. To me, all that effort was wasted if the end product isn’t one you’d even want to eat again. Also, I just felt ripped off.
At least they are using cocoa butter. A local manufacturer here is making a “bar” (more of a block in a tray) from cocoa powder and coconut oil. The result is not shelf stable as coconut oil is barely a solid at room temp and if it gets above 75F, it goes to a liquid and all the inclusions either sink or float. They keep it on ice at farmer’s markets and recommend refrigerating it. It isn’t a BAD product per se but is one I find to be questionable. To their defense, it isn’t gritty and doesn’t taste weird but it certainly has a texture all it’s own.
Any time I see a bar of chocolate made with cocoa butter and cocoa powder I have to ask why. Why go through the steps and expense of separating the fat from the solids only to recombine them? Usually when I see a bar made with cocoa powder some or all of the cocoa butter has been replaced with a less expensive fat – which is the point, to reduce cost.
The texture you’re getting may be from the way the water in the honey is affecting things. Small amounts of water often affect the texture of chocolate negatively (add lots and you get ganache or something you can drink).
Finally, it’s possible the bar was actually bean-to-bar if the maker in Peru started with beans, pressed the butter from the beans, ground the powder from the press cake and then assembled everything. It could even make economic to do this if the maker was an industrial processor and all steps were done in-house. For example, in Tingo Maria there is (or at least was) a huge processor, Naranjillo, that has/had all the equipment to do this. I use the past tense here because they stopped production a couple of years ago after investing millions in new equipment and ran into cash flow problems. When I was there in 2015 they were not back in production and though we did not visit them in 2017 when I was last there, the story was they were still not back in production.
And I agree that I would think twice or three times about buying a product I did not like the taste of to support a cause. I prefer to donate directly.