We tested a range of premium bars according to cocoa percentage and came up with a list of our favourite products from around the globe.
In collaboration with master chocolatier Paul A Young and Great British Bake Off champion Edd Kimber, our editorial assistant Holly and the BBC Good Food team tested 60 bars of single origin chocolate according to cocoa content, from 30% milk chocolate to the 100% dark bars. We looked at texture, flavour, aroma and colour. We didn’t include white chocolate, or bars with added extras such as salt. Here are our favourites...
The range from Tesco is ahead of the game for a mass retailer, and showcases some great beans. By adding milk to dark chocolate, the result is creamy and non-bitter. With added natural vanilla, a delicate perfume lingers on the palate.
- £1.50, Tesco
A pleasant, light chocolate, described by Paul and Edd as ‘sparkling’ and ‘vibrant’. It is floral with delicious honey undertones, and we really liked the smooth texture. The beans are from wild trees and the packaging is made from recycled wood (even the foil).
- £4.25, Natoora
This bar is the result of a Chocolate University project (an outreach programme to involve communities in cocoa production). The bar is outstanding – red fruit notes, coupled with a creamy, velvety texture. A real treat for chocolate fans.
£6.45, Cocoa Runners
The lovely fudge notes in this come from good-quality sugar and milk. It is lightened by the Madagascan astringency, and has a fruity flavour. The bars are made in the same place where the beans are grown, which is fairly unusual. A wonderful milk chocolate option.
- £3.45, Cocoa Runners
A brand that puts a big emphasis on style, but delivers on substance, too. The texture is interesting – much rougher than other bars because it is stone-ground, a traditional technique far removed from mass mechanical processing. Paul predicts that this method will be used far more in the future.
- £6.95, Cocoa Runners
If you’re going to eat chocolate this pure, prepare yourself for some serious bitterness. However, beyond that bitterness, this bar has wonderful floral flavours and botanicals. It’s very powerful and we only needed a tiny nibble – we thought it was the best of the bars this strong.
- £7.50, Hotel Chocolat
It is important not to confuse raw chocolate bars with health-food products, which use cocoa nibs blended with other ingredients to create a soft, chewy texture. This bar is rock solid but hasn’t been heated above 40C, which means the bean flavour has hardly been changed and the cocoa notes are incredibly pure.
- £2.99, Pacari
We were really excited by these bars when we first came across the range about a year ago. Vietnamese chocolate is unusual and the range has some fantastic flavours. This bar is powerful and fairly bitter – we loved it! It has a dry texture and slight hints of coconut. It’s a complex chocolate and the packaging is stunning, too.
- £5.35, Chocolatiers
There are several countries of origin at 64% cocoa within the Valrhona range, so they’re a great way to discover different bean characteristics. This one, from the Dominican Republic, was unanimously popular with us. It’s robust, warming and toasty.
- £4.99, Selfridges
If you only buy one bar from our test, make it this one. It has lovely, deep toffee flavours and is very tropical. Sourced from Ecuador, the bars are produced in Cleethorpes and have a fantastic reputation among professional chocolatiers. This bar may not have the most beautiful packaging, but once you’ve unwrapped it, you’re in for a treat.
- £5.80, Duffy's Chocolate
What's your top cocoa tip? Share your favourite bars with us...