Frequently Asked Questions
I hear so much about cocoa content. Could you please explain what this means?
Cocoa content is the percentage of cacao in a particular chocolate. Generally, a higher cocoa content equates a more intense chocolate flavor and lower sugar content. However, a high cocoa content does not necessarily mean a delicious chocolate. While many excellent chocolates have high percentages of cocoa so do many inferior chocolates.
What determines the quality of chocolate?
The process begins with good cocoa beans harvested upon maturity. The beans must be properly fermented, dried, roasted, crushed, and conched. Care and attention to detail to each process controls the quality of the finished product. High quality chocolate breaks cleanly and melts uniformly. Premium chocolate should feel satiny and melt into a lingering velvety finish.
How many types of cocoa beans are there?
Cocoa is categorized into the four major species: Criollo, Forestero, Trinitario and Nacional. Found mainly in Central and South America, Criollo has many different sub-varieties and can produce some of the finest beans. With comparatively small yields, the beans are delicately nuanced with nut, spice and fruit overtones. With high cocoa yields, rapid growth and durability, Forestero's many varieties contribute 80% of the world's cocoa production. Grown in Asia, Africa, the West Indies and Central and South America, the beans have a robust flavor with fewer nuances than the Criollo varieties. Trinitarios are a crossbreed between Criollo and Forestero trees. Primarily cultivated in Central and South America, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, Trinitarios are more resistant to disease than the delicate Criollo and produce fine cocoa beans with intense aroma and high fat content. Nacional is grown mainly in Ecuador and Peru and the beans are delicate and fruity. A predilection to disease prohibits the cocoa varieties of this species from taking a larger role on the world cocoa stage.
Why is dark chocolate considered healthy?
Good quality dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 60% or more is significantly beneficial to your health. Just an ounce per day provides essential vitamins and trace nutrients such as iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and vitamins A, B1, C, D and E. Chocolate contains flavonoids, part of a group of antioxidants known as polyphenols. Antioxidants delay the aging process at a cellular level and are believed to guard against cancer. Flavonoids are directly related to pigmentation. The darker the chocolate, the higher the antioxidants will be. Milk bonds to antioxidants during digestion, therefore milk chocolate is not considered a source of antioxidants. Recent research shows chocolate flavonoids encourage vascular wall improvement and blood vessel function. Chocolate may also have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels. It contains both stearic and oleic acids, one a saturated fat which will not raise bad cholesterol and the other which may raise good cholesterol.
Small amounts of natural stimulants are found in dark chocolate. Caffeine and theobromine are both present, but not in amounts large enough for a strong physical effect. Chocolate has been known to boost serotonin levels and the phenyl ethylamine found in cocoa is a mild mood elevator. Delicious and nutritious, chocolate is nature's own antidepressant.
What would be good beverage choices to serve with chocolate?
An accompanying beverage can make a chocolate tasting even more pleasurable. But as complex and varied as chocolate can be, a good match takes careful consideration. Coffee is the classic pairing with chocolate. Warm, with similar nuances of flavor, coffee works well with white and milk chocolates. It can enhance the complexities of almost any dark chocolate. Black teas match well with chocolate while green teas are too astringent for harmony. Herbal and fruit teas are challenging for pairings as they have strong flavor characteristics, like mint, cinnamon or fruit.
Spirits are truly the most successful pairing with chocolate. Whisky, cognac, rum or clear eau de vie make interesting pairings with dark chocolate. Full bodied and flavorful, the low acidity and lingering mouth feel are a dynamic enhancement to cocoa's acidity and marry amazingly with chocolate's "finish". Although there is a great deal of interest in sipping wine with chocolate, this is a trend which does an injustice to both partners. Chocolate's luscious body overwhelms the finer nuances of quality wines. Wine's bright acidity clashes with the earthier acidity present in dark chocolate. The pairing can result in both partners tasting vegetal, austere and unripe. There are a few exceptions. Port, Banyuls, Malmsey and some Zinfandels have the potential to match with chocolate, but both wine and chocolate varieties must be carefully selected. Lighter beers with fresh acidity or generous hop flavor should be avoided while enjoying chocolate. Dark beers such as porter or stout have the potential to harmonize with dark chocolate. However, the beauty of fine chocolate is its melting quality slowly releasing different levels of flavor components. A cold beverage can make the texture seem waxy not velvety.
Why are your bonbons small?
The ideal portion to experience intense and complex chocolate flavor, the elegant size of our bonbons allow our chocolatiers to enrobe them with a delicate coating of couverture. Their size also presents the opportunity to enjoy more than one bonbon or truffle at a tasting. Meandering through our assortments allows our customers to experience their own flavor pairings. A Macallan bonbon followed by an apricot or perhaps a ginger finished with the bite of a slightly spicy sesame cashew bonbon.
How should I store my chocolate?
Burdick Chocolates should be stored in their original packaging in a cool, dry place. An air-conditioned room is ideal. While not recommended, if you must refrigerate our chocolate, allow the bonbons to warm gradually at room temperature before eating. A refrigerator is too humid an environment for good chocolate storage and may affect both the texture and appearance of our specialty bonbons and truffles.
How long can I keep your chocolates?
Because we don't use preservatives, our all-natural, fresh ganaches taste best within 2 weeks of their arrival. With longer storage many of the wonderful flavor nuances that make Burdick Chocolates so special are gradually lost. We suggest you purchase Burdick Chocolates in small quantities frequently, rather than large quantities rarely.