Christmas time, chocolate time. That seems a pretty universal law1 although it comes in different styles and shapes. Today for instance, 6 of December, many Germans will get their chocolate ‘Nikolaus‘, but chocolate Santa-Claus-like treats are fairly common in many places. It relates to a lot of great childhood memories, probably not only for me. However, when I had a closer look at my ‘Nikolaus‘ today, it felt devastating. These guys are clearly made of bad bad crap chocolate!
Two chocolate Santa Claus (here from Lindt)… as sad as it is: most of these guys are made from very low quality chocolate. Actually, it is hardly ‘chocolate’ at all and the best part of chocolate, the cocoa solids, are only present in traces…
I am not sure if it is particular to the German chocolate market. But it turns out that 8 out of 10 Germans will answer to the question of “who makes very good chocolate?” with “Lindt”, referring to the Swiss company “Lindt & Sprüngli”. Somehow this brand succeeded in creating an image of being a premium chocolate manufacturer.
Just looking at their chocolate composition today, however, tells a very different story. This is cheapest possible chocolate. No serious chocolatier would ever dare to work with a chocolate of such low quality! I am not kidding here (sorry Lindt believers). When being trained to work as a chocolatier, one of the first things you learn is that real bad chocolate can already be distinguished from (most likely) acceptable chocolate by a brief look at the list of ingredients.
Not because Vanillin itself is something very bad, but it directly shows that the manufacturer not even considers the chocolate worth using real vanilla.
Again, sugar is fine. But it is one of the cheapest ingredients on the list, so many bulk manufactures increase the sugar percentage to save money. Sugar also makes chocolate predominantly ‘sweet’ so that it can easily mask a low quality cocoa flavor.
In the EU it is allowed to add up to 5% of fat other than cocoa butter and still call the final product chocolate. However, that is clearly considered a very bad sign and usually only found in low price, low quality chocolates. To put this in perspective: In the US you wouldn’t be allowed to even call it ‘chocolate’.
Guess what, the Lindt Nikolaus guys violate all three rules! They contain 55% sugar, they use artificial vanilla flavor, and they have butter fat added. If you still haven’t bought some… please leave them on the shelf and better buy some real good chocolate. You might not find it in your supermarket, but I guarantee that it’s worth the little extra effort.
Lindt versus real premium milk chocolate ingredient comparison (here as an example for a premium milk chocolate: Duffy’s 43% milk (Ecuador). It is also intressting to note that official rules will allow to count both cocoa mass and cocoa butter to calculate the ‘cocoa percentage’. More and more premium manufacturers, however, stoped including the cocoa butter as this is often considered to be close to cheating. When excluding the extra cocoa butter added, the Lindt guys would have somthing around 10% cocoa… not much, right?Footnotes
- At least in moderate climate regions. [↩]