Chocolate-Myth Busters #4: Organic Chocolate Tastes Better (or Worse)

Potential Myth To Be Busted:

Organic chocolate tastes better (or worse) than non-organic chocolate.

Long Response:

I have responded to similar questions in several interviews, and most recently spoke about the issue at a chocolate forum hosted by Charles Chocolates in San Francisco during Slow Food Nation.

An interesting thing to note is that while the most flavorful chocolate that many people might encounter on a daily basis, especially when we are talking about a grocery store, is organic, there is also another tier of chocolate bars, in terms of quality and price, with which most people are generally unfamiliar. This higher tier includes bars that are more expensive per ounce than the average organic chocolate bar at the grocery store, in some cases by multiple factors.

The interesting fact is that most of these more flavorful bars are not certified organic, and do not mention organic on their labels in any way. To add more to the story, though most of these companies have not been marketing organic bars, it is generally the case that when they have ventured into this part of the chocolate market, the resulting bars have been looked down upon by chocolate connoisseurs in terms of the quality of their flavor. This is not to say that they have been considered to be as uninteresting as their organic, grocery store-bound cousins, but only that when compared to the best bars on the market, these organic bars have generally not been nearly as good. So, with the relatively low quality of flavor of some of the initial organic bars that came to market, and then the overall low opinion by chocophiles, of the newer, higher-end organic bars, it seems that some chocolate connoisseurs have begun to form an opinion that great chocolate cannot be made from organic cacao.

There have been various reasons given for this newly found rule of thumb, from organic cacao being wild and untamable to the supposition that there is simply not any good cacao being grown organically. On the other hand, there has also been a more or less unspoken, and completely contradictory assumption on the part of other chocolate lovers–that some chocolate makers may have furthered–which is the idea that all fine cacao is basically organic anyway, and that this is part of the reason that fine chocolate has such a good flavor. If a reason is given for believing this, then it is usually that the small farmers who grow cacao are too poor to purchase the fertilizers and pesticides that would turn organic produce into non-organic produce in the first place. As one might imagine, none of these claims are the whole truth and nothing but the truth; things are more complex than they appear, and the complexity has grown as new and existing fine chocolate companies have just fairly recently begun to release brand new organic bars that are finally starting to destroy the belief that no organic chocolate can be really good chocolate.

In the US alone, there are several bean-to-bar companies with certified organic products, and others who list “organic” in their ingredients list. Furthermore, there are definitely other companies that don’t advertise organic cacao in any way, but who do use it in some of their products; so far Patric Chocolate fits into this final category as our Madagascar cacao is certified organic. When combined with some of the newly emerging organic bars from fine chocolate companies in Europe, specifically France and Italy, it turns out that increasingly, there are bars on the market that many of those who take chocolate very seriously would recognize as serious contenders in terms of quality.

In closing, however, let me hasten to add that it is not a safe bet to believe that all, let alone most, fine chocolate is made with organic cacao if it isn’t listed on the packaging. Also, judging a book by its cover, or a bar by its label, when it comes to the word “organic” either being present or absent, is bound to lead to you purchasing chocolate that is not what you expect in terms of flavor. Better would be to ask your local retailer for a sample of something that you would like to try. You’d be surprised how often they have sample bars sitting around for just such occasions.

Short Response:

The presence or absence of the word organic on a chocolate bar label does not speak to its quality in terms of flavor.

Very best,

Alan
Chocolate maker and myth buster

Got some chocolate myths that need busting? Send them my way by posting a comment below (even anonymously), or emailing me directly at:
customer.service@patric-chocolate.com

2 replies
  1. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    Alan, I found this to be a truly interesting read, and I agree with many of your points.

    To compare two types of chocolate as a whole, and not on an individual basis is unfair, the discussion needs to be bar by bar, and having tastes both types I can honestly say that some organic chocolate is better than non organic chocolate and some definitely doesn’t.

    But then what I don’t like, you may love, which adds personal preference into the discussion too!

  2. Patric Chocolate
    Patric Chocolate says:

    Absolutely.

    Assigning qualitative grades to foods and beverages is always such a tricky mix of objective and subjective, and it isn’t always clear where one ends and the other begins.

    Thanks for reading!

    Very best,

    Alan

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