Why is there sugar in chocolate?

7th Jan 2021

Why is there sugar in chocolate?

Why is there sugar in chocolate?

As with many questions, the answer is ‘it depends’. In chocolate the amount of sugar depends on the type and quality of the chocolate.

Cocoa Runners is a UK based website that promotes craft chocolate and publishes interesting articles. Recently they wrote about the sugar content of chocolate.

Thank you to Cocoa Runners for inspiring this blog topic.

Why is there sugar in chocolate?

In the case of Premium chocolate (variously categorised as craft /bean to bar/ tree to bar/ single origin chocolate), sugar is added to bring out the flavour of the cocoa bean. Adding a little sugar to chocolate is equivalent to adding a little salt to meat and vegetables. It brings out the flavours.

Pure granulated sugar is just a sweet taste. Sugar does not have any odour or flavour. Cocoa Runners tells us about the ‘holding your nose’ experiment, firstly with sugar, and then separately with chocolate. Both are sweet tasting but only the chocolate develops flavour and aromas when you release your nose. Don’t forget to have the chocolate at room temperature.

By adding small amounts of sugar, the craft chocolate maker transforms cocoa beans into fine chocolate bars with interesting flavours, textures and tastes. The cocoa drives the flavour.

Try comparing two single origin bars to see this. I like to compare Charley’s Mount Edna Mission Beach with Charley’s Karkar Island from Papua New Guinea.

Premium chocolate does not need a lot of sugar. A typical premium chocolate bar contains 70 per cent cocoa and 30 per cent sugar.

By contrast, mass produced chocolate bars are all about sugar and added flavourings, fats and preservatives. Sugar is added because it creates a ‘sugar-hit’ and because it is inexpensive, compared to cocoa. Sugar plus additives and flavouring, conceals the flavour and taste of what cocoa there is in a mass-produced bar. They are looking for consistency not individuality of flavour.

A typical mass-produced chocolate bar could be 50 per cent or more sugar and as little as 30 per cent cocoa.

The next blog will look at whether 30 per cent sugar in a premium bar is too much.