Into the dark: not all bars are created equal
If the health benefits of chocolate derive from the antioxidants in cocoa, as seems likely, then there's no point eating a Snickers bar and expecting it to help your heart. You're going to need something with a higher cocoa content. The problem is, cocoa is bitter, too much so for some. We sampled a selection of high-cocoa brands to work out which are good for dark-chocolate beginners, and which are purely for the cocoa-loving purist.
Endangered Species Chocolate With Hazelnut Toffee - 72 per cent cocoa
HK$46 for 85 grams, ThreeSixty
Rich, persistent bitter notes but with a balancing sweetness that comes mainly from the little bits of crunchy toffee. Approachable but still dark and complex, this is a good place to start if you prefer sweeter chocolate.
Marks & Spencer Organic Fairtrade Dark Chocolate - 72 per cent cocoa
HK$28 for 100 grams, Marks & Spencer
Quite sweet, fairly simple, almost milk chocolate-like flavour with minimal bitterness. Has a pleasant, creamy feel in the mouth. Another good starting point for people who prefer their chocolate not too challenging.
Artisan du Chocolat Mole Chili Dark Chocolate - 70 per cent cocoa
HK$55 for 45 grams, ThreeSixty
Has a strong chilli flavour, but one that manifests itself more as poblano-style sweetness than an habanero-style heat attack. The chocolate starts off a little anaemic with little bitterness, but broadens and improves with time.
Alter Eco Dark Quinoa Organic Chocolate - 60 per cent cocoa
HK$55 for 80 grams, City'super
A simple sweetness with almost no bitter notes, it had the lowest cocoa percentage, so you'd expect it to be sweet, but not this sweet. The quinoa adds crunch but little else. HK$55 seems a lot to pay for glorified Rice Krispie Squares.
Lindt Excellence 99 per cent cocoa
HK$41.50 for 50 grams, Gourmet Fine Food
A chocolate that takes itself seriously, this one comes with tasting advice. It has a very dry mouthfeel and an astringent bitterness with zero sweetness. Strictly for those who love the taste of cocoa in all its full, ascerbic glory.
Les Tropiques du Chocolat Fran?ois Pralus Le 100 per cent Criollo
HK$65 for 100 grams, City'super
Another sugar-free, cocoa-only offering, this one has a more pleasant feel in the mouth than the Lindt, but it's still a bitter mouthful, albeit one that disappears quite smoothly. It's lighter and mellower than expected, probably because of the rare, expensive Criollo beans.
Dolfin Noir 88 per cent de cacao
HK$25.90 for 70 grams, City'super
This has a surprising amount of sweetness for a chocolate with such a high cocoa content, but still not that much. It comes with a pleasant mouthfeel and a good, rich bitterness, but the latter becomes a little excessive on the aftertaste. Quirky tobacco-pouch packaging.
Choco Late Organic Dark Chocolate 70 per cent cacao with Fleur de Sel of Ibiza
HK$65 for 70 grams, ThreeSixty
Initially has a simple, candyish, fruity flavour but works better as the well-integrated sea salt comes through. Again, not much bitterness. Divided with a crazy-paving pattern that allows for irregular-size chunks to be broken off easily.
Green & Black's Organic Dark Chocolate infused with Arabica Coffee - 70 per cent cocoa
HK$42 for 100 grams, City'super
Has an off-putting crumbly, dry mouthfeel. Very strong, startlingly authentic, highly bitter coffee flavour that totally overwhelms the cocoa. People who prefer very bitter coffee to chocolate will like it.
Vivani Cacao 70 per cent Feine Bitter Orange Organic Dark Noir Fondente Arancia
HK$29 for 100 grams, Gourmet Fine Food
A lot of bitterness and not much sweetness - the orange flavour is there, but it's a Seville orange bitterness, and not well integrated. So what we have here is a very bitter dark chocolate that has a passing acquaintance with an orange.