Storage in air-tight containers is crucial
Pierre Tabarie, Asia-Pacific brand manager for Valrhona, has some tips for keeping chocolate in perfect condition:
Ideally, keep chocolates at 16 degrees Celsius; a wine cooler is a good place to store them in an air-tight container.
Storing chocolates in the refrigerator is fine, but keep them in an air-tight container, otherwise the chocolate will absorb other flavours, and the chocolate aroma and taste will deteriorate.
Only take out the amount of chocolate you want to eat from the fridge and then let it sit for about 20 minutes or so to let its temperature rise. If not, you will not taste the aroma that is locked inside, much like drinking a red wine before letting it breathe a bit.
Good-quality chocolate has a long aftertaste and a clean snap.
If chocolate is not kept properly, there will be a thin layer of whitish powder on it called fat blooming. This happens when the temperature of the chocolate has gone up, making the cocoa butter and fat dissolve and liquefy. It then cools down and settles on the surface of the chocolate.
Another is sugar blooming when there is excess humidity, and this draws sugar to the surface. When it cools down and crystallises, there is a sandy feeling when you eat the chocolate. You cannot get sick from eating the chocolate in both instances; only the structure of the chocolate has changed.
A high percentage of cocoa does not necessarily mean it is of higher quality. Chocolate is made with cocoa and sugar. The cocoa includes the dry ingredients, the brown colour and cocoa butter, which is colourless and flavourless. You can get chocolate with 90 to 99 per cent cocoa, but it is not necessarily good chocolate because it might have more cocoa butter, so it is not as high quality.
Good chocolate makers have specific percentages because they have worked out the ideal ratios for the specific cocoa bean they have roasted and processed.