What makes a luxury chocolate?

22 Jun 2020

Food + Drink

We’ve unwrapped all the secrets surrounding what truly makes a luxury chocolate

Luxury chocolate is on the rise. More and more people are swapping out the cheaper stuff for a good quality bar of their favourite chocolate. In fact, whilst the growth in the chocolate market has grown to a halt, the luxury chocolate category has increased by 21% since 1999. But what exactly makes a luxury chocolate?

Whilst the price of chocolate can certainly be an indicator as to whether chocolate can be classed as luxury – we explored the most expensive chocolate in the world in a previous blog – this isn’t always the case. Although there isn’t a set definition of luxury chocolate, there are certainly some factors to consider if you’re looking for a bit of premium-style cocoa. Read on to unlock the secrets of what makes a luxury chocolate.

dark chocolate squares with cocoa beans in a white bowl

What is luxury?

Before we start to digest what makes a luxury chocolate, it’s important to define the term ‘luxury’. According to the Collins Dictionary, the adjective can be defined as “something expensive which is not necessary but which gives you pleasure”.

Of course, what could be expensive to you or I might not be for another person. That’s why, when looking at what makes a luxury chocolate, we have to focus on more than just price to work out whether or not your chocolate is in the premium bracket.

The cocoa beans

The type of cocoa bean which is used in your chocolate is an important indicator of whether it can be considered as ‘luxury’. Chocolate made with rarer types of cocoa bean, or strains of cocoa beans that are harder to grow will generally be viewed as more exclusive. This exclusivity, as well as the possibility of rarer, more unique cocoa flavours give the chocolate a more luxurious feel – you can read more about the different types of cocoa bean here.

Where the cocoa bean is from also affects whether or not your chocolate can be classed as luxury; single origin chocolate lets you sample chocolate in a more decadent way. As single origin chocolate uses cocoa beans from one region only, the chocolate has a unique flavour: the climate the cocoa bean has been grown in influences the resulting flavour profile of that cocoa bean.

Cocoa bean from a cocoa tree with cocoa seeds inside
The inside of a raw cocoa bean before it is processed

For example, each of our single-origin chocolates command their own individual tastes: whilst our Ecuadorian dark chocolate boasts savoury and smoky notes, our Tanzanian 80% Dark Chocolate promises fruity and floral notes of strawberry, kiwi and green apples.

Single origin chocolate is often more expensive to produce, as the chocolate-maker is dependent on a single farmer or region and its harvest. The smaller-scale production makes it a higher-risk enterprise, for which you’ll often pay a premium.

At Hotel Chocolat, we’re committed to always paying our cocoa farmers more than the market rate for their cocoa beans, and our cocoa often comes from small scale plantations that are cared for by hand. Although we often blend different types of cocoa beans to create the exact flavour we’re looking for, we will never buy cocoa beans from high yield, high profit cocoa plantations that don’t care for its workers.

St Lucia island where we grow our cocoa beans
A snapshot of the island St Lucia, where we directly grow some of our cocoa beans

By working closely with our farmers, we’ve learned how to treat the cocoa bean with care from roots to wrapper so that both our blended and single-origin chocolates have an authentic cocoa taste. As we grow some of our very own cocoa beans directly on our St Lucian plantation, we have all the necessary knowledge needed to ensure none of the delicate flavours of cocoa are lost during production.

We source our single-origin chocolate from all over the world so that we can deliver a spectrum of cocoa flavours. If you’d like to know more about our dark, milk and white single-origin chocolate, we’ve put together a complete guide for you to follow to find the best luxury chocolate for you.

The cocoa percentage

When working out whether a chocolate can be classed as ‘luxury’, check the packaging to see the cocoa percentage. This will range depending on what type of chocolate you’re selecting, but this doesn’t mean that a lighter option – such as a milk or white chocolate – should contain a low amount of cocoa:

White chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate for hotel chocolat's supermilk chocolate collection
A variety of our single origin chocolates

White chocolate

Although some might argue that white chocolate can’t be classed as real chocolate, we beg to differ. In the year 2000 the European Union set regulations around white chocolate, ruling that it had to contain at least 20% cocoa butter.

Whilst this does mean that chocolate manufacturers have to use cocoa butter in their white chocolate, they can also bulk up their bars with cheaper ingredients, such as vegetable oil. Although this might lower the price of your white chocolate, it also reduces the quality. We use pure cocoa butter, the natural fatty substance which is released from the cocoa bean when it’s pressed in production, and it is this ingredient that gives chocolate a creamy and smooth consistency.

To give our white chocolate that extra luxurious edge we’ve doubled the minimum amount of cocoa butter allowed. Our white chocolate contains between 36% – 42% cocoa butter to give it a velvety smooth finish, enabling it to melt effortlessly once placed on the tongue.

As we use a much higher cocoa butter percentage than most, our white chocolate also has a distinctive flavour derived from the subtly fragrant notes of cocoa butter. This means it can be enjoyed simply on its own, as all luxury chocolate should.

Lemon cheesecake selectors with lemon and white chocolate mousse
Our Lemon Cheesecake selectors

Milk chocolate

As milk chocolate contains cocoa solids, it has a deeper, more intense flavour than that of its white chocolate counterpart. Milk chocolate must contain 25% cocoa solids, but we don’t think this amount does milk chocolate justice.

To capture the nuanced, multi-layered flavours of the cocoa bean, the cocoa percentage must be kept high: if not, you risk eating a bar which is full of sugar and artificial flavours to mask the fact your chocolate isn’t actually that – well – chocolatey.

We use 40% to 50% cocoa solids in our milk chocolate to ensure none of the intricate tastes of the cocoa bean are lost when eaten alongside other flavours. By keeping the cocoa content high, we’ve created a luxury milk chocolate which doesn’t break the bank to sample: after all, everyone deserves a little decadence in their life.

Salted Espresso Martini made with our Caramel vodka and caramel liqueur with milk chocolate and white chocolate stripe
Our Salted Espresso Martini selectors

If you still find milk chocolate a little too much on the sweet side, then we’ve found the perfect compromise between dark and milk: our revolutionary Supermilk chocolate contains a decadently high 65% cocoa content, with a splash of milk for sweetness and with less sugar than dark chocolate.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate has a recommended amount of 70% cocoa solids, although we didn’t want to just stop there. We wanted to make a dark chocolate like no other, which is why we make it using anywhere from 70% to 100% cocoa solids.

Sampling a dark chocolate with such a high cocoa percentage lets you explore all the rich, deep flavours of the cocoa bean. If the 100% option is too savoury for you, we offer lighter options – still high in cocoa, but slightly sweeter.

Blocks of dark chocolate

A high quality dark chocolate should contain very few ingredients: cocoa solids, cocoa butter and sugar are the main products used in our dark chocolate. By using natural ingredients only, we’ve created a luxury chocolate with an intensely deep flavour, but with all the smoothness and melt of a milk or white chocolate.

The ingredients

Luxury chocolate doesn’t have to be plain in flavour: if you like your chocolate to break the traditional flavour mould then it can still be high quality. The best way to tell if your flavoured chocolate can be classed as luxury is by checking the ingredients used.

For example, if you’re eating a strawberry and white chocolate bar which has a pink tinge to it, check to see if the colours and flavours are natural. Even if the chocolate has a high percentage of cocoa in it the artificial additives could give it a synthetic flavour, masking the natural flavour profile of your chocolate.

Carrot Cake, Pannacotta, Lemon Cheesecake, Strawberry Cheesecake, Rhubarb & Custard, Billionaire's Shortbread made with milk chocolate, white chocolate and dark chocolate
Our dessert and patisserie selectors: Carrot Cake, Pannacotta, Lemon Cheesecake, Strawberry Cheesecake, Rhubarb & Custard, Billionaire’s Shortbread

To ensure none of the delicate notes of cocoa are lost in our creations, we use natural ingredients only. Whether you’re eating a fruity Raspberry Pannacotta Selector or one of our Orange Macarons, you can access all of the natural tastes of our chocolate, enjoyed as they should be.

Sustainability and ethics

We think chocolate tastes better in the knowledge that it’s done some good for the planet. Luxury chocolate definitely needs to taste and look amazing, but it should also be more than just a treat. Luxury chocolate may come with a slightly higher price tag, but this should go towards ensuring the company is as sustainable and ethical as possible, whilst ensuring the chocolate is made to a high standard with quality cacao beans.

As we become more environmentally conscious, it’s important to treat yourself in a sustainable way, rather than just using something once and throwing it away to be taken to landfill. At Hotel Chocolat, we’ve committed ourselves to our Planet Pledge: 100% of our packaging will be compostable, reusable or recyclable by 2021.

And we haven’t just stopped there – we’re constantly trying to find new ways to reduce food miles to ensure our cocoa is transported in the most eco-friendly way as possible, and we’ve also looked at how we can save more energy in our factories, shops and cafes all over the UK.

We think it’s also important to give back to the communities who provide us with the humble, yet vital, cocoa beans. Our ‘Engaged Ethics’ policy has ensured we don’t just give fair share of the financial rewards from our chocolate to our farmers – we’ve also invested into the lives of the farmers to give them the economic freedom to create sustainable and profitable farms.

Looks aren’t always everything

Okay – so we taste with our eyes as much as our mouths. At Hotel Chocolat, we have exceptionally high standards for our chocolate, providing you with only the most attractive ones out of the batch.

However, this doesn’t mean we throw away the rejects. Instead, we’ve created an Ugly But Good range: for a discounted price you can enjoy all the flavours of our premium-style creations. Whilst these might not win any beauty contests, they certainly don’t skip out on any flavours: indulge in Pink Champagne Truffles, bite into our Fruit and Nut Chocolate and booze out on our Alcoholic Chocolates. Luxury chocolates, but at a wonderfully affordable price.

How can you enjoy luxury chocolate?

This might seem like an obvious question, but there are other ways to enjoy luxury chocolate, other than just by eating it by itself. Instead, let the flavours of other food and drink enhance the flavours of your luxury chocolate. We think the complex tastes of a rich bottle of burgundy go perfectly with the decadence of a dark chocolate. For a lighter option, the dry fragrant notes of our prosecco goes especially well with our fruity chocolates, perfect for serving after dinner to guests.

Have you ever tried a luxury hot chocolate? We’re bored of the days of sipping the meek, watery stuff, which is why we’ve created a hot chocolate line using delicate flakes of our very own chocolate. Creamy in texture, bold in cocoa. To create your very own barista-style version, The Velvetiser blends up the smoothest type of cocoa for you within seconds. Luxury, at the press of a button.

The Velvetiser with our 50% milk chocolate sachet for a hot chocolate
The Velvetiser with our 50% Milk Hot Chocolate

The most luxurious home baked goods are the sort which are rich in flavour. Our milk, white and dark chocolate drops are high in cocoa, and their petite size makes them ideal for baking with: melt them down and add cream for an opulent chocolate ganache, or dot throughout biscuit dough for meltingly moreish chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate might be the number one treat for those with a sweet tooth, but this doesn’t mean that it can’t be enjoyed as a savoury option. Break off a few pieces of our 100% dark chocolate and add to a chili or spaghetti bolognese to create a luxurious dinnertime dish. Or, if you’re looking to add some crunch into a dish, our Cocoa Nibs have a surprisingly spicy nuttiness to them, and go particularly well with red meats.

Luxury chocolate should be rich in flavour and have an exquisitely velvety texture. However, this doesn’t mean that it should break the bank. Whilst luxury chocolate shouldn’t be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner (although we wish we could), this doesn’t mean it should be enjoyed only once a couple of times a year.

We’ve combined affordability with luxury to create decadent truffles, slabs, batons and more, ready for you to indulge in them. If you desire a touch of decadent hedonism, or want to gift a friend a special present, then browse our site to discover more of our luxury chocolate range.