Dark Chocolate - Gourmet Guide

June 12, 2019 | By Dave Mattingly

Dark chocolate is chocolate produced with no milk additives. The percentages you see on Dark Chocolate labels represents the amount of cocoa the product contains compared to other ingredients like sugar or flavorings. Sweet Dark Chocolate contains approximately 30% cocoa solids, whereas semi-sweet chocolate may contain 45% and bitter chocolate runs 60%, 70% or even 100% cocoa solids.

Dark Chocolate's origins can be traced back to ancient Central and South America. Chocolate was imbibed as a bitter room temperature drink made from cacao seeds. The Mayans and Aztecs believed this drink also had medicinal properties and would add spices for flavor. When the Spanish explorers arrived and discovered the Dark Chocolate drink, they added sugar and drank it warmed. This Dark Chocolate concoction spread throughout Europe but was mostly reserved for the royalty and wealthy elite. Up until this period of time, all chocolate was Dark Chocolate.

In the 1800s, due to the Industrial Revolution, Dark Chocolate began to be mass-produced in a solid form as an eating chocolate and its popularity spread around the world. It wasn't until the late 1800s that a Swiss confectioner added powdered milk to chocolate to create milk chocolate, which has since become the most popular form of chocolate. Today, Dark Chocolate is enjoying a revival and its popularity, on the upswing due to newly acknowledged health benefits, may soon surpass that of the milk variety.

Dark Chocolate Health Benefits
Dark Chocolate is in the spotlight in the gourmet food world. Not only have Americans' tastes changed to prefer the more robust and bittersweet qualities of Dark Chocolate versus milk chocolate, Dark Chocolate is also getting a boost from newly discovered heart healthy cardiovascular health benefits that come from its unique antioxidant flavinoids. Eaten in moderate quantities Dark Chocolate can also lower blood pressure. Furthermore, the powerful antioxidant properties of cocoa work to protect us against damage from free radicals and oxidation. Independent studies suggest that Dark Chocolates can work as cognitive enhancers and delay the decline of brain function due to advanced age.

Dark Chocolate as an Aphrodesiac
In addition to its antioxidant properties, The gift of Dark Chocolate has always been considered to be a romantic ritual. But whether or not there is any science behind labeling Dark chocolate as an aphrodisiac is up for debate. Perhaps its aphrodisiac essence is simply linked to the sinful pleasure we get from its consumption. Its taste is legendary and, because of its low melting point, Dark Chocolate melts in the mouth, provding a unique stimulating effect.

Science does offer some evidence that Dark Chocolate is a true aphrodesiac. Dark Chocolate ingredients include the alkaloids theobromine and phenethylamine, both of which have been shown to increase brain serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is connected to the pleasure center of the brain. Studies show that one's level of serotonin increases when falling in love. Phenethylamine, a stimulant found naturally in the cocoa bean, increases energy and has similar moecular structure to the chemicals released into the brain during orgasm.

To find Dark Chocolate and the best gourmet foods and gift baskets online, begin your search at igourmet.com.