What Causes the Bitter Taste in Dark Chocolate?

Written by alex saez
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What Causes the Bitter Taste in Dark Chocolate?
Dark chocolate's main ingredient, cocoa, is complex and healthful. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Chocolate is a staple of the candy industry and dark chocolate is no exception. Anyone who has eaten dark chocolate will notice a fundamental difference in flavour from milk chocolate or white chocolate. The reason lies in dark chocolate's main ingredient: cocoa. While dark chocolate can be too bitter for some tastes, it is important to note that cocoa has a lot of benefits. Understanding what cocoa is and how it helps your health can change your perspective on chocolate.


While cacao and cocoa may seem synonymous, there is a fundamental difference. Cacao is actually the source of cocoa. It is a tree found in tropical areas, such as South America, Southeast Asia and West Africa. Its seeds are harvested to produce cocoa, the ingredient that makes dark chocolate bitter. The seeds, or beans as they are more commonly known, are removed from the trees, covered in banana leaves, then left to ferment. The cocoa beans are then sent to chocolate producers all over the world.


When you think of cocoa, you may imagine a finely ground, brown powder that can be bought at a grocery store. This is the end product of the harvesting process. Once the cocoa beans reach a manufacturer, certain flavours and spices are added. The ground cocoa in a semi-liquid form is pumped into a massive, hydraulic press. Under this pressure, the cocoa butter, or fat, is removed. Contrary to popular belief, cocoa is not exclusively used for chocolate products like baked goods or puddings. In fact, it is sometimes found as flavouring in pharmaceuticals and tobacco.

Dark Chocolate Vs. Milk Chocolate

It is easy to tell the difference between dark chocolate and milk chocolate. The latter is significantly sweeter, because of the difference in cocoa content. The percentage of cocoa in dark chocolate is usually about 65 per cent. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, contains approximately 30 per cent cocoa and includes milk powder or condensed milk. As a result, milk chocolate is much sweeter and creamier than dark chocolate. Dark and milk chocolates contain other ingredients, such as sugar and vanilla extract.

Health Benefits

Over the years, cocoa has been found to contain many health benefits. Cocoa contains a lot of antioxidants, which prevent disease by helping the body eliminate toxins. Cocoa is also known to reduce blood pressure, strengthen the heart and control blood sugar levels. Chocolate lovers concerned about their health should opt for dark chocolate over its more sugary counterpart.

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