Just one piece of chocolate and instantly time suspends chaos for a moment, the sun warms the soul, life's strifes allow a smile to peek through. "After eating chocolate you feel godlike, as though you can conquer enemies, lead armies, entice lovers."
What else is as perfect as chocolate? I am not the least bit ashamed to admit I can be bought with chocolate, or that I can consume large and lavish quantities of that delicious goodness. But this post is not about my love affair with chocolate. I do not have enough time for that. I am not even going to list all the wonderful chocolate shops around London. Instead, I am going to pose a simple question that came from a single chocolate experience.
Why is British chocolate so much better than American chocolate?
While I was wandering around Soho the other day, I made a startling discovery–there is an entire store with five levels devoted to...M&Ms. I fell to my knees and wept. Though M&Ms are not my chocolate of choice, I do love them. Particularly the peanut butter ones (but peanut butter is not a UK commodity so there weren't any in the store :( ). There were, however, plain and peanut M&Ms in any color you could imagine, and a few of the canisters were filled with the rare star, crispy M&Ms. Anyway, some time later I emerged from this haven with a bag of plain M&Ms. What can I say, I was a child in a candy store. To revive myself from such an awe-inspiring experience, I ate a few. And then, surprised, I had to sample a few more. (Note: my definition of 'few' is probably not the accepted definition). The M&Ms were different. They tasted like...chocolate. Real, creamy milk chocolate instead of sugary confection with a stale chocolate taste. This phenomenon of quality chocolate extends to all chocolate: bars, twirls, buttons, nuts, etc.
So why? Why is even the cheap chocolate better here than in the US? Concerned, I began my research. Simply put, it all has to do with numbers. In the US, for something to be considered "chocolate," it must contain at least 12% cocoa solids with only cocoa butter and solids as the fat allowed. In the UK, that number is almost double-20%-with other fats, such as vegetable oil, allowed. Lower quantity cocoa, my friends, is the US's problem. Instead of filling up the chocolate with cocoa, the US uses sugar to mask the lack of cocoa solids. Also, the US uses the additive PGPR in place of cocoa butter due to expense. Brits, on the other hand, accept the expense and shorter shelf life (why does chocolate need a long shelf life anyway? It's not like it stays on the shelf for long) in return for better chocolate.
In short, Brits take their chocolate more seriously. In US, chocolate bars are thought of as "candy," targeted towards children, and are therefore mostly sugar and preservatives. Chocolate bars are a sedative, a bribe. On the other side of the pond, the UK sees chocolate as a delight, a tradition, a sanctuary–an attitude reflected in the taste in my opinion.
So go out, sample some chocolate, and tell me about the differences.