What is Vegan Friendly Chocolate?
I know that many vegans love chocolate but often are reluctant to eat chocolate that is offered because it may contain animal products. Non-vegans may think that dark chocolate would be OK but that is not the case and to understand why we need to go back to the cocoa bean.
Cocoa beans grow on trees and whether they come from Africa, the Far East, Central America or anywhere else in the world, they have one thing in common. Each cocoa bean only contains 2 ingredients that make up roughly 50% each. Together they are referred to as Cocoa Solids.
The first ingredient in a cocoa bean is called Cocoa Mass
Cocoa Mass is dark in colour and may range from reddish brown through to a black colour. This is the part that gives chocolate both colour and flavour. Like apples, cocoa beans have different varieties and so the colour and flavour of each variety will be slightly different. The colour is not an indication of cocoa bitterness. All cocoa solids are very, very bitter; it’s what is done to then later that makes it palatable, so read on ….
The second ingredient in a cocoa bean is called Cocoa Butter
Cocoa Butter does not have a distinct flavour but it does have amazing properties. I expect you have heard of this as it’s widely used in cosmetics and body lotions. Cocoa Butter is a creamy white liquid when heated and this will set in to a hard block. This is the ingredient that maximises your enjoyment and flavour when you eat a piece of chocolate. It makes the chocolate feel smooth and taste creamy. Then, when you have eaten the chocolate, it’s the cocoa butter that makes the taste linger in your mouth.
What else is added to make Dark Chocolate
Sugar or another sweetener such as cane sugar, or an artificial sweetener but beware … ALL artificial sweeteners will act as a laxative so only eat a square or two at a time! The other ingredient that is usually found is lecithin, most commonly soy (soya) lecithin or sunflower lecithin. This is probably less than 1% by volume but is a ‘magic’ ingredient that stops the chocolate ‘splitting’ during production. (Rather like adding a teaspoon of water to home-made mayonnaise to stop it splitting). And the final ingredient, which some manufacturers leave out, is vanilla. Look for the words “Natural Vanilla” to get the real thing and avoid “Vanilla”, “Vanilla Flavouring” or “Vanillin”; all of which are artificial flavourings.
Why is some Dark Chocolate NOT Vegan Friendly?
It’s all to do with Economics! Cocoa Butter is a valuable commodity. If you can sell it on and replace it with something that costs less you can make your chocolate more cheaply and thereby increase profits. Some manufacturers of Dark Chocolate use fat from milk to replace the cocoa butter. This chocolate is obviously not suitable for Vegan – so READ THE LABEL! It won’t tell you how much cocoa butter there is in the chocolate so look out for any extra ingredients other than: Cocoa Solids, Sugar (or similar), Lecithin and Natural Vanilla (or another flavouring).
So why call it Vegan Friendly and not just Vegan Chocolate?
For logistical and financial reasons, most small artisan producers of hand-made chocolate also use milk chocolate within the same environment. A good artisan chocolatier will take great care to ensure that no milk products get into the vats of dark chocolate, but this can never be 100% guaranteed. Here at Artisan Chocolates by Saffire our dark chocolate callets and melted dark chocolate vats are in a separate location in our workshop and every effort is made to avoid cross contamination. Therefore, on all our labels we clearly and honesty state that our dark chocolate bars and novelties are made in an area where milk is used. From our shop you can clearly see the separate locations of both our dark and milk chocolate machines!
If in doubt, come and check us out