Who doesn’t love chocolate? There’s plenty to like about! Maybe that’s why it’s estimated that the average American eats almost 12 pounds of chocolate each year.
In some forms, chocolate can also be healthy for you, too. For example, cocoa is rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that can help with high blood pressure and manage free radicals in the body (which can lead to inflammation and tissue damage) and promote overall health.
Sounds great, right? The challenge with chocolate comes with how unenjoyable pure cocoa or cocoa powder is to eat, mainly due to its very bitter profile. As a result, the chocolate we do enjoy is often very unhealthy due to large amounts of sugar present to make the otherwise bitter flavor of chocolate palatable. Even certain kinds of dark chocolate need some kind of sugar for people to enjoy them.
A new study in Current Research in Food Science, however, outlines efforts to better understand how processing cocoa beans can affect the flavor profile of cocoa and improve its enjoyability without the need for additives.
A team of researchers at Penn State, along with the founder of chocolate company Patric Chocolate, looked specifically at different methods of roasting cocoa beans and how optimal temperatures and time of roasting can improve the bitter profile of chocolate, making it more palatable. Roasting is used to produce chocolate because it helps remove many of the acids in cocoa beans that give chocolate a bitter taste.
The study included 145 participants who were asked to sample 27 different chocolate products, each prepared with beans roasted in different ways to gauge how people respond. Researchers highlight that reliance on sensory perception to test chocolate products was a unique approach to understanding chocolate's bitterness profile.
Findings from the study suggest that people generally found chocolate products made of beans roasted at higher temperatures for longer (and without sugar!) more enjoyable compared to beans that were raw or minimally roasted.