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If you are wanting to rebalance and eat healthily, you may think that means no chocolate. Not so! The great news is that it just means having the right chocolate. Cacao is a superfood, it’s packed full of vitamins and minerals, and the theobromine stimulates your body to produce mood lifting endorphins. So as long as you don’t swamp the cacao with sugar and fat, you can keep eating chocolate, it’ll simply make you happier and more able to give up things that really are bad for you!

This Tasting Box is all about sugar, or the lack of it. How different sugar levels bring out different flavour notes in the beans and how you can get sweetness and balance from many different sources.

If you would like to hear more, watch my tasting video at


As ever, make sure your chocolate is at room temperature, before you taste it and have a glass of water to hand.

When I am making a new chocolate the starting point is always the cacao – the corazón, the heart. Then it is a matter of which ingredients to add to it to bring out or complement its flavour profile. Usually that involves sugar, but my Pure Gold, 100% Sur del Lago cacao really has no need for sugar. This is because it is such a light bean and I have given it just a light roast before conching for about 3 weeks (more when the beans are fresh) to drive off any acidity. This leaves intense but smooth nutty notes. Compare this to the Las Trincheras 72, also nutty but this nuttiness has been evoked by adding sugar.

What is surprising is that different quantities of sugar bring out different flavour characteristics in the beans. Move on to the San Agustin 88 and San Agustin 70 dark chocolates. In the 88% you catch cherry and damson notes and the 70% is more honeyed with glimpses of red fruits.

The benchmark for sugar levels is the classic 70% dark chocolate which by definition contains 70% cacao and 30%  sugar. Anything with less sugar than this could be considered a lower sugar chocolate. Too much sugar masks the flavour of the beans and when you add other ingredients they also need to achieve a balance… the ginger and lime in Ginger Lime give a lift to the honey notes in the Baracoan cacao.

Sometimes there is no need to add sugar because there can be enough naturally occurring in the other ingredients. So to make the No Added Sugar bars I have used a light bean from Awajun and relied on all the sweetness coming naturally from the fruit and nuts. In Pistachio Date and Raisin Hazelnut there is less sugar than in a straight 70% dark chocolate, but the balance is perfect. Orange Almond eats more like the 100% cacao bar because the only sugar is coming from the nuts.


Anna’s Jewelled Bites, 100% Rio Maranon cacao brimming with fruit & nuts. This is an all powerful pick me up. My mother asked me to make a bar she could eat, back when I was just making 100% cacao for cooking. The dried fruit and nuts create the perfect balance with the cacao, but there are so many in there it has to be handmade. Mamma mia!

The Aztec, 99% Awajun cacao with chilli

The Aztecs drank cacao with a religious passion. They ground it with water and chilli and poured it from a great height to froth. Here the 1% sugar evokes the fruit notes in the awajun cacao and the chilli brings out the juiciness. Perfect bean. Perfect balance.


Published: 05/07/2021

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