There has long since been a rivalry between the Brits and the Americans on many fronts. However, perhaps one of the most underrated aspects of this rivalry is the food, specifically the chocolate.
Ask any Brit, and they will choose British chocolate whilst any American will obviously choose theirs. But which one is better?
The difference in ingredients
The cocoa solids percentage
To be classed as chocolate in Britain, it must contain a minimum of 20% cocoa solids, whereas American chocolate only needs to contain 10%. This accounts for much of the differences in taste. Most other places in Europe prefer an even higher ratio of cocoa solids.
Some American chocolate confectionery such as candy melts or candy melts substitutes don’t even contain cocoa solids. However, cocoa content isn’t the only difference.
While the debate continues, it is important to point out that it is a matter of taste; deciding which chocolate is better is entirely subjective. It comes down to a taste preference. That being said, there are three significant distinctions in ingredients between British and American chocolate.
First is the cocoa content, as mentioned above. For example, a Cadburys bar contains 23% cocoa to a Hershey bars 11%, this obviously significantly impacts the taste and even the colour of the bars themselves.
The sugar amount
The second major difference is the sugar content. To account for the lesser cocoa content, American-made chocolate has more sugar in it. This applies to the regular chocolate bars, candy bars and shop bought chocolate products.
This continues the tradition of sometimes excessively sugary food for America. Although, by comparison, Americans do consider British chocolate to be more bitter, which is because there is less sugar in British chocolate because the cocoa levels are higher, it isn’t necessary.
Whilst this might be true for artisan chocolates, when it comes to chocolate snack bars, the UK versions are as sweet as the American ones.
To counteract the sweetness of chocolate, the USA chocolate manufacturers also use slightly more salt in chocolate than UK chocolate makers.
Quite often the salt is masking the inferior quality of the chocolate and the higher amount of sugar. To an ordinary customer, the chocolate might taste fine, but they will be probably eating more salt than their recommended daily intake.
The fat – butter amount
Then there is the fat content. American and British chocolate has different levels of cocoa butter and cream in their chocolates.
British chocolates obviously use British butter and cream, which in itself has a higher fat content; this gives British chocolate its smoother, richer flavour. This is an easy way to distinguish between the different countries’ production processes.
The reduced amount of cocoa butter in American chocolates help to increase the chocolate expiry dates, so chocolates such as Hershey Kisses have a really good shelf life and you can nearly always eat them past their sell by date.
The taste & flavour difference
In terms of which chocolate tastes better, it really comes down to preference. American chocolate is sweeter and uses a smaller variety of added extra ingredients such as nuts and caramels.
British chocolate is smoother and richer and has far more potential added extras. If you want to decide for yourself, why not try both. The Sweet Hamper Company has both British and American chocolate hampers; you can order both and decide for yourself.
You’ll find that American version of other traditional sweets such as toffee often include nuts, peanuts or praline, whereas British version is usually plain.
How British and American producers use preservatives in their chocolate
Emulsifiers are chemicals used to help keep the chocolate together as one cohesive substance instead of separating. If there is enough cocoa butter, an emulsifier is not always needed. However, most manufacturers do use emulsifiers to help them produce larger quantities.
For example, British chocolate usually uses lecithin, and American chocolate uses PGCR as its emulsifiers. American chocolate needs more emulsifiers as it has less cocoa butter in it. This affects the manufacturing process more so than the taste, as the choice of emulsifier affects the efficacy of the production process.
Vegetable oil is a debated addition; in America, you cannot include it if you want to label the product as chocolate, whereas in Britain, you can include up to 5% vegetable oil.
It more so affects the mouthfeel of the chocolate and not necessarily the taste; it is used as a way to reduce the amount of cocoa butter. Using other fats can help to increase the milk to fat ratio in the chocolate resulting in a smoother finish.
The difference in chocolate manufacturing process
The chocolate making processes couldn’t be more different either, pretty much from the grinding of the first beans and even the beans themselves. American manufacturers favour South American beans, whereas British manufacturers prefer West African Cocoa.
The production of British chocolate uses a ‘chocolate crumb’ in its manufacturing process. American chocolate makers incorporate dried milk powder as an ingredient in its own right. British chocolate uses liquid milk, which is then mixed with sugar and evaporated, drying the milk and leaving a caramel taste behind.
Cocoa liquor is added whilst it dries, and the resulting crumb powder is stored and aged. When the crumb comes to be made into chocolate, it is more stable and has a longer shelf life. This technique is the most significant difference in the manufacturing process and accounts for some taste differences.
In the manufacturing of American chocolate, historically, lipolysis was added, which helps preserve the milk but partially sours it in the process.
However, as more Americans got used to the taste, this practice became commonplace. Even today, when there are better methods for preservation, some companies choose to add butyric acid as consumers expect these sour notes.
There are huge differences throughout the entire chocolate-making process. From the ingredients to the manufacture, it is obvious that British and American chocolate is widely different. However, when it comes to which one tastes better, it is all relative.
Those who were brought up on British chocolate will likely favour it and vice versa. There isn’t really an objective, measurable metric to use to determine the winner. You will have to decide for yourself.
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