Everybody loves Chocolates, almost. But what do we really know about chocolates?
The most common variety of chocolates that ALL of us would have tasted would be "milk" chocolates. The reason they are called MILK Chocolates is because they contain milk solids - usually in the form of skimmed milk powder. This increases the mass of the chocolate at a very low cost but the side effect is that it masks the real taste of cacao in the chocolate. Milk chocolates make good desserts for people who crave very sweet snackibles. But for those who want to get a taste of the real chocolate, milk chocolates can be pretty disappointing.
Dark Chocolates may or may not contain milk solids in their preparation. Primarily they are focused on increasing the proportion of cacao butter and cacao mass in the chocolate compared to the other ingredients such as sugars and milk solids. Dark Chocolates provide a closer taste of cacao than the milk chocolates. Dark Chocolates also offer a lot of health benefits due to the increased levels of cacao content and the higher concentration of flavonoids contained in them. Dark Chocolates are marketed by mentioning numbers such as 70%, 80%, 85%, 90%, 99%, 100%... These usually refer to the percentage of cacao butter and cacao mass in the unit weight of the chocolate compared to other ingredients such as sugars, milk solids and so on.
Vegan Chocolates are those chocolates that do not contain milk products or any kind of animal products in them. These are primarily sought after by select consumers who have a philosophy of not consuming animal based products and there are no tangible benefits of having these chocos.
Gluten is most commonly found in wheat, wheat based products and some popular grains. Gluten intolerance is not a very common occurrence in a country like India where the number of people with such conditions is ranges from 8 per 1,000 people in Assam to 0.1 per thousand people in Tamil Nadu. This is much lesser compared to western countries like USA where it can affect as many as 60 per 1,000 people! So, these countries have a propensity to market products as "gluten-free" to allow more customers to buy their products without having to worry about its consequences. However, in a country like India, gluten-free is not a major reason for most people to buy and enjoy a chocolate or even a biscuit! As Indians, we need to learn to adapt to what our conditions are and not blindly imitate the western marketing based consumption practices.
A lot of products claim "organic" in their marketing and this could be true for most of them. But, basically, organic is complete only when the cycle of growing, processing and preparing the food from these products are completely chemical-free. So, essentially, products grown without chemical fertilisers or pesticides in farms and later processed without adding any kind of chemicals to while processing the cacao beans to chocolate powder and later not adding any chemical preservatives while preparing chocolate itself can be considered as "completely organic" chocolates. However, most cacao beans are processed using the "Dutch Processing" method wherein alkalis such as Sodium Carbonate are used to wash the cacao beans before fermenting and grinding. This is done to modify the colour of the chocolate and normalize the flavour of cacao in the end product. So, chasing organic chocolates which bypass all these steps is nothing really extraordinary or "healthy" as most people would like to believe as soon as they see "organic" in the marketing.
Traditionally, chocolate makers have depended on sourcing cacao or cacao powder from other manufacturers or importers to prepare the chocolate products that they want to make and sell. However, with the rise of cacao-growers in India, a number of "bean-to-bar" chocolate makers have also sprung up over the last decade. Most of them either own the cacao farms themselves OR they tie up with local farmers who grow cacao to tie up with them by signing purchase agreements. These chocolate makers usually, take ownership of the entire chocolate making process right from the sorting and grading of cacao beans to the drying, fermentation, grinding and then making chocolate bars or other products using the processed cacao. This brings a novelty in the way sourcing is done and the encouragement given to the local farmers who can benefit with additional and reliable income. The end products themselves may taste more or less the same as other chocolates made from non-local sources. However, one major cause of concern here is that Indian Cacao has been found to lack the kind of flavour that the beans from Malaysia or Ghana have. So, the end chocolates may not taste the best compared to chocolates made from those beans.
Most cacao beans are typically imported from the African countries or South East Asian countries in India. However, over the last 2 decades a lot of efforts have gone in to grow cacao in India - especially the southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Many chocolate makers have evolved in these regions thanks to this availability of new cacao sources than traditional imports. When a chocolate maker uses the cacao-beans grown in a single estate or a region with homogenous parameters of growing conditions, then the chocolates made from such cacao-beans are called Single-Origin Chocolates. Recently, Amul has launched a range of single-origin chocolates in its newly launched dark chocolate range of bars. While they have some novelty in terms of sourcing, the end products themselves may not be very distinctive or special for most consumers - unless they are connoisseurs of chocolates who understand the various flavour notes.
Artisanal chocolates are usually made from carefully curated chocolate bases or cacao beans to be used with gourmet flavours created by the brands or chefs. Artisanal chocolates derive their name from the fact that they are not made for "mass production" like in a factory. Instead, they are carefully handcrafted by individual "artisans" or chefs who do this for their own passion. Typically, artisanal chocolates have a wide range of flavours, cacao butter + cacao mass percentages and exotic ingredients that would have been curated from the most local to the far off international locales. Artisanal chocolate makers typically prefer to advertise their products as gluten-free, vegan, organic, bean-to-bar, single-origin, and so on to highlight the uniqueness of their creations.