CHOCOLATE TESTING! A comparison of 85 different milk chocolates to determine which tastes the best

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Chocolate motto!

In Cioccolata, Illic Est Vires!

Latin for: In Chocolate, there is strength!

(Although there is no word for chocolate in original Latin, modern translation programs use the rules of word construction and archaic Italian to approximate one.)

 
  I've been hunting down and testing milk chocolates for years. Here is a listing, with the best listed first, of what I have found to be the best tasting milk chocolates. On the rare (very rare) occasions where I've shared my chocolates with other people they usually agree with my judgements. My personal preferences are for an intense chocolate flavor deepened, but not hidden, by milky/creamy notes and enough sugar to balance the chocolate's bitterness. I like a pure chocolate flavor that isn't masked by fruity, smokey, or mocha flavors. The after taste should be strong, long lasting and not turn sour.

  It goes without saying that this list and the opinions it contains are subjective and reflect my own personal taste preferences. The chocolate I consider the best others may believe to be the worst and visa versa. Readers are encouraged to conduct their own tests and make up their own minds. Also, I've only tested one of two samples of most of the brands. It's possibe those particular samples were not representative of the average quality of that brand.

  If you know of other premium milk chocolates that aren't listed here and can offer me a source where they can be found, please send the information to me. Thank you.

 

  The following article was copied from healthcentral.com.

Here’s some good news for chocolate lovers. Researchers say those sweet treats contain large quantities of natural antioxidants which help product us against cardiovascular disease.

Antioxidants are also known as flavonoids and there are hundreds of these compounds in chocolate and cocoa powder, according to a report in Science News Online.

I guess this means chocolate – often thought of as a junk food - could become the next health food fad, but only if manufacturers don’t remove the flavonoids when making candy. One company, Mars Inc., knows a good thing, and has developed a proprietary process to preserve these flavonoids. Soon they will label candy made with this process, to let consumers know the compounds are present.

To gain credibility for the health benefits of chocolate, candy companies and the American Cocoa Research Institute are pumping money into studies, some of which were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Here’s an interesting fact. The researchers say a 40-gram serving of milk chocolate contains about the same amount of flavonoids as a glass of red wine, approximately 400 milligrams. Dark chocolate is really healthy, containing nearly 800 milligrams of flavonoids, or about the same amount as a cup of black tea.

In one study, researchers found flavonoids in chocolate were also more potent than those found in many vitamins, including ascorbic acid.

While there are some 4,000 known flavonoids in plant products, there is one family of the antioxidants prevalent in chocolate – procyanidins, which work to relax the inner surface of blood vessels by increasing nitric oxide concentrations.

So, the next time you bite into a chocolate bar, you can feel good about eating something that not only tastes great but is beneficial to your health.

Source: Science News Online, March 18, 2000

 

On to the taste tests!

Merckens Marquis Milk Chocolate: A smooth, rich, pure chocolate: simply the best. The chocolate is slightly stronger than Callebaut and Bernard C, ideal for people who prefer eating just a few pieces of chocolate at a time. The after taste is excellent. You couldn't ask for a better chocolate. Available from the Baker's Catalog (Phone # 1-800-827-6836 or http://KingArthurFlour.com) for $9.50 for a two pound block, which is almost as inexpensive as Hershey's.

Merkens de-rated! After 4 years as the top-rated milk chocolate, I am de-rating Merkens down to tenth place. The last two orders I've received, eight and ten pounds ordered six months apart, have had a sour sharp flavor that I can no longer endorse. The aftertaste, which use to be rich and warm, is now bitter. I attempted to contact the Merkens company directly and through its distributers, but so far have not received a response.

 

Callebaut Milk Chocolate: Broken off a huge slab at Jane's Gourmet Foods in Montrose, California: Almost identical to Merckens but with a slightly milder taste. I'm hard pressed to tell which is better.

Bernard C. Milk Chocolate Coverture: This chocolate has a pure, mild, chocolate taste with absolutely no distracting off-flavors or sharp notes and is ideally suited to people who prefer to eat a lot of chocolate at one sitting; its gentle taste doesn't over-power you if a lot is consumed. It is the smoothest melting of all the chocolates. The after taste is mellow and doesn't sour. The wrapper states that this is a milk chocolate coverture, implying that like most covertures it has a higher cocoa butter content than eating chocolates. My one complaint about this chocolate is that its color is a pale, grayish-brown, not the rich brown of most milk chocolates.

Hershey's: It's too sweet, coarse and sharp but has a pure, or at least uncluttered, chocolate flavor. The only reason it rates this high is that unlike many of the chocolates rated lower, it doesn't have fruity, smoky, or mocha flavors which interfere with the pure chocolate taste I prefer. Hershey's isn't good, but it's not as bad as the rest of the chocolates tested. My recommendation would be to order a brick of Merckens Marquis Milk Chocolate.

I've often puzzled over what makes Hershey's so gritty. Recently, I left a bar in the car while I did some shopping. When I came back it had warmed to the point where it was very soft. Upon tasting it I noticed that the texture was very smooth and creamy. This suggests that the grittiness is cause by particles of fat, which become soft when warmed.

The size and shape of a piece of chocolate can have a profound impact on the overall eating pleasure. A good example of this is Hershey's Nuggets. These one-third ounce chunks (equivalent to two Hershey's Kisses) are sized and shaped ideally to nestle in a person's mouth. For some reason, this greatly increases the enjoyment of eating the chocolate.

I've been comparing samples of Hershey's milk chocolate and discovered that there is considerable variation in quality. One chocolate bar had a wonderfully rich flavor whereas another, purchased from a different store, tasted terrible. The back of each bar is marked with a batch code. If you find a bar that tastes better then usual, go back to the same box it came out of and buy up all the bars with the same code to ensure that you get good-tasting bars. For a running record of the quality of these vintages, please visit my HERSHEY'S VINTAGE PAGE.

 

Gloria Jean's: These small, 1.3 oz., bars available from Gloria Jean's coffee shops in most malls for $1.50 are very good. The chocolate flavor is a little on the weak side but it's smooth, with no sour notes and has a good after taste.

Sam's Choice: Available in Wal-Mart. Smooth, mild flavor with a hint of caramel from having real cocoa butter in it. The chocolate flavor is weak but there are no sour notes in it so I'm rating this inexpensive chocolate rather high on the list. Although it's not as good as Hershey's when Hershey's is good, Hershey's milk chocolate in 2004 has been notoriously bad, especially the 55-56 series, which would rate at the bottom of the list. The 61 series is slightly better but still not good. All I can say is that Hershey's must have overroasted the beans for these batches or purchesed poor quality beans at cut rate prices.

Lake Champlain: Very smooth, quick to melt, good flavor but a little caramely from lots of cocoa butter. This milk chocolate is available in Whole Foods stores. I thought it was just a little sharp from a slightly too-high cocoa content, but I still ate and enjoyed the entire bar.

Venchi: Very smooth and rich. The high cocoa butter content gives it a slightly caramely flavor. The aftertaste does not turn sour.

Harry London: A little sweet but smooth. The after taste is slightly sharp but not a bad product for a cheap brand.

Galaxy: This Irish chocolate is quite good. It's much smoother than Hershey's but a little too sweet, which weakens the chocolate impact.

NEW!!! Tom and Sally's Homemade Chocolate: (Avialable in Marshall's) A soft, smooth, mild chocolate that's good, though a little malty and with a slightly harsh finish.

Whole Foods' 365: A smooth chocolate with a slightly weak flavor. There's a hint of too much milk that gives it a malty note... but I was able to eat the whole bar so it couldn't have been too bad. Available from the Whole Foods Market chain of stores.

Caro: A barely servicable chocolate available in Whole Foods stores. It's too milky and carmely for my tastes. It also has an odd light color when broken that almost looks like it's been foamed.

Cote D'Or: Smooth, but a little harsh and I detected a slightly sour aftertaste.

Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate: A good, honest, smooth chocolate. I'm rating it slightly down the list because it has a hint of a bitter edge reminiscent of German or bittersweet chocolate.

Schokinag: Slightly stronger than Merckens but perfectly balanced with a little extra sugar. Rich flavor, good aftertaste, but... there's a hint of malt flavor that weakens what would otherwise be a good chocolate.

Cloud Nine: A smooth mild chocolate with the slightest hint of fruitiness. It's a close toss-up whether the harshness of Hershey's is preferable to the fruitiness of this chocolate. It leaves a long-lasting, pleasant aftertaste.

Rausch: A chocolate from Germany. It has a rich, creamy, smooth texture and flavor with just the slightest hint of fruitiness.

Sarotte Milk Chocolate: Almost identical to Cloud Nine.

Joe Muggs: Available in Florida in Joe Muggs coffee shops. The sweet, fine-grained, fruity-flowery noted, mild flavor is slow to develop. It has a soft texture that's good for chewing.

Private Selection: Smooth, quick-melting chocolate that's the Ralph's supermarket store brand. It has a strong raisin-like fruitiness that put me off.

Hageland Ecuador: A 43-percent supposedly high-end bar. I found the chocolate flavor so intense that it had a strong coffee-like note.

Endangered Species Chocolate Company: a little sweet but smooth and it had a good solid chocolate flavor that developed quickly.

Jacques Premium Belgian Chocolate: At $2.00 for two one-pound bars in Walmart, I was cynical as to how "premium" this chocolate could be... and was right. The chocolate taste is slow to develop and has a sour caramel undertone that's very distracting. It is, however, smooth.

Shaman's Dream Organic: Strong, sharp dark chocolate taste with a hint of caramel.

Caley's: A smooth chocolate with a good chocolate kick that is ruined by a noticable mocha or coffee taste.

Fazer: A chocolate from Finland that had a slightly sharp flavor hinting at mint.

Milka: By Tolber. It's a little too sweet and the chocolate flavor is weak. The after taste does not sour. My concern for this chocolate is that it's called a "Milk Chocolate Confection" instead of just "Milk Chocolate." The lesser ingredients list hazelnut, peanut, and almond paste as ingredients. This may just be their way of saying that the same machines that make these bars make others that use these materials and that they aren't guaranteeing that every speck of the previous production run was cleaned out before they made these bars. This is important because many people are allergic to nuts. I couldn't taste any nut flavors.

Palmer Milk Chocolate Coins: This cheap chocolate was better than I had anticipated. It was too sweet but smooth and had an honest chocolate kick to it. The aftertaste soured slightly but not as much as many others. This isn't great chocolate but if I were starving on a desert island...

Cantalou: This Belgian or perhaps French chocolate was a little weak but smooth and had a good chocolate/sweetness balance. However, the aftertaste was slightly sour.

Hachez: A chocolate from Germany. Smooth texture but far too fruity. It's also a little sharp with a bitter edge.

Valhrona Le Lacte: The flavor is very strong, leaning toward a semisweet taste. It has the best texture of all the chocolates if you prefer to chew your chocolate as opposed to letting it melt in the mouth. The after taste is mellow and long lasting. It's available on the net from Bertands.com for about $5.00 (after shipping) for a 3.5-ounce bar. It has the handsomest wrapping of any bar I've seen.

Scharffenberger: Strong, sharp, bittersweet chocolate taste. This is a high (41 percen) cocoa content chocolate that might be appreciated by people you prefer bittersweet of dark chocolates.

Disney's Milk Chocolate Squares: This chocolate, made by Harry London Candies, was smooth, soft, too sweet, and had a hint of mint in it.

Caley's Marching Milk Chocolate: A hard-textured chocolate with a slow-to-develop flavor that ends up leaning toward a bittersweet chocolate flavor. Also, it had a slight chemical edge.

Chocolove Milk Chocolate: This had a sharp cocoa edge to the flavor.

Streit's Kosher Milk Chocolate: This chocolate was smooth, a little on the weak side, and had a slight chemical sourness to it.

El Rey Coaba: A unique chocolate from the El Rey chocolate company in Venezuela. It has a good texture but the chocolate flavor is masked by a coffee-like taste and aroma that results from its being made from one hundred percent carenerro flavor beans. I tested it on a coffee lover and he said he did not like how the mocha flavor masked the chocolate taste. It comes wrapped in a one-piece, industrial-strength plastic wrapper that is a bit of a put-off. Available from the on-line store Made In France in boxes of twelve, 3.5 once bars for $11.00.

Callebaut Milk Chocolate: This is a very smooth, highly rated chocolate from the world-famous Belgium chocolate makers. I found it had a sharp flavor, wasn't quite sweet enough, and left a bitter after taste that lasted a long time. However, the Callebaut milk chocolate from Jane's in Montrose was excellent. It could be that her's was the same as the Callebaut coverture rated second in this test.

Geoffery (from Toys-R-Us): A below average chocolate that's far too sweet, almost sugary.

Botrz: Average smoothness with a hint of fine graininess, too sweet, slight chemical edge.

Sweet Blessings: Smooth, but sharp, too close to semisweet. I also detected a slight fruitiness.

Dagoba Organic: Smooth, but it had a harsh burnt edge that made me thing the manufacturer had over-roasted the beans.

Zackary: Hard, slightly grainy, too sweet, and a harsh chemical edge.

Frankford: Like Zackary but softer and grainier.

Peter's Milk Chocolate Alps: The initial flavor is similar to Merckens but weaker and the texture is grainier. A strong burnt flavor quickly develops which spoils the experience.

Perugina: Smooth, leaning toward a bittersweet chocolate. It didn't have enough milky notes to deepen and smooth out the flavor. There was also a hint of fruitiness.

Brach's Milk Chocolate Stars: This chocolate is harsher and sweeter than Hershey's, maybe a little smoother. It also has a hint of malt flavoring. The after taste is sour.

Valrhona Jivara Lactee: This chocolate's a puzzle. Although it has the same ingredients in the same order as Valrhona's Le Lacte, it has a sharp, buttery note that overpowers the chocolate taste. This would place it lower on the list except it has a great texture.

Green and Black's Organic: Chaulky note, very sharp - almost like a bittersweet chocolate.

World's Finest Chocolate, Inc: World's Finest? I don't think so. It was sharp, with a sour aftertaste.

Prestige of Belgium: Smooth texture, weak chocolate flavor, carmel undernote, and a chemical sour taste makes this a poor choice.

Trader Joe's Organic Milk Chocolate: Smooth texture but slow-to-develop flavor that ended up tasting chemically sour.

Stollwerck: This Swiss chocolate was too sweet and had a weak chocolate taste with a slight chemical edge.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory: A sharp chemical taste overpowers the mild chocolate flavor. Smooth texture.

Scherwood: Too sweet with a harsh edge.

Guittard Milk Chocolate: A fruity note and harsh chemical taste compete with each other and mask much of the chocolate flavor.

Dove: It has a sharp flavor that's too close to semisweet chocolate for my taste. The newer formulation with New-Richer Flavor on the label is even sharper than the original. This stuff makes great chocolate chips, though, because its harshness is muted by the sweetness of the cookie.

Dove organic! A very soft, extremely smooth chocolate with a hint of maltiness and perhaps caramel. It has a sharp, sour note that lingers unpleasantly on the palate.

Fort Knox Coins (Verburg Co.): The maker tries to hide a poor quality chocolate by adding a touch of mint flavoring. It helped but not enough.

Global Confections: This company sells a large bar labeled, "Fine Belgian Chocolate." It isn't. The chocolate flavor is slow to develop, weak, and masked by a strange fruity taste.

Rademaker: Weak-flavored with a slight sharpness and a sour after taste.

Wilton Light Cocoa Melting Drops: This is a crafting or coating chocolate. It's a little grainy, much too sweet, and is lacking the deep mellow body of a good chocolate. It tastes like a spoonful of Nestle's Quick powder for making chocolate milk.

Bon Bon and Sweet Factory Candy Store Milk Chocolate Break-up: These are one-ounce triangular chunks broken off a larger block of chocolate. They are harsh, too sweet, and grainy.

Monterey-Carmel Milk Chocolate: Made by the Chocolate Gallery company for the tourist trade in California's Monterey, Carmel area. Harsh chemical taste competes with a semisweet bitterness to see which can make this chocolate taste the worst.

Droste: The chocolate was good and the packaging, with perfectly sized and shaped pieces in a tube, is excellent but the chocolate has a strong, smoky note reminiscent of burnt bacon.

Starbuck's: Consumer Reports said this chocolate was good with nutty and mocha tones. The bar I had ($1.79 for a small bar) had neither of these but did have an odd, aromatic chemical note that was a real put-off. It was smooth, however.

See's Milk Chocolate Bar: It has a good sugar-chocolate balance and a smooth texture but it also had a high, chemical off-note that soured the taste. I believe See's gets their chocolate from Guittard and since it rates lower than bars carrying the Guittard label, I can only assume they have different formulations.

Cadbury (American): Sour, fruity flavor. (The American version is made by Hershey's.)

Cadbury (English): Darker, slightly grainier and a purer chocolate flavor but it leaves a burning sensation in the throat.

Nestley's: It's a little gritty, though not as bad a Hershey's, and so sweet even a sugar-lover like myself found it offensive.

Cloud Nine Organic Milk Chocolate: Coursely grainy and a nasty, off-flavor make this a poor choice.

Cadbury's Bournville: It wasn't clear from the label what this was. Tasting proved it to be more of a semisweet chocolate.

Valor: Packaged in an attractive box and carefully sealed in foil I thought this was going to be a winner. Instead it was one of the worst chocolates I've ever tasted. Out of the wrapper the chocolate had a very dull finish, suggesting it hadn't bee properly tempered. Supporting this was the fact that out of all the chocolates tested this was the only one that showed signs of white blooming on the back. The chocolate was very brittle and was almost impossible to melt. When chewed, it crunched like a cracker. The flavor was semi-sweet, bitter and foul with no milky notes to mellow it.

Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate: It had a strong, chemical off-flavor. Great looking wrapper, though.

Stater Brothers Market Milk Chocolate: Too sweet, with a sharp chemical taste and a burnt after taste. Pretty terrible.

NEW!!! Hershey's Cacoa Reserve: A very harsh, semi-sweet milk chocolate that I found extremely vile.

Lindt Milk Chocolate: This tastes a lot like Hershey's Symphony but has a sharper chemical taste. I'm rating it higher than Symphony because at least there's something to taste.

Hershey's Symphony: Slow-to-develop, weak flavor dominated by a sour chemical taste.

NEW!!! Harry and David's: While this company produces many outstanding products, its milk chololate bars aren't one of them. It was harsh, bitter and had a burnt note that they tried, and failed, to cover up by adding too much sugar.

Rapunzel: A poor chocolate with a aromatic chemical taste that was a real put-off

Ritter Sport: Same as Symphony

Whitman's: A strong, nasty, chemical taste almost hid a weak chocolate flavor.

Carlos V: Grainy, chalky, too sweet with a slow-to-develop and weak chocolate flavor. Sour after taste.

Opera: This chocolate bar is made in Spain and is grossly inferior to almost all other milk chocolates. It has a milky-chalky-grainy weak flavor that makes you wonder why you're bothering to eat it. It's no wonder that this stuff is usually found in bargain stores at three for a dollar.

Godiva Milk Chocolate Bar: It had a flowery, aromatic note that was very distracting. It also left a sour after taste.

Katzenzungen (by Waldbuar): Terrible: grainy, bitter, too much sugar added in an attempt to hide the burnt chocolate note.

Ghirardelli's individually wrapped squares: These things have a sour, chemical taste that's truly vile. They come in little boxed sets and sell for premium prices. They have a different formulation than the larger Ghirardelli bars.

Feodora: After five years of working on this list I finally found a chocolate worse than the Ghirardelli individually wrapped squares mentioned above. Feodora has a vile, sour taste that putrifies on the palate leaving a long lasting foul after taste. I belive this is a Swiss or German company.

 

  Validation is always comforting... as I found out when I happened across a copy of Lise Stern's The Chocolate Report (1993), a supplement to the bimonthly publication The Cookbook Review. Of the twenty-eight milk chocolates she tested Merckens Marquis came out first, Callebaut third, Hershey's sixth, and Ghirardelli last. These are close to my own judgements. I particularly enjoyed her description of Ghirardelli's milk chocolate, which likens its flavor to paint and smokey sneakers. Ghirardelli's success and reputation seem to be more the product of an effective advertising program than due to the quality of their chocolate.

 

A word about chocolate addiction: After spending years eating chocolate on a regular basis for this page, has become almost impossible to resist. If there's a bag of it in the house I'll hunt it down and snack on chocolate... regardless of my decision to resist the urge to do so. I don't feel any itchiness or other physical manifestations of withdraw when I don't have it so I'm thinking that what's happened is that I've developed a very strong habit for eating chocolate. The problem is that everytime I give into the urge and eat some chocolate, the pleasure it gives provides immediate reinforcement of this bad (bad?) habit. The compulsion is mild, yet consistently wins out over my determination to stop. This is an interesting, and frusrating, condition.

 

White Chocolate:

Callebaut: This has a wonderful, buttery-rich flavor and texture with a hint of cocoa. The after taste is delicious, mellow, seductive, long lasting, and non-souring. I consider this white chocolate as competitive in every way, and sometimes preferable to, the best milk chocolate. It's sometimes available from Williams-Sonoma stores in ten-ounce packages of medium-sized chips for $8.50. Bags of smaller chips can be purchased from Jane's in Montrose, California.

Venchi White Chocolate: Excellent in every way. I'd be hard pressed to decide between in and Callebaut.

Valhrona: Excellent in every respect but not quite as rich and mellow as the Callebaut. Available in chunks from Whole Foods stores for $11.00 per pound.

Trader Joe's White Baking Chips: These had an honest, cocoa butter taste but I thought they were a little too sweet.

Godiva: This had a fine, slight graininess and was a little too sweet but still had a good rich taste. At $2.00 for a 2-ounce bar it was a little expensive.

El Rey: A highly rated white chocolate that I thought had an aromatic chemical note that put me off.

Peter's Snowcap: Grainier than Callebaut or Valhrona. It's acceptable flavor-wise but nothing to write home about.

Mercken's Ivory White: It's as grainy as Peter's and the flavor is noticeably weaker. Sugar dominates the flavor

Baker's White Chocolate: Acceptable, but it has a slightly sharp chemical note. It's available in the Baker's-Cooking-Chocolate section in some large grocery stores.

Ghirardelli White Chips: Horrible, almost inedible things.

Generic White Chips: Universally bad. These are really just milk power in a vegetable-fat binder and a little imitation vanilla. They don't contain any cocoa butter.

 

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