On Cocoa Powder

by F.

I’ve come to love chocolate even though as a child I didn’t like it. I preferred vanilla. Why? Because chocolate reminded me of poop. Same for peanut butter. And fudge. Anything pooplike I couldn’t eat. The sight of melted chocolate smeared on a playmate’s face made me sick: brown ooze should not be left on the rim of any orifice—that was my feeling. Particularly disgusting to me was chocolate mixed with fruit. Like, chocolate covered bananas. If chocolate reminded me of poop, you can imagine what the banana reminded me of. Yeah. Two things that just don’t go together, in my mind. Sort of a like a chocolate covered geoduck.

Why the switch? For one thing, I discovered dark chocolate. I grew up on milk chocolate, which is inferior in every respect. It doesn’t have any bite. It’s the pablum of the chocolate world. To get the real chocolate experience, I need it straight.

My wife and I have been experimenting with various chocolates for at least a year, maybe more. And by “chocolates” I mean dark chocolates, with very little sugar or anything else added. Our favorite so far is Lindt—the bar with the white wrapper. Wow. That is some good chocolate. There’s another one I like though my wife doesn’t. It’s some eco-friendly brand we get at the local co-op. I think I bought it because it had on the label a picture of a tiger or a panda. Anyway, it’s good chocolate, too. And inexpensive.

But if you’re a calorie counting maniac like me, you know that these goodies are highly caloric. Forty grams of Lindt costs 230 calories, or something like that. That’s maybe 10% of my daily calorie allotment. So I do one of two things: either I binge and eat nothing but chocolate all day (try it—it’s not so bad), or I drink my chocolate, which has substantially fewer calories.

Powdered, unsweetened cocoa with hot water added is wicked good. And a tablespoon has 15 calories. Add a shot of milk and a packet of Splenda and you’ve got yourself just about the best calorie bargain in the world. I drink it all day. I love coffee and tea, of course. But too much caffeine lowers intellectual performance, causes anxiety, and results in poor sleep. Chocolate, on the other hand, is all goodness. There are some studies suggesting that chocolate has some other beneficial properties—it’s an anti-oxident, or something. If so, that’s a bonus. The real pay off is having an IV-drip of delicious chocolate goodness hitting the taste buds.

I believe that in order to get the health benefits, if any, of chocolate, it needs to be “non-alkaline” processed—in other words, not “Dutched.” According to the Sharffen Bergen website,

Dutch processing means the cocoa has been alkalized or washed with an alkaline substance such as potassium carbonate to reduce harshness and acidity. Manufacturers reasoned that since cocoa butter, the more valuable fraction extracted during the making of cocoa powder, was unaffected by bean quality, it made sense to use less expensive beans and then chemically treat any flavor problems in the powder.

The containers usually say it’s non-alkaline if it is. Some brands of powdered dark chocolate we like are Rupunzel, which is a little more bitter than others. I like it; my wife likes it less. But I like bitter beers. She likes Sharffen Bergen better. It’s smoother. I like it too, but it has a few more calories per tablespoon. While it is Dutched, Lake Champlain Chocolate powder is good, too. Overall, Sharffen Bergen is the best. It’s not Dutched and yet is amazingly smooth.