All posts by 2016e415

Chocolate Tasting: Changing the Impulse Buy

This past week, I conducted a chocolate tasting with a few friends with the goal of bringing the almost unheard of role that slavery plays in the chocolate world to their attention. I accomplished this goal by introducing the group to chocolate produced by companies that have set out to change the standard of the chocolate world. In addition to this, I was able to introduce everyone to how complex and different each taste of dark chocolate can be, and that there are more flavors to be accounted for than just milk or dark. In this blog post, I will be sharing highlights from the tasting.

Chocolate1      Chocolate2

After a trip to Whole Foods for Whole Foods 32% Milk Chocolate, Taza (70%, and Raspberry), Endangered Species Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate, and Theo (65% and 70% chili) and a short stop at a CVS pharmacy for milk and dark Hershey’s chocolate I portioned out the chocolates and saved the wrappers.

I decided that I would conduct a blind tasting, as much as I wanted my group to know what they were eating, I did not want any pre-conceived notions about their first bite except for what they could see, smell, taste, and hear. I conducted the tasting very closely to how Professor Martin conducts the ones in our lectures. (1)

All of the chocolates, plus some cheese for after the tasting

I assigned each chocolate a letter and a number, mostly so I could keep track of what we were eating. I instructed everyone to smell the chocolate, hold the chocolate up to the light, break the chocolate piece, and then finally taste it. Between each of these steps we paused to discuss what we smelled, what we saw, what we heard, and what we tasted. None of my group had ever evaluated something they were eating in this way, so the process alone was new for them all. This made a few of them nervous, but by the third piece everyone was excited to hold the chocolate to their ear and hear it snap.

I first asked everyone to describe their typical chocolate indulgences, and here is what they gave me:

B: Way too much! I usually have dark chocolate.

J: None, I hate chocolate. I’ll have white chocolate if any.

D: A couple times per week, not in excess. I usually eat Hershey and Reese’s.

L: Every other week or so, sometimes a random Ghiradelli square.

M: Once a week, sometimes more. Chocolate is chocolate to me.

S: Once a month, I either have milk or dark chocolate.

The first chocolate I introduced was Whole Food’s Milk Chocolate. I explained to my group the process we would be following:

1: Smelling our chocolate and discussing different aromas.

2: Looking at our chocolate in the light and listening for a snap when broken.

3: Tasting our chocolate and letting it melt on our tongue to experience the evolution of flavors.

Overall, this chocolate reminded everyone of Christmas:

J: It smells like the type of chocolate you get off of the Christmas countdown calendar. It reminds me of the holidays.

L: I thought it just smelled like hot chocolate.


B: It tasted like Christmas.

In addition to the holiday feel, my peers were beginning to develop a great sense of flavor growth, describing how at first they tasted milk and eventually the chocolate became bitter.

The second chocolate I introduced was Endangered Species Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel. This one provoked a lengthy discussion about the pronunciation of “caramel” versus “carmel.” Either way, it ended up being the runner-up favorite of the night.

Everyone was able to pick up the contrast between the milk chocolate, and this first dark chocolate just by smell:
B: I’m smelling a lot of bitter.

J: Gross, just gross. I’m so sorry but I really just don’t like chocolate!

S: I’m getting a burnt cardboard scent?

M: Ooh! I’m getting that too, it’s totally like burnt popcorn or something!

The first bite yielded a loud snap as the caramel poured out, leading most to taste the salted caramel before they even reached the chocolate.

M: Wow, that’s good caramel. I like this one. I can’t even tell it’s bitter.

S: So much better than the last one. I’m going to guess this is 60% cacao.

D: The last one went from sweet and milky to bitter, and this one went from bitter to salty.

I’m still not sure how, but S was right on the nose with how much cacao was in this chocolate, but I’m pretty amazed with that prediction!

At this point while everyone was looking at the packaging, many questions about Fair Trade came up which led me into a quick rundown of Fair Trade practices, both good and bad. Fair Trade members and certified companies agree on the same principles: long-term direct trading relationships, consistent payment of both fair prices and wages, no child/forced/exploited labor of any form, workplace non-discrimination, gender equity, freedom of association, safe working conditions with reasonable hours, investment in community development projects, environmental sustainability, traceability and transparency. (2) Fair Trade is doing some really excellent work, but it’s almost too good to be entirely true. It’s a long and expensive processes to become certified Fair Trade, which is a burden that is mostly weighted by the farmers. In addition to this, there’s no evidence yet that their changes are actually holding up. In the end, it’s really just a label for the rich, who can afford this price and feel good about what they’re eating. 

Next up, the third chocolate, was Theo’s Chili chocolate bar, which is 70% cacao. Personally, I was scared of this chocolate as I don’t like spicy food, and I didn’t have enough chocolate to taste it beforehand myself.

Taste wise in the beginning, it took quite a bit longer than the others to melt down but when it did there was a raucous reaction filling the room!

L: It’s there, it’s definitely there.

M: It takes a really long time to melt down…Ewwww!!! No no no no.

D: It’s really subtle, until the spice kicked in it felt like putting something tasteless in my mouth. There’s some orange in that, it’s weird.

J: Yeah, there’s orange in there. Still gross, still sucks.

Theo 65% cacao chocolate was up next. As we began to sniff this chocolate, a discussion erupted, and it was a great reminder that all sensory is relative and extremely personal.

M: This one smells calmer, very natural.

S: I feel like I’m smelling nature, maybe a rain forest.

D: I don’t know what you guys are talking about I don’t smell sh*t!

Stuckey (3) tells us that when something tastes good, it also has to look, feel, and sound good. Everyone has their own opinion of what “good” is, so the way each person percieves each sample can be night and day.

Even though D didn’t smell anything, this chocolate ended up being their favorite. In fact, D will be moving out to Seattle this summer, and will be living pretty close to the Theo factory.

S: This is a good happy medium, where chocolate should be. Sweet and bitter at the same time.

M: This is a dark chocolate I would be okay with, and I don’t usually eat dark chocolate.

After this we moved onto Taza, starting with their 70% cacao. Everyone took notice of how sparkly and grainy this chocolate was, this caused a bit of confusion as far as looking for the shine or gloss goes.

D: It’s like biting into cookie dough that just came out of the fridge.

M: It’s just so grainy I don’t think I could eat more than a triangle of this at a time.

The second Taza chocolate I picked out was their raspberry flavored chocolate bar. I think by this point everyone was getting sick of the rich dark chocolate flavors, so the introducion of a sweeter flavor completely lit up everyone’s palettes.

D: I’m smelling more with this one. It doesn’t smell like chocolate but I can’t put my finger on it.

J: I smell plastic.

B: I know this smell but I can’t say what it is. I don’t know.

L: I smell raspberry, or a fruity scent.

Just a reminder that I waited to tell everyone what they were eating until after they ate it, so L guessing what it was right away is pretty impressive.

M: Ooh that’s sweet!

D: Definitely raspberry right away.

L: This is my favorite one thus far.

S: It’s too sweet for me, but it’s nice.

Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate was up next, and as far as smell goes, this one had a more positive yet stale reaction.

M: This one smells like Hershey, Pennsylvania!

L: I gotta be honest, this one does smell the best.

When we held this chocolate to the light everyone took notice of that classic engravings in addition to it being the shiniest chocolate we’d tasted yet. Additionally, this chocolate bar failed the snap test.

D: So their milk chocolate must just be a glass of milk?

No one could pinpoint what flavors they were tasting, so I introduced them to the idea that all Hershey’s chocolate has a sour milk tint of flavor to it. After this it was unanimous that there was a sour profile.

S: My mouth feels a bit sticky, like that film you get when you have something that’s too sugary.

By the time we tasted Hershey’s Specialty Dark Chocolate, everyones palates had been exposed to lots of dark chocolate so the taste that was expected was very different from the taste they received. Everyone agreed that this was barely even dark chocolate in comparison to Taza and Theo, and they were correct to think so as it’s only 45% cacao.

I decided to finish with the least chocolate-y of chocolates, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate for one reason;  that was to show the immense contrast between authentic and true dark chocolate and typical every day milk chocolate. I was not an avid chocolate consumer before this course started.  If I ever bought a bar from a checkout counter or vending machine, odds are I handed it off to a friend to finish for me. Personally, it was an acquired taste and I am now learning to love all of the different flavors in each dark chocolate bar.  Switching back to milk chocolate tends to play tricks on your brain as to whether or not it is really even chocolate at all.

Overall, I set out to raise an awareness of the use of slaves and the politics of the chocolate world. In the end, I introduced everyone to a new set of flavors and a deeper understanding of what they’re putting into their mouths when they reach for that impulse buy. As much as I tried to steer the conversation towards the politics and policies of the companies, I was asked many questions about health benefits and price points of the big chocolate companies versus these smaller chocolate companies.

I explained how in the early 2000’s child labour in the cacao industry came to the media’s attention. Children would essentially be kidnapped and forced into hard labor with no escape, making them slaves to the chocolate industry. (4) After introducing the Harkin Engel Protocol, jaws dropped. I gave everyone a quick and dirty run down of how the protocol was created to put an end to the worst forms of child labor and child labor altogether, and how it ultimately left a worse impact with little to no change between 2007 and 2014. 

This new awareness left my group feeling surprised and a bit shocked. When I asked them if they foresee themselves making the switch from their typical big 5 chocolate to a more socioeconomically friendly chocolate, I yielded an interesting reaction:

B: My likeliness to go out of my way to spend more money on a “better” chocolate depends on how badly I am doing financially that week. If I can swing it I’ll go for the Theo chili chocolate, but if it’s a week like this I will be getting that $1 Dove bar from the vending machine at work.

People will try to save money wherever they can, so switching from a frequent $1 purchase to a $2.50-$7 chocolate bar can leave a big financial impact for those who aren’t earning a consistent salary, which in today’s world can be a large segment of the market.


1-  Martin, Carla D. 2015. Lecture 10: Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization on April 6, 2016

2- 2-Fair Trade Mission Statement

3- Stuckey, Barb: Taste What You’re Missing, p.13

4- Ryan, Orla: Chocolate Nations, p.44

5- The Harkin Engel Protocol,

Challenging the Standards of Men in Chocolate Advertisements

Why is it that chocolate advertisements, more often than not, focus on women enjoying chocolate and not men? In this blog post, I will challenge that idea. In this groundbreaking Galaxy Chocolate commercial, we see a woman who is clearly enjoying the amazing views around her, the attractive man in front of her, but really, she’s just loving that chocolate. At the end of this article, we’ll explore ideas about an alternate scenario, in which I have created a more inviting  and diverse take on the ad, demonstrating a man and a woman sharing chocolate without the divide of the back and front seats of the car.



This Galaxy chocolate ad from 2013, features a computerized rendering of Audrey Hepburn, who is on a bus that seems to have crashed into a farm stand’s cart. After seeing the Galaxy chocolate bar in her purse, she glances out the window and immediately locks eyes with a handsome man, who gestures to the front passenger seat of his car. The music and mood changes as Audrey scoots her way off the bus and walks to the man’s car, stealing the bus driver’s hat in the process. Instead of getting into the front seat like any normal human, she places the bus driver’s hat onto the man’s head and earns a glance of confusion. As Audrey magically appears in the back seat, the man drives off into a landscape of paradise. Audrey tears open the Galaxy chocolate bar wrapper, breaks off a piece, and as she enjoys the chocolate we see another wide pan view of the luxurious oceanside. She has the stereotypical female losing herself to chocolate reaction, without ever sharing a piece with her driver, who was never formally introduced to us.

This ad is definitely marketed towards women as it features one so heavily. Not only is this ad speaking to women and saying “wow, Audrey Hepburn is dead and she likes that chocolate, I’m alive I’ll like it too” It also comments that, “this chocolate will make a hunky man show up in a shiny car.” Now why didn’t she share her chocolate with any of the men surrounding her in this commercial? Well, obviously Audrey Hepburn is not a zombie and couldn’t go off script in this ad to add in her own personality…But with all of the men in this commercial, why can’t we see past the woman?

Screenshot from 0:04 from Galaxy Chocolate Ad

According to Laura Tan (2), chocolate presented distinctly to women by women may be on its way out. Tan shows that men are currently eating more chocolate than women, and by popularity, sugar is now more evil than fat. This means that today’s modern woman yearns for permission to consume such villainous delicacies, that is, only if their food tracking apps say they have enough room for a candy bar will they spend a dollar or so at CVS. Conversely, there are also studies that show dark chocolate can be beneficial to heart health. While it has it’s health benefits, those women actively counting and scrimping every last detail of their diet, are likely to only feast on chocolate for a “treat yourself” dessert once in a while. So, if more and more women are jumping onto the fad of being overly healthy, why are they still the main stars of chocolate ads?

To challenge the motif of men as background characters; I inlisted the help of two colleagues.


Instead of a beautiful, sunny landscape in paradise with an elegant celebrity sensually consuming chocolate, we see cold and grey urban day with two people in ordinary street clothing. A woman is in the driver’s seat with a man accompanying her in the passenger seat, completely opposite from what we previously saw in the Galaxy chocolate ad where the woman is in the backseat while the man drove. Instead of only seeing a woman enjoy her chocolate, we also see a man enjoying his. One of the stereotypes challenged by this mock ad is that chocolate is always a sexualized object. Shown clearly, both parties are genuinely enjoying their chocolate, not forcing an overly stimulated emotion on top of it. Unlike other stereotypical advertisement images, the woman in this photo is happily enjoying her chocolate, instead of sensually taking a bite while wearing red lipstick and silk surrounds her. Seeing a man enjoying his chocolate not only markets to men who will think “oh if he is enjoying his chocolate with that girl, I can too!” it continues to market to women as well.

In conclusion; if ads were more inclusive, products would in turn be more inclusive. For example, Aerie (the lingerie line by American Eagle), started its campaign “Aerie Real” or #aeriereal. With this, Aerie put an end to retouching and photoshopping of their models leaving in traits that make their models human: unlike other companies that will retouch every freckle and wrinkle until their models are plastic. Their demographic ranges from young women aged 15-21 (6) and these real unretouched women are an inspiration for them to be happy and proud of the body they have. If any of the major chocolate companies out there started advertising with real people; and no, not the “real” people used in car commercials, but actual real live people that go to work every day, cook dinner for their families, and occasionally want a chocolate bar, their ads would be diverse and inclusive to a broader range of individual customers.


1-3- “Audrey Hepburn: Galaxy Chocolate Commercial”

2- “How we resurrected Audrey Hepburn(TM) for the Galaxy Chocolate Ad”

3- “The Secrets Behind Advertising Chocolate to Women and Why it’s about to Change Forever”

4- “Why is Dark Chocolate Good for You? Thank Your Microbes”

5- Aerie Real

6- “Aerie’s Unretouched Ads ‘Challenge Supermodel Standards’ for Young Women”



Chocolate: Kings, Kitchens, and… Hipsters?



Back in the days of old, chocolate was almost as good as a King’s gold…yet somehow we’ve gotten ourselves almost right back where we’ve started as hipsters of today’s society want chocolate to be something that is pure and aristocratic as it once was. Let’s flashback in time to see how it all started, and then travel forward into present day opinions on chocolate processing.

Before the wheels and gears  of the industrial revolution started turning, chocolate was considered an aristocratic treat. As a beverage, this was a status symbol. It was in the mid 1500’s that chocolate was first encountered in Europe (Thames and Hudson p. 108). Chocolate kitchens could be found in a King’s kitchen and were also common among the nobility, both to show off their luxurious lifestyle and to replicate the traditional preparation process as closely as possible. This specialized type of kitchen inside of large palaces and castles was just the start to chocolate being found in residential environments. 

The Industrial Revolution took place between the 18th and 19th centuries (2). Chocolate itself entered the revolution in 1828 when Coenraad Johannes Van Houten invented the hydraulic press (Thames & Hudson p.234). With this invention, cocoa butter and cacao powder could now be produced in massive quantities; predating this cocoa butter and cacao powder were produced at much smaller amounts and at a much slower rate. The next important piece of the revolution was Rudolphe Lindt’s invention of the conching process in 1879 (Thames & Hudson p.248).

Image from p.160 of “Cocoa and Chocolate: Their History from Plantation to Consumer” (1920) 


Overall, conching is now a crucial aspect of chocolate production as we know today. The flavors in the chocolate become evenly distributed, and through the process of aeration, fatty acids and acetic acid aromas are removed. With the loss of acidic aromas, other subtle flavors are able to shine through. When a chocolate is properly conched, it is creamy and smooth, bitterness is balanced along with roast notes and acidity. The amazing part, or rather, the revolutionary aspect of this invention is that it allowed chocolate to evolve from a sophisticated, luxurious, upper class desire for sophisticated palates, to an affordable, yummy, and instantly classic treat among all classes. Jean Tobler, the creator of Toblerone filled bars, was the first to begin the trend of coated chocolate candy bars. While this may seem like a smaller contribution,

Toblerone Candy Bar, cut in half

Tobler actually opened the door for many future chocolate producers and chocolatiers. In addition to not having Toblerone without Jean Tobler, there would be no Twix or Snickers, even KitKats!   


With these novel changes, chocolate became an easily obtainable product for the common homemaker. With chocolate among other items that were now mass produced, much of the not as enjoyable tasks were transferred out of the home and to the machines. This meant that households would no longer need to rely on their own talents to provide for themselves; “The household today is not self-sufficient. Its welfare is no longer determined by the skills and capacities of its members but by the opportunities offered to wage earners.” (Gray, Greta 243) Just after the industrial revolution, the age of women as housewives, staying home to watch the kids, prepare meals, and clean was in full swing. All of these stereotypes can be related back to how chocolate was being marketed at the time.

Ovaltine ad, 1964

 Chocolate was a mother’s solution to having enough energy to entertain her toddler, the sugary chocolate milk was a way for her adolescent son to get the nutrients he needs to grow with strong bones, and most importantly chocolate always makes a good snack! This ensured chocolate was deeply planted into the minds of the masses.

Today, chocolate is mainly produced in mass quantities by chocolate manufacturers or in smaller batches by a craft chocolate maker or a chocolatier. There’s a segment of society now rebelling against big name, big production chocolate companies. It’s almost peculiar how our society has always been obsessed with new technology, whether it is mechanical or digital, and now, in a sort of pretentious manner,  it has become preferred to purchase small batch artisan chocolate. This goes along with the way people are wrapped up in having all natural, all organic, non-gmo, gluten free, soy free, nut free etc… to the point where all that’s left is air. It’s understandable that everyone wants to treat their bodies like a Mercedes Benz and to only have the best, but in the present day it has simply gone too far. The industrialization of America and Europe was a wonderful thing, but it’s getting to the point where everyone is so concerned about what these machines (and the people designing/operating them) are doing to their products in turn. It is good to think twice about how much processed food we are putting into our bodies, but it is also good to take a step back and think about how much progress we as humans have made in developing amazing and new technologies that will in turn propel us into the future.





Resources and Citations

Images: Flicker

1: Thames and Hudson. “The True History of Chocolate” 3rd edition (2013)

2: Industrial Revolution, : Thames and Hudson. “The True History of Chocolate” 3rd edition (2013)

2: Gray, Greta. “Changes in the Household Resulting from the Industrial Revolution.” Social Forces 11.2 (1932-1933): 242-248.


Chocolate in the American Revolution: Will America Ever Be Satisfied?

So, how does Alexander Hamilton; U.S. Treasurer, the bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scottsman end up increasing the tax on chocolate in 1792 (1), when his colleague at the time, Thomas Jefferson was the one to promote it to John Adams in 1785? Thomas wrote to John Adams stating that chocolate’s superiority “both in health and nourishment, will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee in America which it has in Spain.” (2)


To start out this battle, let’s turn to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking musical, “Hamilton.” Specifically, at 1:33 where Hamilton says to Jefferson “would you like to join us? Or stay mellow doing whatever the hell it is you do in Monticello?” While the rap style cabinet battle focuses on a prior issue, it’s a fact that Jefferson made his first purchase of chocolate in 1775, followed by his praise of chocolate in a letter to Adams in 1785. It can be assumed that song writer, playwriter, and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda was referencing recreational substances Jefferson consummed in Monticello, although, he could just as easily be referencing the relaxing sensation assosciated with enjoying a frothy chocolate beverage. In fact, Hamilton actually considered cocoa and chocolate to be medicinal. In March of 1792, Alexander Hamilton set taxes on pretty much anything that wasn’t food. With chocolate becoming more and more popular, Hamilton was extremely on top of his marks to condsider it as medicinal for the taxes and tarrifs.

The two statesmen had a rocky relationship that can be traced back to how they were raised; Jefferson was cultured and rich while Hamilton was poor and had to fend for himself. Chocolate was easily available to Jefferson given the circumstances. Had Hamilton been raised in a different area he would have been the one picking the cacao pods. Differences aside, Hamilton did end up endorsing Jefferson in the 1800 election, which just so happened to be shortly after this chocolate tax. Though, history tells us the endorsment was just to spite his longtime rival and eventual asassin, Aaron Burr.

Unlike traditional Mayan or Aztec preparation, in this time period, the entire chocolate process began midway with the cake. They would then shave off pieces of the cake which would then be combined with a liquid, such as water. Different from classic preparations, the cocoa shavings could also be added to milk, or even wine. In addition to the chocolate mills that were used to create that heavenly froth, eggs were added into the mix to help ease the process and additional nutrients. Adding eggs not only demonstrates the modernization and cultural change, it shows a similarity to when chocolate was a gruel with corn maize.


Silver Askos, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.

Beginning with his introduction to chocolate, Jefferson was an avid drinker. A conclusion cannot be drawn as to when he first indulged in the concoction, but it is known that he made his first chocolate purchase in 1775. It wasn’t until after he was elected that he returned from an excursion to a Roman temple in Southern France. He ordered his very own silver chocolate pot, that was in the form of an askos. (4) This silver pot was known in the Jefferson household as “the silver duck.”

An askos can be used for any small amount of liquid. A flaw with using this design for a chocolate drink is that there’s not too much room for a frothing device, odds are this was done in the kitchen just before being served. Thomas Jefferson may have even picked this specific vessel so that he could enjoy serving the chocolate into his own cup, creating a bit of his very own froth.

Image credit: George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, and Gardens’ 2012 annual Colonial Chocolate Society meeting presentation.

George and Martha Washington were also fans of chocolate. They were such huge fans in fact, they ordered up to 50 pounds of chocolate at one time! (5) George Washington was actually Commander in chief of the U.S. forces when food rations were set into place; and yes, you guessed it, chocolate was included for all soldiers. Their set of China was found to have a few of these special cups for drinking chocolate. These cups set themselves apart from other cup and saucer sets the Washington’s owned because of the lid, to keep the chocolate hot, and the handles on either side, as their tea cups did not have any handles at all.

Benjamin Franklin was known to have sold chocolate in his printshop. Under his pseudonym, Richard Saunders, he recommended chocolate as treatment for small pox patients in Poor Richard’s Almanac, to help them gain weight. (6) This links back to when Alexander Hamilton listed chocolate as a drug for the tax increase. While this adds weight to Hamilton’s description, it’s still clear that many Americans, who could afford it were consuming chocolate for pleasure, not treatment.

After hurling tea into the Boston Harbor, what did everyone go out and drink ? Well, yes, beer and coffee, but more importantly there was a spike in chocolate which is what led Thomas Jefferson to making his famous prediction. Overall, it’s clear that America and chocolate consumption, even from the time of our country’s birth is like “Ben Franklin with a key and a kite! You see it right?” (7) Our hunger for chocolate will never be satisfied.



1- Chocolate as Medicine: A Quest Over The Centuries, Philip K. Wilson and William Jeffrey Hurst





6- Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage, Louis E. Grivetti, Howard-Yana Shapiro