As I became more serious about chocolate issues, and I started to ask questions about the established order of the chocolate business, I opened a can of worms. I felt that I had to offer a choice about the kind of chocolate people consumed and to give them the information they needed to make their choices. It is not that I want to dictate the kind of chocolate eaten, but I believe everyone should at least be able to taste the real thing and decide for themselves. In 1986, I started the Campaign for Real Chocolate, to counter the multinational chocolate makers argument that the addition of vegetable and other fats in chocolate was quite acceptable. At that time the EU was trying to have this type of chocolate confectionery renamed ‘vegelate’, which I found an apt description of the low-grade product masquerading as something else. The long-running battle was finally resolved with a fudge: this kind of bar may be sold into the European market as ‘Family Milk Chocolate’, the ingredients primarily sugar and fat, with a lot of milk and not very much cocoa or cocoa butter. What my campaign has been trying to establish is the minimum acceptable level of cocoa, that cocoa butter is the only legitimate fat in a chocolate bar, and that sugar shouldn’t be the primary ingredient.
In 1990, the Campaign’s aims were refocused with the launch of The Chocolate Society, which I started with Nicola Porter. The message about Real Chocolate was widely trumpeted by the national press, and at last it seemed to gain support. A ground-swell revolt against the bog-standard sugar- and fat-laden British chocolate had started, and consumers began to read the ingredients labels before purchasing a bar of chocolate. I suppose it is inevitable that sometimes only part of the message gets through, and it seems this is why the percentage of the cocoa content became the deciding factor. Of course, it is one determining factor, but only one, and the origin and quality of the beans are even more important. I have tasted many bars of chocolate with a high cocoa content, that have been quite filthy, with burnt aromas and all sorts of other bad ‘notes’. I hope that this section of my book will give you all the information you need to help you make your own informed judgements on chocolate.