When speaking of chocolate, there are three main types that people usually think of: dark, milk, white. Then, what is brown chocolate?
We know chocolate comes from cacao beans. These beans are actually purple though, so why is chocolate brown?
Brown chocolate is the word used for any chocolate that isn’t white. That just means dark and milk chocolate both fall under the umbrella of brown chocolate. The cacao beans it’s made from are fermented, and the heat buildup results in them turning brown.
But what is brown chocolate, really, and what does it mean if it’s brown? What’s the difference between brown and white chocolate, besides the color?
We researched different kinds of chocolate, and read up on the processes it goes through before we get a final product. We collected this information in one place.
What is Brown Chocolate?
Chocolate grows on trees, so brown chocolate must grow on brown trees and white chocolate from white ones – right? If only it were that simple.
Chocolate comes from cacao beans, which are technically the seeds of the cacao tree. These beans are removed from the pods they’re contained in and made to go through a number of complex chemical processes. These include converting sugar to simpler forms, like glucose or fructose, which result in fermentation.
The fermentation process results in the sprouts within the seeds being killed, and this releases enzymes which break proteins and sugars down into different compounds.
After this, the beans are roasted, and they lose their purplish hue and become brown in color.
So, does that mean the roasted cacao beans are what give the chocolate its color? Yes, but not exactly. There are two parts to the cacao beans: cacao solids, and cacao butter. The cacao solids are what contains the ‘brownness’.
The roasted cacao beans are ground to a powder, and the cacao solids in them are dispersed evenly throughout the cacao fat, which gives them a uniform brown color. At this stage, it is called chocolate liquor.
If you add sugar and milk to chocolate liquor and freeze it, you get a chocolate bar!
So, is that what brown chocolate is? Any kind of chocolate?
Yes! It’s that simple: brown chocolate is any chocolate that contains cocoa solids, which give it its brown color. Because dark chocolate has higher concentrations of chocolate liquor (and thus, higher quantities of cacao solids) it is darker and ‘browner’. The brownness of milk chocolate is a bit paler because of the added milk and additives.
The Difference Between Brown and White Chocolate
But then what is white chocolate?
Naturally, since brown chocolate is the type that contains cocoa solids, white chocolate would have to be the type that doesn’t. In fact, since it doesn’t contain the cacao solid particles – or any of the chemical compounds that are supposedly responsible for the taste of chocolate – many people question whether it's right to be called chocolate at all. In fact, some experts say it really doesn’t qualify to be called chocolate at all.
But white chocolate does contain cacao butter, which is separated from the solids through heavy-duty presses. It is usually mixed with sugar and vanilla to make it worth eating.
However, cacao solids contain chemicals like phenyl acetic acid, N-linoleoyl ethanolamide, and others with long and complicated names, that stimulate the same receptors in the brain as some drugs – which probably explains why white chocolate doesn’t quite satisfy that chocolate craving.
So, what is brown chocolate? Any chocolate that contains cocoa solids is technically brown chocolate. And since the brownness is what determines how chocolatey a chocolate is, browner the better!
About THE AUTHOR
Lori has been a Culinary Arts instructor for twenty years. She has taught in the public school setting, at the collegiate level and through adult continuing education as well as running several cooking and baking camps for children. She has participated in several cooking, cake & chocolate contests and has been well recognized. She has raised thousands of dollars for charities using the byline “Saving the World one Cupcake at a Time”. Additionally, she has had several articles regarding food published in various magazines.Read More About Lori Gilmore