What’s the next big thing in chocolate going to be? I mean really big? Salted caramel big?! What I’m hearing is it just might be unsweetened dark milk chocolate!
At least, that’s the hot tip I got from the Mayhawk Chocolate company when I visited their factory at the start of the year. And a little online research at least confirms that this is a new and growing chocolate style.
All three of the chocolate makers I mention here sell their unsweetened dark milk chocolate online. If you like dark chocolate, and want to reduce your sugar intake, then you might just be ready to try it.
As ever when mentioning companies, I make crystal clear if any of the views outlined are their own rather than mine.
What is unsweetened dark milk chocolate?
Well, it’s what it says on the tin! Basically it’s high cocoa chocolate made from cocoa beans and milk powder but with no sweetener whatsoever. So not only no sugar, but no sugar substitute either. So in, say, a 70% cocoa bar, all the sugar has been replaced with milk powder.
Don’t confuse this with the very many bars that describe themselves as sugar-free, but are still sweetened with an alternative sweetener, or with a calorie-free sweetener like stevia.
Also don’t confuse it with dark milk chocolate that doesn’t specify that its unsweetened. Online bean-to-bar chocolate club Cocoa Runners describe (sweetened) dark milk chocolate as a swiftly emerging category of milk chocolate bars that include at least 50% cocoa.
Take, for instance, this 74% bar from the Czech Republic’s only bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Jordi’s. It’s dark milk, but it’s not unsweetened. It contains some sugar, albeit a very small amount when compared to most milk chocolate bars, and even many dark ones.
What does unsweetened dark milk chocolate taste like?
From this chocolate, you’re going to get a big hit of the natural flavour profile of whichever type of cocoa beans it contains. So unsweetened dark milk chocolate needs to have been made with excellent cocoa beans. The only sweetness will come from lactose sugars which are naturally present in the cows’ milk which has been added.
The first unsweetened dark milk chocolate I tried is one from Mayhawk (see below). I was excited that I was offered a tasting when I visited their factory just before they started selling it.
Their bar contains 75% cocoa. The first time I allowed a square to melt slowly on my tongue, I was getting a deep roasted flavour. The second mouthful tasted sweeter – I guess as my mouth got used to the unexpected flavours. And the third mouthful tasted malty, and I started more fully to appreciate the complex dark flavour notes.
Mayhawk confirmed that the taste certainly does surprise most people at first. But as I found, it quickly starts to become an acquired more-ish taste as you work your way through your first bar.
So more-ish in fact, that I was then spurred on to pick up a bar of Hotel Chocolat’s unsweetened dark milk chocolate using Ecuadorean beans the next time I was passing one of their shops. This chocolate had the most amazing fruity aroma. Again I let it melt on my tongue inside of crunching it. I found it had toasty flavours that were incredibly mellow, and with no hint of any bitterness that might be expected from excluding sweetener. It melts very quickly in the mouth compared to many dark chocolates, which I guess may mean that more of the cocoa mass is cocoa butter for added smoothness.
Where can I buy unsweetened dark milk chocolate?
So far I’ve found three bean-to-bar companies globally that are making unsweetened dark milk chocolate:
UK company Hotel Chocolat sell two versions of unsweetened dark milk chocolate. Their No Added Sugar Supermilk Pure bar is in their exclusive tree-to-bar chocolate range, being made from cocoa beans from seven different côtes across their own Rabot Estate plantation in St Lucia.
Sadly, at the time of writing, it’s out of stock on their website, so I haven’t yet tasted this bar. But Hotel Chocolat say the cocoa combination gives it a deep, intensely nutty flavour. Their argument for making the bar unsweetened is that, when using such good cocoa, you don’t need any more than a hint of natural sweetness from the milk.
Containing 80% cocoa and 17% milk, I infer the other 3% of the bar is emulsifying sunflower lecithin, as that’s the only other ingredient listed.
I have tasted Hotel Chocolat’s other unsweetened dark milk chocolate bar – see my tasting notes above. This one’s the Rare and Vintage 80% Supermilk Pure using Ecuadorian cocoa beans. Again it’s made with 80% organic cocoa solids, a minimum of 17% organic whole milk powder, and sunflower lecithin.
As mentioned above, I’ve already tried the bar which UK company Mayhawk have just started selling. Their version is what they call SDM75 or 75% Sugarless Dark Milk bar. It’s 75% cocoa, 25% milk powder, and nothing else – as Mayhawk hand-temper their chocolate, so they don’t need to use emulsifiers.
The crucial difference between this chocolate and the other two I mention here is that it’s raw. That is, it’s made from unroasted cocoa beans.
Mayhawk say they already have a few clients using SDM75 in their private chef work, and that they’ve given excellent feedback.
I first stumbled across Austrian bean-to-bar company Zotter, and made purchases from their shops, when I was on my travels in Vienna and Salzburg. They make a large range of amazing funky chocolate flavours – which have amazing funky wrapper designs to go with them. Bars in their bean-to-bar Labooko range are presented as two smaller bars in packaging which – if you’re old enough to remember! – opens out a little like a gate-fold vinyl record sleeve.
So I see that Zotter are also doing an unsweetened dark milk chocolate Labooko bar. Their version is 70% Milk Chocolate Dark Style (or ‘Milchschokolade “dark style” ohne Zuckerzugabe 70%’ as it is in German).
I haven’t tried this bar by Zotter yet personally. But I’ve enjoyed several other of Zotter’s high cocoa bars in the past, so it may well be worth trying.
Zotter themselves suggest this bar is very close to the very first chocolate, as the Mayans and Aztecs didn’t sweeten their chocolate either. Apart from cocoa, they say it contains only milk from the mountain farms of the Tyrol, and a little real vanilla.
So will unsweetened dark milk chocolate really be the next big thing?
So will unsweetened dark milk chocolate really prove to be the next big thing in chocolate? Or at least in high-end bean-to-bar chocolate?
Hmmm, maybe. I’ve already come to like it very much personally. And I think many others will too. Perhaps those who like trying new things and/or who want to reduce sugar in their diets. But it is definitely an acquired taste. I just wonder if many with a sweet tooth may not have the inclination to acquire it, or even to try it.
But if it does indeed prove to be the next big thing, don’t forget that you read about it here first!