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Stop Biting Your Chocolate, And Other Tips From An LA Chocolatier

Piles of different chocolate in white dishes on a white table top.
Chocolate begins as cacao beans, grown in rainforest climates. The nibs and cocoa butter (white disks) are removed and the product is refined, then mixed with various levels of milk and sugar to make chocolate.
(Jackie Orchard
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Valentine's Day is a premium excuse to buy chocolate for someone you know — or for yourself.

Stop Biting Your Chocolate, And Other Tips From An LA Chocolatier

Coco Ramirez is a student in the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management program at Pasadena City College. She began working with chocolate on her own years ago, buying various trays and melts to experiment with.

Ramirez said the magic of chocolate is not always found on common shelves, but should be explored like a love of fine wines. She said one should find time alone to put one's feet up and savor the experience.

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Ramirez said if you're using your teeth, you're doing it wrong, because fine chocolate needs to melt on the tongue.

Know your options

Americans don't ever need to look far for chocolate.

“People who are in love with Hershey’s, Nestle, Cadbury, Dove — you know, that's chocolate you can chew and swallow and [you say] 'yummy,'” Ramirez said. “But good, quality chocolate — you’ve got to let that baby sit on your palate and melt into your senses.”

She said the most affordable chocolate that still has the highest quality for the price, in her opinion, is the Swiss Belgian chocolate brand Lindt.

“A lot of chocolatiers say that the best chocolate comes from Belgium.”

But Ramirez added that it's important to remember and acknowledge that most chocolate is grown where it is not enjoyed, such as Ghana, which is one of the largest growing areas for the cacao plant in the world.

A game of percentages

What do those percentages on a chocolate mean?

53% is your semisweet. It tastes like childhood — like the chips mixed into cookie dough.

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70% is bittersweet. The way to appreciate it: "You have to have to let it ride," Ramirez said.

58% chocolate is right in the middle. As Ramirez said earlier, this has to "melt into your senses."

Any darker than 70% and you're likely not going to enjoy it the way you think you will; it's for those who like a little bit of bitter punishment in their chocolate. For more of an indulgent experience — like, "island breeze music is going to play in the background" indulgent — consider the 58% range.

I'm ready to buy

Check out LAist's guide to hyperlocal chocolate.

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