Chocolate Bloom

One of the more wondrous things we produce at Kona Kava Farm is our line of Vegan Chocolate products, of which we are most proud. We have had some customers, upon receiving their order of chocolate, experience what has come to be known as “chocolate bloom” -- when the surface of chocolate appears slightly grey/white, and possibly cracked -- and express concern over the phenomenon. This article is meant to address those concerns, and allay any fear you, or anyone else may experience over chocolate bloom.

The very first thing I will tell you is this: Chocolate bloom is totally harmless. It is in no way toxic: the very worst that can come of it is, your chocolate may taste slightly less sweet, which can actually help the taste of some chocolate.

I wanted to first give you the above reassurance, since the textbook definition of chocolate bloom, a moldy-looking white coating that can appear on the surface of chocolate, makes it sound downright frightening. However, chocolate bloom is nothing new, and I can tell you this: I’ve eaten quite a bit of “blooming” chocolate, and not only did it not hurt me a bit, it is still every bit as delicious as cosmetically perfect chocolate.

There are three main types of chocolate bloom: fat bloom, sugar bloom, and stevia bloom. Now, interestingly enough, the exact chemical mechanism of fat bloom is not known, but there are generally accepted theories. I won’t bore you with the highly-detailed chemical specifics, but basically, this is usually the result of chocolate being stored, even temporarily, at temperatures that are too hot; it also may be the result of fats located in the center of the chocolate rising to the surface. And yes, fat bloom also affects vegan chocolates such as ours, even though they contain no milk ingredients or other animal fats. In the case of vegan chocolate, it's the cocoa butter, a naturally occurring vegetable oil in chocolate, that rises to the surface as fat bloom. Whatever the cause may be, fat bloom is nothing to worry about; your chocolate is perfectly safe to eat!

The second type of chocolate bloom, Sugar bloom, is less common than fat bloom, but is more common than stevia bloom. Sugar bloom may occur when chocolate is stored in conditions that are both too warm and too moist, allowing condensation to form water molecules on the surface of the chocolate. The sugar crystals absorb the moisture and separate from the chocolate into a thin solution, which dries into a whitish, slightly crystalline layer as the water evaporates.

The third type of chocolate bloom, stevia bloom, is more or less exactly like sugar bloom, and is unique to chocolates that are sweetened with stevia, rather than sugar.

Visually, sugar bloom may produce a white speckling on the surface of chocolate, whereas fat bloom tends to appear in off-white patches of a more even texture. However, it may be impossible to tell, from appearance alone, which type of bloom has affected your chocolate. The best way to tell is by feel -- sugar bloom feels dry to the touch, while fat bloom will often feel sticky, and may still melt. Sugar bloom is most likely to occur when chocolate experiences rapid and extreme temperature changes (such as going from an air-conditioned storage facility to a hot shipping container, or vice-versa). Sugar bloom, like fat bloom, is not toxic or dangerous in any way, and most likely will not at all affect the taste of your chocolate.

Chocolate bloom can also result from age, and this is a good thing -- let me tell you why. Chocolate that is made from at least 65 percent Cacao will actually improve with age. At Kona Kava Farm, our chocolate products are made with 72 percent pure cacao. This means that the longer you keep our chocolate, the better it gets. So if your chocolate has bloomed, take heart, for it may actually be a sign that it is aging gracefully!

Additionally, the confection industry has developed what are called “bloom inhibitors,” which are exactly what they sound like: artificial substances that work to chemically inhibit chocolate bloom. We pride ourselves on using no artificial ingredients of any kind in our chocolate products, and as a result, some chocolate blooming may be unavoidable. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have an all-natural chocolate product with a little blooming, than know that my chocolate is loaded with “bloom inhibitors” (and, most likely, chocolate makers who use bloom inhibitors are also using other artificial ingredients).

Of course, some people prefer to only eat chocolate that hasn't bloomed, both for aesthetic reasons and because chocolate bloom may mean that the chocolate has less of a snap to it. In this case, remember that you can also use bloomed chocolate for baking: after you've melted down the chocolate, the bloom will disappear as it liquefies, returning the chocolate to its original uniform brown color. You can even pour the melted chocolate into an ice cube or bon bon tray and refrigerate it to make chocolates that are as smooth and silky as if they'd never bloomed in the first place.

Since some chocolate bloom is caused by storage, we’d like to pass along some recommendations to keep your chocolate bloom-free. Since it can easily absorb flavors from food or other products situated nearby, chocolate should be tightly wrapped and kept away from strong, pungent odors. The ideal temperature for storage is somewhere between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, with no more than 50 percent to 55 percent relative humidity. If stored properly, you can expect milk chocolate and white chocolate to be good for up to six months. Other types of chocolate -- such as ours -- can have an even longer shelf life.

So now you know most everything that we do about the strange, but harmless phenomenon known as chocolate bloom. For an additional take on this topic, check out Makaira’s Blog on chocolate bloom. And remember: it may at first appear unsettling, but chocolate bloom in no way affects the quality of your chocolate, and in fact, may result in a more complex, distinct taste.