Let’s Discuss American and British Chocolate.

One of things that top the list of things that Britons miss when they pull up stakes and move to the States is their chocolate. Chances are, they will have a taste of a Hershey bar and find the whole thing dreadful. It’s too grainy, and there is this tang at the end that makes it too bitter. To some, it is like regurgitating your own vomit, and that is no exaggeration.

Now I need to explain something to the Americans. This is not all in the Britons’ heads. When Hershey’s makes its product, the chocolate goes through a process called lipolysis which creates a component called butyric acid. The reason why lipolysis is done is to extended the shelf life of the chocolate. I can imagine it was especially important during the time of slower transportation and variable temperatures and climates across this vast nation of ours. Regardless, back to butyric acid, it is also a component Parmesan cheese and baby spit-up. And that is where the bitter taste that bothers the Britons comes from. Meanwhile, our palates have adjusted to and enjoy this kind of chocolate, and I am sure many Americans would be up in arms, if Hershey’s messes around with its formula.  We couldn’t even handle New Coke.

To bring my point further along, I know a few Americans who describe themselves as chocoholics, but we, as a nation, do not come anywhere close to the U.K. as far as chocolate consumption is concerned.

Infographic: The World's Biggest Chocolate Consumers | Statista
Across the board, when Americans snack indulgently, we are more likely to go for the salty and savory stuff like a bag of chips (crisps).  When the Britons treat themselves to a snack, the Double Decker bar looks enticing.  So our respective ass spreads are coming from different sources, and chocolate is what brings happiness in the United Kingdom.

To add insult to injury, Hershey’s barred the import of U.K. Cadbury chocolate because they were afraid that the consumers would confuse the stuff they were licensing under the Cadbury name over here with the original items. At least that is the official story.  (Rolling eyes.)  In other words, they assumed their customers were morons and used the law to give themselves an unfair competitive advantage to sell their own products. And that is where the outrage is about and is a good argument for socialism.

So when a Briton comes over encounters a Hershey bar and doesn’t like it, it is a pretty big deal considering how integral sweets, especially chocolate, is to British culture. They are justifiably proud of their confectionery and the quality of it, and Big Bad Hershey’s have taken away their fingers of Fudge.  I have nothing but sympathy for them when they come over here and can’t find the familiar comforts of home easily.

That being said, all too often lines are crossed in their frustration. Criticism of the chocolate turns into criticism of us like something is defective with Americans because of our chocolate choices. It turns into this jingoistic tirade about how yet again, all we eat is crappy food, and we can’t appreciate anything good. So let me lay some things out here for those of you who take the whinging too far into the insult territory.

Angry Naked Krylon Guy is ready to throw down.
Angry Naked Krylon Guy is ready to throw down.

1.  Just because Cadbury and the European Nestlé products are difficult to find in the shops does not mean we have horrible chocolate here. It means you have to go to the proper chocolate shops, or try the artisanal bars to find the milk chocolate without butyric acid like Theo or Guittard baking chocolate.  Or you can live someplace with a high European immigrant population where you can get a hold of newsagent chocolate more easily.  In other words, we are more than Hershey and have choices here, so don’t paint all our chocolate with the same brush just because you just can’t get what you want at your fingertips.

2.   American chocolate in one candy bar may have been awful to you but could work in another form.  The Boffin cannot eat a straight Hershey bar but will happily use it to make a S’more.  Even he knows that using a Dairy Milk in that recipe is wrong on so many levels.  He will also eat American Kit-Kats, York Peppermint Patties, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups because, to him, the fillings balance out the graininess.  Give more than one chocolate bar a chance.  You may be surprised.

3.  Amazon will ship a lot of things now, including those Curly Wurlies.

4. Upon deciding to go with option #3, if you are an immigrant or an expat, remember you live in a different country now. You will have to pay more for the stuff you normally did before because these items are now imports. Shell out, or go without.  Just stop moaning about the cost. (Yes, I have said this many times to the Boffin in the past.  He doesn’t complain any more.)  If you need to whinge, e-mail The Daily Telegraph because your loved ones can only take so much.

This whole chocolate discussion is very rarely initiated by the American media.  It is the Britons who care more about the differences because they are passionate about chocolate and are the ones who get the bad taste in their mouths when they eat the American stuff.  Then, they usually have a taste test of some sort featuring Britons and Americans, determine that Hershey’s is naff, and just say, “Well, it is just down to what you grew up with, isn’t it?”.  To be fair, in the article I linked, the results are inconclusive regarding the differences between U.S. and U.K. Cadbury Dairy Milk.

I always get confused by these taste tests anyway because very few people buy Hershey bars to eat plain.  They are almost always broken apart to use in recipes like I mentioned above with the S’mores.  Americans know how they work best, so why are the British media trying to make what is a baking/cooking bar into an eating bar?  I guess putting it by the checkouts makes it confusing, but if the press did their homework, they would know how a Hershey bar fits into our culture.

Look, I prefer a U.K. Cadbury Dairy Milk bar over a Hershey Bar as far as ordinary milk chocolate, but I will wear black and sit shiva, if Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are discontinued.  However, as far as we are concerned, the Sprog is eating chocolate from both sides of the Atlantic.  We have to do our bit to preserve our special relationship.

22 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss American and British Chocolate.

  1. If I am understanding this right, it seems as if U.K. Cadbury licensed it’s brand to Hershey because they figured they could make more money from selling the rights than from selling their chocolate directly to the US. Perhaps some of the ire directed at Hershey should be directed toward Cadbury for selling out their far-flung customers. After all, Hershey has made some effort to make their version of Cadbury chocolate a step above the usual Hershey chocolate. Not that that necessarily requires a great effort, but it is something.

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  2. You do sound a bit defensive on this one… We put cooking chocolate in the cooking section and eating chocolate in the candy (sweets) section. I always wondered what that nasty taste was – thanks for the explanation. Agree that Reeces are good – you can of course get them (unchanged I believe) over here.

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    1. I am defensive because sometimes the criticism does not focus on the chocolate and Hershey’s business practices. It’s during these subjects that the expats who just want to recreate Britain in America end up rearing their heads and starting the moanfest about how the chocolate is yet another example of what is wrong with the States. If you want to set the Boffin off, just bring up these people.

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  3. I knew nothing about the acid aspect of the difference between UK and US chocolate so thank you for that informative little nugget of information. I have lamented by lack of (affordable) access to British chocolate before on my blog, a few times actually, but I have no prejudice against US chocolate. I simply accept that I have a different taste palette because I grew up eating British chocolate. To my tastebuds, a Hershey bar is waxy and a little bitter – for the record I am not a big fan of dark chocolate even when made by Belgians. My kids, however, like both nationalities of chocolate equally so they have adapted much better.

    Honestly, it is probably a good thing that I cannot get my podgy mitts on Cadbury’s very easily. It is better for my waistline and ample rump if I am denied such luxuries.

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    1. That is great. You restrict your criticism to the chocolate. You don’t turn it into a whole diatribe against America’s lack of taste. That’s the thing that turns me batty and makes me want to beat someone with a stick.

      Seriously though, we do know how to do chocolate, but it is more like our breads. We are just so spread out, and you have to play regional treasure hunt to find it.

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          1. Oh how sweet of you to think I would be contemplating baking my own bread. I am a pretty good cook by all accounts but my baking leaves a lot to be desired. Too much science. Of course, I may yet resort to that and put my family through my experimentation. The worst that happens is that my homemade bread is so rubbish that any store bought bread tastes like manna in the wilderness….You could be onto something actually ….

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  4. NOW I know where the 19.8 lbs I gained while living in Switzerland came from (not that there was ever any doubt, actually.)

    But where are the Belgians? I swear if I’d moved to Belgium I would never have left. Their chocolate is the best, by far, and they fill it with wonderful concoctions. Unlike the Swiss who have very little variety in their fillings.

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    1. I love the precision with which you remembered your weight gain. It wasn’t about 20 lbs. It was 19.8 lbs.

      From what I read, the Belgians seem to range from about 10 to 12 lbs of chocolate per person annually depending on the year or survey.

      What is cool about Belgium, at least Brussels, are the chocolate shops all over the place where you have the variety of bonbons that you can just pick out whatever you want and just gorge yourself. The variety is incredible, like Elyse stated. Yummy.

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  5. I won’t defend the Hersey’s bar, especially if you put it up against a Green and Black’s, or even a plain old Morrison’s 70% bar, but I still haven’t found any British chocolate chips that compare to American ones. And breaking up a chocolate bar just doesn’t do the same thing.

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