U.K. vs. U.S.A.: A Cheap Chocolate Showdown

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I'm a chocolate snob. I generally avoid the cheap American stuff—Snickers, peanut butter cups and the like—preferring to spend my money on expensive, foreign dark chocolate or, my new favorite, a bread and chocolate bar from the Seattle-based Theo Chocolate.

The one exception is the Kit Kat bar. A favorite in my family, we even named our favorite kitty after it. And when I discovered dark chocolate Kit Kat bars, I was over the moon. I usually stock up when I'm in England, where they're easy to find pretty much anywhere, but on lucky days I find these bars of chocolate-covered crispy goodness here in the U.S. Finding myself in possession of both types recently, I decided to put them to a pseudo-scientific taste test (hey, I am the resident science blogger around here).

The setup: My colleague Laura unwrapped each dark chocolate Kit Kat bar and split it into its four pieces, labeling them "A" and "B." Then three of my fellow bloggers, Megan Gambino, Jesse Rhodes and Arcynta Ali Childs settled in to try them both.

Appearance: I quickly realized that I could tell them apart. Like many chocolate bars, these were imprinted with the bar's logo and, thus, were different. I knew the packaging and could guess which was which. Oops. Other than that, A was a bit darker brown in color. Inside, B had thinner layers of cookie with less chocolate in between them. (Jesse, meanwhile, barely noticed there were even layers; "I usually just pop 'em into my mouth.")

Taste: Jesse found A to be more sugary while Megan found it to have a darker chocolate flavor. Arcynta and I thought that B was more chocolatey, and Jesse said it was mellower. Megan found B to have a more milky taste.

The Verdict: It was 3 to 1 in favor of B, which turned out to be the British brand. Megan was the only outlier. She said she found A, the American chocolate, more traditional. "I've eaten more chocolate like it," she said. For all of us, though, it was very difficult to detect any but the most subtle differences between the two chocolates.

But why might Jesse, Arcynta and I have preferred the British brand? Well, first of all, the two bars are made by different companies—Hershey here in the U.S. and Nestle in the U.K.—using different recipes. The American chocolate, for example, contains palm kernel oil and vanillin; maybe we didn't like these flavors.

The Nestle bar, however, is made of fair trade chocolate, which means that suppliers are paid a fair price for their product and guarantee that no child labor is used. Part of why I fell in love with Theo Chocolate last year, after a tour of their Seattle factory, was that all of their chocolate was organic and fair trade; it was expensive but of such high quality and rich flavor that I didn't mind paying extra for it. Perhaps with the Kit Kat, ethical eating just tastes better.

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