Learn all about our unsweetened cooking chocolate – “The Tava Bar”

To the best of our knowledge, The Tava Bar is a truly unique chocolate product.

Most small chocolate manufacturers concentrate on either quality and flavour, or social and environmental issues. We refuse to compromise on either aspect. Read on for much more information, and recipes …

RECIPES – click to see what people are cooking with our chocolate:

brownies ice cream mousse savoury sauces

The Tava Bar is a brand new, Australian-made, unsweetened cooking chocolate. Our chocolate is made here in Kandos (NSW) with a great deal of care, using small batches of cocoa beans that were grown organically in Vanuatu.

We think that The Tava Bar represents a rare triumph of substance over style. Our chocolate certainly isn’t about to win any beauty pageants or marketing awards – but it is bursting with flavour, free of nasty chemicals and known allergens, and manufactured with care for the environment.


Some general information about our chocolate

Social equity
  • Who grows cocoa, and under what circumstances?
  • Why is Tava not certified Fair Trade?

Environmental sustainability
  • What are the environmental impacts of organic vs. non-organic cocoa growing?
  • Why is Tava not certified organic?

Some general information about our chocolate

What makes The Tava Bar a cooking chocolate rather than an eating chocolate?
Most people adore three things about chocolate:
  1. It tastes like chocolate,
  2. It’s sweet, and
  3. It’s silky smooth.
While the Tava Bar has that classic chocolate flavour in abundance, it is definitely not sweet, nor silky smooth. For these reasons, the Tava Bar is quite unpalatable to most people when they taste it on its own. However, when incorporated into sweet (or savoury) recipes, the Tava Bar provides an incredible chocolate flavour that really surprises most people who try it.
Also, because our chocolate is not tempered, it typically gets “fat bloom” (see the next point below for more information about fat bloom). While fat bloom won’t affect your recipes, it does affect the chocolate’s appearance and mouthfeel. Fat bloomed chocolate often feels chalky and/or greasy in your mouth. Fat bloom ceases to be a problem when the chocolate is melted down and combined with other ingredients – hence, our chocolate is designed for cooking with, not eating straight.

What exactly is fat bloom, and what is tempering?
The Tava Bar is untempered, and is therefore likely to show signs of fat bloom. Fat bloom produces a pale greyish film, or grease spots, on the surface of the chocolate. Fat bloom in untempered cooking chocolate is not a flaw, and it will not affect your recipe in any way.
Fat bloom is caused when environmental temperature fluctuations cause some of the cocoa butter in the chocolate to melt. The melted cocoa butter separates from the cocoa mass, creating a pale “bloom” on the chocolate’s surface.
Tempering is the process of precisely heating and cooling melted chocolate to specific temperatures prior to moulding, in order to create the most stable form of fat crystals, which are known as beta crystals. Beta crystals melt at a relatively high temperature (just below body temperature). Hence, tempered chocolate is characteristically shiny and hard, and relatively resistant to fat bloom.
Because cooking chocolate is designed to be melted during cooking, tempering serves no practical purpose, so we decided to leave this process out and pass the savings on to you.

What are cocoa solids?
“Cocoa solids” is a term used in the food industry to describe the edible portion of the cocoa bean. The edible portion of a cocoa bean (the “flesh” of the bean) consists of roughly 50% fat (called cocoa butter), and 50% cocoa mass (cocoa mass is the brown stuff that gives chocolate its characteristic flavour).
Cocoa fat (more commonly called cocoa butter) is solid at room temperature – hence its inclusion in the category of cocoa solids.

What is single-origin chocolate?
The meaning and significance of a chocolate’s origin has shifted significantly in recent years. In the past, you would have heard of Swiss chocolate, or Belgian chocolate; Switzerland and Belgium being where fine chocolate was manufactured.
Now, attention has started to shift towards where chocolate’s vital ingredient – cocoa – is grown. Cocoa (Theobroma cacao) is an equatorial crop, grown predominantly in West Africa, Central and South America, and Asia. The quality and flavour of cocoa beans is influenced by many factors, but most notably the variety of cocoa, and the methods used to ferment and dry the harvested beans (for more information on cocoa fermentation and drying, take a look at my article: From Bud to Bean).
So, a single-origin chocolate is one made of cocoa beans that were grown in one specific place. The origin may be as broad as a country, or as narrow as a particular plantation.
The Tava Bar is a single-origin chocolate, made from cocoa grown on the island of Malekula in Vanuatu.

Which is better: a single-origin chocolate, or a blended chocolate?
The answer to this question depends entirely on personal taste – but I’m happy to share my opinion with you!
Most people have only ever tasted blended chocolate, which, by definition, is made from a blend of cocoa beans grown in many different countries. For example, Cadbury, Lindt, and Haigh’s all produce blended chocolates. When it comes to flavour, these manufacturers value uniformity above character.
Flavour uniformity is enormously valuable to many food retailers – think McDonald’s, or Coca Cola. By contrast, nuanced and characterful flavour profiles are highly prized in the wine industry – think Penfolds Grange.
It is only quite recently that a small percentage of discerning and somewhat adventurous consumers have begun to appreciate the complex and unique flavours that can be found in single-origin chocolate.

Blending different cocoas together is the most obvious technique for achieving flavour uniformity in chocolate. Alkalisation is another, less well known technique, used by many large chocolate manufacturers to help produce a uniform flavour.
Alkalisation is the process of adding an alkali, such as potassium bicarbonate, to cocoa in order to reduce its acidity. While alkalisation certainly makes the product less acidic, and therefore less challenging to most people’s taste buds, it also destroys many interesting flavours that are commonly described as being like red fruit or citrus. Ironically, alkalisation also causes cocoa to darken considerably, which tricks most people into believing that alkalised cocoa is stronger flavoured, or higher quality. If you’ve ever seen an incredibly rich-looking, almost black cocoa powder or chocolate cake, it was probably alkalised!
So, while blending and alkalising cocoa greatly reduces the risk of producing an unpleasant chocolate (especially when poor quality cocoa beans are used), these processes also reduce the likelihood of creating an interesting, complex, and characterful chocolate.

How do I convert my favourite recipe to use The Tava Bar?
Try our recipe conversion calculator!
If you would like to try using The Tava Bar in a particular recipe, but you’re not sure how much to use, then our calculator (below) can help you.
  1. In the first box, enter the amount of chocolate that your recipe calls for, in grams.
  2. In the second box, enter the percentage of cocoa solids that your recipe specifies.
  3. Click the “calculate” button.
If your recipe doesn’t specify a percentage of cocoa solids, then assume 50% for a sweet result, or 70% for a richer, less sweet result.

NOTE: Nestlé is by far the most popular brand of cooking chocolate in Australia.
  • Nestlé Choc Bits = 20% cocoa solids, and 59% sugar (plus substitute fats).
  • Nestlé Plaistowe = 40% cocoa solids, and 54% sugar (plus substitute fats).
  • The Tava Bar = 100% cocoa solids, and 0% sugar (no substitute fats).

My recipe requires: grams of chocolate
that has: % cocoa solids

Happy Cooking!

Health considerations

Does The Tava Bar contain any: sugar / milk solids / soy / gluten / preservatives / or additives of any description?
The answer is no, no, no, no, no, and no. The Tava Bar is a totally unsweetened chocolate that contains 100% cocoa solids, and nothing else (not even vanilla).

Can chocolate be considered a health food?
The average chocolate contains more sugar and milk solids than cocoa, and provides lots of calories, but very little nutritional value. But a growing number of scientific studies suggest that some chocolate (particularly dark chocolate which contains no milk solids, and little or no sugar) may actually be good for you (in moderation, of course!).
For example, there is evidence that cocoa and dark chocolate can be credited with providing the following health benefits:

  • Cocoa and dark chocolate may help prevent heart disease, cancer, and alzheimer’s disease as a result of providing extraordinarily high levels of antioxidants.
    Reference: “Cocoa has more phenolic phytochemicals and a higher antioxidant capacity than teas and red wine” by Lee KW, Kim YJ, Lee HJ, Lee CY.

  • Although unsweetened chocolate is high in saturated fat, studies have found that it does not raise blood cholesterol levels. The fat in cocoa (called cocoa butter) is a vegetable fat, which means it contains absolutely no cholesterol. Furthermore, the saturated fat in cocoa butter is mostly stearic acid, which is a neutral fat that does not raise bad cholesterol (LDL). Cocoa butter also contains oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fat. Oleic acid is the same type of fat found in olive oil, and may actually raise good cholesterol (HDL)”
    Reference: “Serum cholesterol response to changes in the diet. IV. Particular saturated fatty acids in the diet.” by Keys A, Anderson JT, Grande F.

  • Contrary to popular belief, chocolate can actually reduce the risk of tooth decay, thanks to the protective tooth-coating effect of cocoa butter, and the presence of antibacterial agents in cocoa which inhibit the formation of plaque.
    Reference:”In-vitro inhibition of glucosyltransferase from the dental plaque bacterium Streptococcus mutans by common beverages and food extracts“. Kashket S, Paolino VJ, Lewis DA, van Houte J.

  • Cocoa and dark chocolate is a rich source of magnesium (Mg). Magnesium is an essential mineral for human nutrition, but Western diets which are high in processed foods are often critically low in magnesium. Low levels of magnesium are strongly associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and menstrual cramps. Animal studies have shown that the consumption of cocoa products can correct chronic magnesium deficiency.
    Reference: “Ability of a cocoa product to correct chronic Mg deficiency in rats” by Planells E, Rivero M, Mataix J, Llopis J.

Please remember that a 100g Tava Bar contains approximately 54g of fat, which is almost 85% of the recommended daily fat intake.
If you’re interested in the potential health benefits of chocolate, I urge you to do some of your own reading on the subject (for instance, try Googling some terms like “health benefits of cocoa”, “tooth decay and cocoa” etc)

What are the health implications of organically grown cocoa?
Cocoa (Theobroma cacao) is a tropical crop, grown in equatorial countries across the world. Most of the world’s major cocoa growing countries (for example, in West Africa and South America) are under-developed or “Third World” countries where the standard of living is relatively low, and where environmental and health laws may be lax or non-existent.
In many countries, the cocoa growing industry is heavily reliant on agricultural chemicals, such as insecticides and fungicides. Some countries (like Ghana and Nigeria – two of the world’s biggest cocoa producers) still allow the use of highly toxic pesticides like lindane (gamma-HCH), and even DDT, which has been banned in most parts of the world for many years.
Although it is quite common for chocolate to contain minute traces of toxic chemicals like lindane, the risk to consumer health is very small. However, I urge consumers to consider the health of the poor cocoa growers who routinely use these chemicals. Please seek out organically grown cocoa products, not only for your own health, but also for the health of cocoa growers, and the environment.
For more detailed information, refer to my research on the issue of agro-chemicals in the cocoa industry: Chemical Cocoa

Why does Tava make a big deal about manufacturing in a “strictly nut free environment”?
We have a number of friends and relatives who suffer from nut allergies. Peanuts and tree nuts are among the most common food allergens, and a severe nut allergy is life threatening. (Tree nuts include almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachio nuts and walnuts).
You may have noticed a warning that now appears on most chocolate products. It usually says something like: “May contain traces of nuts“. This type of warning is put in place for two reasons:
  1. nut allergies can be life threatening, and
  2. most plain chocolate is manufactured on machinery that also processes nut products.
Because it is practically impossible to remove all traces of nut proteins from machinery between batches, manufacturers choose to err on the side of caution, and warn people with severe nut allergies that the product in question may not be safe for them to eat. It is now very difficult to find any chocolate product that doesn’t carry a nut allergy warning.
Because we were starting up a new chocolate factory from scratch, we decided to make our premises strictly nut free.
For more information about nut allergies and anaphylaxis, please take a look at the Anaphylaxis Australia website (this link will open a new window)

Is The Tava Bar suitable for diabetics?
The Tava Bar contains absolutely no added sugar, nor any other kind of sweetener. Because it is unsweetened, The Tava Bar is very bitter, and is not designed to be eaten straight. However, diabetics might find The Tava Bar useful for creating chocolate flavoured drinks, or other recipes, which can be prepared with the sweetener of choice.

The Australian perspective

Why does Tava buy cocoa grown in Vanuatu?
Although we prefer to buy agricultural products grown organically in Australia, we are very happy to be buying cocoa from Vanuatu for the following reasons:
  • The climate in Australia is too dry to grow cocoa trees without irrigation. This is the main reason that we think establishing a commercial cocoa growing industry in Australia is a bad idea. Water is precious, and Australia is in drought much of the time.
    However, many tropical countries in the world receive enough rainfall to grow cocoa without irrigation. Vanuatu is one of those countries.
  • Vanuatu is many times closer to Australia than the major cocoa growing regions of West Africa and South America. In a world of human-induced climate change and diminishing oil reserves, transporting produce around the globe seems like an increasingly bad idea. Buying cocoa grown in a sustainable manner in the local Pacific region is one small way that we can show we care about the future of the planet, and all of its inhabitants.
  • Like most cocoa growing countries, Vanuatu is economically underdeveloped. Because Vanuatu is one of Australia’s “poor” neighbours, Australian tax-payers provide millions of dollars in aid to Vanuatu each year. Indeed, Australia’s bilateral aid to Vanuatu in 2006-07 is budgeted at $25 million.
    We support the fair trade concept of “Trade, not Aid”. We believe that buying cocoa from ni-Vanuatu cocoa growers at a fair price is the best way that we can help the people of Vanuatu develop a healthy and independent economy.

Social equity

Who grows cocoa, and under what circumstances?

Why is Tava not certified Fair Trade?

Environmental sustainability

What are the environmental impacts of organic vs. non-organic cocoa growing?

Why is Tava not certified organic?

Send questions or comments to me (Sam) at

The Cocoa Communiqué

Extra dark cooking chocolate.
100% cocoa solids; no sugar.

Allergy Aware:
This chocolate is made in a strictly nut-free environment.

Chocolate and its health- giving properties get a whole chapter in this book by Richard Béliveau and Denis Gingras. Read more …