Both licorice and chocolate have their die-hard fans, but how can you determine - objectively - which one is better? Is it which has been famous the longest? Which people spend the most money on every year? Taste and mouthfeel are both subjective, but surely any judgment between them wouldn't be fair without considering them.
Then, of course, it also depends on which country you live in. If you live in the United States and ask someone on the street, they're much more likely to vote for chocolate than licorice. In the Netherlands, though, it might be a different story since the Dutch consume more licorice per person than any other nationality in the world.
To sort this out as objectively as possible, we'll introduce both our contenders and go from there.
In This Corner - Licorice
First, let's introduce licorice. If we judge purely on historical terms, black licorice wins hands down. As well as one of the top medicinal plants in traditional Chinese medicine, the licorice plant and its roots were beloved by the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Licorice was used medicinally by these and other cultures since about 2500 B.C.E.
Still, history isn't everything. According to PR Newswire, in 2017, the global licorice root market was worth more than $669.4 million and is expected to rise to more than $1.1 billion (both figures in US$) by the end of 2028.
This is just sales for the root, and not necessarily all of that is used for sweets. In 2018, the top five licorice brands in the United States made nearly $443 million, though these are not all black licorice flavor sweets.
As we said before, data and numbers can't tell the whole story about which sweet treat reigns supreme. Flavors and how they feel when you bite into them make a difference too. This is the reason why licorice lovers and chocoholics rarely see eye to eye.
Licorice drops are hard candy that slowly dissolves in the mouth. However, the black licorice treat that most of us think of is a chewy candy that ranges from soft and pillowy to a firmer bite. This kind of licorice comes in various shapes, from twists and laces to novelty shapes like dogs, cats, and stars.
Black licorice has a sweetness that lingers in the mouth and herbal notes that complement the complex blend of molasses, honey, and other ingredients that vary depending on the manufacturer and the specific product.
And in the Other Corner - Chocolate
The history of chocolate began in Mesoamerica when the Mokaya people of today's Mexico enjoyed a drink made of cacao as early as 1900 B.C.E. So evidence of people enjoying chocolate falls short of licorice by about 600 years.
Don't count chocolate out yet, though. If we're looking at sales data, chocolate triumphs over all licorice flavors — black, red — even blue raspberry. In Western Europe alone, 2017 saw nearly $35 billion (US$) in chocolate confectionery sales. That's a lot of candy bars!
So how does chocolate compare to licorice in flavor and mouthfeel? Chocolate varies in sweetness depending on how much sugar is included and whether it's milk chocolate or a dark variety. It has a snap when you bite into it but starts to melt almost as soon as it touches your tongue.
One of the most loved features of chocolate is its creaminess as it melts in your mouth. Dark chocolate often has floral or fruity notes and a slightly bitter chocolatey aftertaste, while milk chocolate is sweeter and leaves a creamier aftertaste with fewer chocolate notes.
But What if You Don't Have to Choose?
Of course, if you've been paying attention, you'll notice we haven't drawn any radical conclusions from these results about whether licorice or chocolate is best. That's simply because while we're biased toward licorice, we prefer to take the "why not both?" approach.
Okay, this may sound a little unconventional, but most of the major chocolate companies today have a division that makes licorice. Many of the small confectioners make both chocolate and licorice items. Many chocolatiers are choosing to envelop licorice in their chocolate as well. Chocolate-covered licorice is a favorite treat in Iceland and among many other European countries as well.
And with our Chocolate Black DownUnders™ and Chocolate Raspberry DownUnders™, you genuinely don't have to decide between your two loves. Gourmet soft Australian licorice and raspberry licorice enrobed in smooth, silky dark chocolate - frankly, that's a reason to cheer right there. There's no more winning duo than these two favorites together in one package.
Decide for Yourself!
If you're not convinced, do a taste test for your family to decide your favorites. Buy some different types of licorice and a few varieties of chocolate. Which one stands out as your favorite? Which wins by popular vote among your family members? Have each member of your household give each candy a star rating and average the ratings at the end for a winner.
Now, try combining the chocolate with the licorice - maybe a bite of red licorice with an edge of milk chocolate will be your favorite? In general, we'd recommend darker chocolate varieties for this kind of tasting party, as they hold up better to the sweetness of licorice the best, but go wild! See which combinations you love most.
Give it a try. If nothing else, it's an excuse to treat your family to a fun evening or spend the night hanging out with friends and catching up. And come on, who's going to say no to a sweet evening of candy tasting? Give everybody a small bag to take home. Everybody wins, whether they're in Camp Licorice or Camp Chocolate - and maybe there'll even be a few converts! Bon appetit!