Chocolate - All the Facts You Need to Know
The How, What and Where of Chocolate
Everybody knows chocolate, loves it or dislikes it, but do you know what chocolate actually is made of? Who invented the chocolate as we know it today?
Chocolate has become one of the most popular gifts for Birthdays and specifically Holidays like Eastern and Valentine.
Your hand and your mouth agreed many years ago that, as far as chocolate is concerned, there is no need to involve your brain.— Dave Barry
Does Chocolate Grow on Trees?
Chocolate in fact does grow on trees in a way. It’s made from the seeds of a tropical tree. To be more specific: from the Theobroma Cacao tree, also known as Cacao Tree or Cocoa Tree. Its natural habitat is the tropics of South America, known as Mesoamerica.
It's a rather small tree, not higher than 4 to 8 meters (13 - 26ft). New DNA studies and climate models show that domestication was linked to an area that reaches from the border between Peru and Brazil to the southern part of the Brazil/Colombian border.
The Cacao Tree is an evergreen tree, which means it has green leaves in all seasons.
Flowers of the CocoaTree grow in Clusters
The flowers of the cocoa tree are not big. They are rather small and grow in clusters and they belong to what is called 'cauliflory'.
Cauliflory means that the flowers sprout directly from the main trunk and branches and not from new grown shoots. Interesting fact: The Cocoa Tree flowers are pollinated by tiny flies and not by bees as one would expect. The rather large fruits - cocoa pods - contain 20 to 60 beans which are embedded in pulp. In ancient times in Peru this pulp was used to make a juice which is still done in some countries.
It's the beans that are used to make the final product: Chocolate. The beans consist at least for 40 - 50% of fat, which is called cacao-butter.
Did You Know What 'Cauliflory' Meant?
The greatest tragedies were written by the Greeks and Shakespeare...neither knew chocolate.— Sandra Boynton
Chocolate Was Not Invented, Chocolate Was Discovered
About three millennia (3100 years) ago it were the Aztecs in Mesoamerica who brewed a beverage, using cocoa beans that was somewhat resembling beer. They called it xocolatl, meaning 'bitter water', because the cocoa bean tastes bitter. The earliest mention of cocoa related products was about 1100 years BC and that's a long time ago. The chocolate beverage was considered healthy, because it brought vitality and energy.
The Aztecs even used the cocoa beans as currency by the time they gained control about the largest part of Mesoamerica, which was around the 15th century. It's a known fact that in the year 1513 a man called Hernando de Oviedo y Valdez bought and brought back to Spain a slave, he had bought for 100 cocoa beans. For the services of a 'woman' one had to pay 10 cocoa beans and for only 4 beans one could have a rabbit for dinner.
The Aztecs used the cocoa mass in the beverage and as an ingredient in food.
When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.— Regina Brett
European Adaptation of Chocolate
Only the very rich people could affort that brownish beverage
It wasn't until the 16th century, that chocolate came to Europe. It was brought back by the Spaniards after they had conquered the Aztecs. The introduction of the cocoa beans and beverage is credited to Christopher Columbus, who brought back the cocoa beans to Spain from his 4th trip.
Chocolate was still a beverage and because it tasted quite bitter, they took out the 'chili pepper' (which had been added by the Aztecs) and added some cane sugar and vanilla to make it taste more sweeter. The demand was high and in order to meet the demand, the Spaniards enslaved the Mesoamerican people to produce more cocoa and in 1519 the first cocoa plantation was a fact. It was an expensive product and only royalties and the upper class could afford the chocolate beverage.
The Western world has never incorporated chocolate as a food ingredient, but always looked upon it as a snack and dessert.
Chocolate comes in different forms as we know them today:
Cocoa Solids with additional sugar and fat
Cocoa Solids with additional sugar, fat and milk powder
A mixture of sugar, cocoa butter and milk solids. It doesn't contain any cocoa solids at all
Pure cocoa solids without any addition of sugar
It Doesn't Look Too Difficult to Make Your Own Chocolate
In order to make chocolate from the cocoa beans, these beans have to be fermented first, which brings out the flavors. Then they have to be dried and cleaned before they get roasted. After roasting the shell has to be removed. When all that is done, the remains are called 'nibs' which will be grounded.
Grounding the beans turns them into a cocoa mass, which is chocolate in its purest form, but in the old days the chocolate was still used as a beverage and would stay that way for centuries.
Industrial Inventions of Chocolate Machines
Cocoa Powder and Cocoa Butter
The cocoa bean contains about 54% fat which made the chocolate drink rather hard to digest. It was the Dutch chocolate factory owner Casparus van Houten, who invented a machine to separate the cocoa butter from the cocoa powder. This cocoa powder became the basis for all future chocolate products, because now it was possible to create a far more solid and much easier to mould substance. Van Houten patented his invention in 1928. The result of this invention was that it became so much easier to mingle the powder with other ingredients and even mix it with the squeezed out cocoa butter. The basis to our today's well-known chocolate products was born.
Cocoa beans also contain acids and Van Houten found a way to distract those acids from the powder by treating it with an alkalizing agent. The result was a far milder taste and up till today this method is still in use and the process is called Dutching. When you see the term "Dutched Chocolate", you know now why it's called that way.
The patent of the hydraulic press ended in 1838, which opened the door to many other chocolate factories to use and modify this pressing method.
Did You Know That the Chocolate Hydraulic Press Was a Dutch Invention?
Who Made the First Moulded Chocolate Bar?
It was the Fry's Chocolate Factory, which developed a method to make the first chocolate bar in the year 1847 which was suitable to conquer the world.
After Van Houten's patent on the chocolate press had ended, the road was free for every chocolate maker to use the chocolate press and develop their own process in making chocolate.
New Brands arose, like Hershey, Mars, Nestlé, the Fry's & Sons was renamed to Cadbury and the mass production of chocolate in many forms was a fact.
Not All Chocolate Is Good Chocolate
Of course, like always with mass production, you'll get the good guys and the bad guys. Due to the fact that it now was so easy to mix the cocoa powder with the fat and other ingredients, some manufacturers decided in order to decrease the production costs, to substitute the cocoa butter with other, less expensive fats or decreasing the amount of cocoa solid. This will result in the manufacturing of a lower quality chocolate.
In 2007 a few large well-known manufacturers of chocolate tried to gain the right of using hydrogenated vegetable oil as a substitute for the cocoa butter. The public concern led to the following response of the FDA: "Cacao fat, as one of the signature characteristics of the product, will remain a principal component of standardized chocolate." This means that today products containing substitute fats are not allowed to carry the name 'chocolate'.
When you see a percentage of cocoa on a chocolate label, then this means it is the percentage of both cocoa solids and cocoa butter. So it doesn't exactly tell you if and how much cocoa solids (the pure chocolate) has been used. Pure organic or fair trade certified chocolates are labeled accordingly.
Do You Often Give Chocolate as a Gift?
Can Vegans Eat Chocolate? - Yes, Vegans Can Eat Chocolate
The question: "Is Chocolate Vegan" has been asked a trillion times and the answer is YES, Vegans can eat chocolate, BUT...not all chocolate is vegan.
Cocoa nibs and cocoa butter are both vegan and as long as no ingredients like milk or milk powder or any animal based fat is used in the process of making chocolate, there's nothing wrong for vegans to eat chocolate.
I found some reviews of the Vegan Chocolate Shakeology and some delicious Vegan Chocolate Recipes, which you can find below.
Review of the Vegan Chocolate Shakeology - but I Think You Have to Taste If for Yourself
Chocolate Can Sometimes Be Healthy and Sometimes Not at All
One would say, because of the additional sugar, fat and milk and other ingredients, that chocolate sure must be unhealthy for us people. You're right, if chocolate contains all that additional stuff, it is not healthy to eat too much of it.
But...there has been also known scientific researches which point to some positive health effects. I’ll randomly sum some up:
* limited use of dark chocolate is good for your heart
* large quantities of energy rich food without increase of activity can cause obesity
* dark chocolate contains much less cocoa butter, so dark chocolate is better than milk chocolate
* chocolate gives you energy
* a passionate kiss is nothing compared to chocolate melting on your tongue as it comes to increasing brain activity and heart beat and the intensive feeling stays four times longer
* chocolate might cause osteoporosis with elderly people
* chocolate can reduce cardiovascular problems
* chocolate can reduce your blood pressure even if you’re overweight
* chocolate can boost your cognitive abilities
* dark chocolate can lower your cholesterol
* chocolate can arouse addiction
Known fact is that chocolate is really can be poison for dogs and cats because of the theomobrine it contains. So if you love your pets, don't feed them anything chocolate.
Chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted power. It is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.— Baron Justus von Liebig
Chocolate in Art
Amazing What They Can Do with Chocolate
Chocolate on a Spoon
© 2012 Titia Geertman