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What is Chocolate ?

We've included what we hope you'll find is some interesting information about our favorite subject: Chocolate! You can CLICK on any of the topics in the table below, or, scroll down to find an area of interest. Please enjoy!

That's a heck of a good question!!

Chocolate has a long long history. Chocolate itself is derived from the seeds of a fleshy pod, which is the fruit of the Cacao tree. The tree's botanical name is Theobroma cacao, which means literally: "food of the Gods", and most of us would agree. It was "discovered" by Europeans just about 500 years ago, when some explorers came across a large sea going canoe in the [now] Gulf of Honduras, in which natives were transporting goods that included a cargo of cocoa beans! Now maybe you could argue it's a fruit since it's made from the fruit of the cacao tree.............but it's classified as a vegetable. Not only is chocolate a vegetable, it's a unique vegetable: the only one that its fat is solid at room temperature. The fat [cocoa butter] melts in your mouth, luckily, and tastily too. In a recent article (Rueters News Service, 7/18/02,from the Boston Globe, on a joint study by Univ. of Texas @Austin & Hershey Foods scientists.....natch!) scientists report humans developed a fondness for chocolate drinks about 2,600 years ago!

Cacao tree

Cocoa Pod

The Cacao tree is an "American" plant, probably of Amazonian origin. The pods of the tree are about the size of a football. They develop on the bark, or on large branches, from flowers. Tree do not yield their cocoa beans until they are about 3 or 4 years old.............and do not become real producers for as much as 10 years. They are relatively delicate plants, grow to about 20 feet in height, and must be harvested from the ground. The pods themselves are filled with a white pulp, and beans [which contain nibs], from which the chocolate is made.

A little history

The Cacao tree originated in Mesoamerica & was a serious part of the material and cultural lives of the Maya and other societies such as the Aztecs. The Aztec king Montezuma & his cohorts drank liquid chocolate all day long, from golden goblets. This of course, before they were all (unhappily) destroyed by the Spanish in their zeal for conquest and anything of value they could get their hands on. Although it  must be reported that it was the Spanish "germs" rather than their swords that really did the natives in with finality.  Anyway, getting back to our story...........

Does money grow on trees?
 The Cacao [or, more accurately, the derivatives thereof] was originally consumed as a drink [called chocolatl  by the Aztecs] and used by natives as a valuable resource for trade. The main growing areas were the pacific coast of Chiapas Mexico and present day Guatemala & El Salvador. In fact, Cacao nibs were used as coinage in Nicaragua. There is even evidence of a counterfeit cacao bean industry [although we can definitely rest assured they were not being printed on presses in someone's cellar!] which is a sure sign of their monetary value. So surprisingly, the answer is YES money does grow on trees! Smiley Or, at least it did back then. In fact, in 16th century Central America 400 cocoa beans were worth one Zontli [what we would refer to today as the "exchange rate"]. And in 1513 a slave was purchased by Hernando Valdez for 100 cocoa beans.

Some tasty old fashioned foods

The ground beans were mixed with hot and cold water and with maize, ground chilies, vanilla, seeds, roots and flowers [pretty ones we trust] of many plants. Many of the prepared dishes were soups [chocolate soup ? THERE's a real treat!] and the liquid chocolate was poured over other dishes.

Click right here to get a great recipe for ==>

 Chocolate-Hazelnut Soup!!

Is it really a sin to eat [or drink] chocolate?

People in the 16th and 17th centuries just loved to drink chocolate. It is both filling and nutritious [no, this is not a commercial]. In fact, it was so darn popular that at least one full fledged bishop had to forbid the faithful from drinking it during mass. And yes, this was in America, the home the the free and the brave. Now, by 1660 it had become a big issue with the catholic church. The question: Was it a drink or a food? became significant indeed. At that time when people were required to fast [like for Lent] it was against the rules to have a drink like wine, for example. Now after looking this over very carefully, the church decided yes, chocolate was a drink [like wine] and therefore drinking it during lent was a sin. So, YES using chocolate is a sin! Teeney Frown Or, at least it was back then. Now do you suppose someone was adding wine to the chocolate too??

A Chocolate Speakeasy?

Not a novel idea at all. By the mid 17th century there were chocolate houses all over the place in Paris and London. Now this food called chocolate was really coming into it's own!  And it was considered a fashionable and upper class drink [because it was relatively expensive].

Making Chocolate [before Candyland Crafts]:

Way way before. The traditional method was to boil the pulp created from the cacao beans to reduce the amount of fat [called cocoa butter]. It wasn't until the 19th century that chocolate came into its own as a candy, rather than a beverage. In 1828 a Dutchman, Conrad Johannes Van Houten, patented a dry-press extraction method for obtaining "chocolate powder". His success was to produce chocolate that would be easy to dissolve in water. It worked and breakfast cocoa became a standard household item.

Making chocolate today

 Today's chocolate production results from process and manufacturing technology improvements made over many years. The traditional way of manufacturing chocolate is to take the beans [from the cacao pod] and ferment them after harvesting to remove the bitterness. They are then thoroughly dried. Next they are roasted to expose the inside, which is called the nib. Various bean nibs are blended together to obtain the flavor desired and then ground up. The resulting paste, called cocoa mass  is the heart and soul of chocolate's flavor. The cocoa mass is enhanced with sugar, butter, flavorings and then blended thoroughly. The 1st chocolate bars were actually marketed about 1850 by an Englishman, Joseph Fry. Of course we all know chocolate is an "international food" and now we are beginning to see why. Everyone helped make it what it is today. In the mid 19th century [about 1879] the Swiss chemist, Henri Nestle, & Rodolphe Lindt [also Swiss] developed a process called "conching", a procedure that enhances both texture and flavor. The result was a smooth chocolate, replacing the rough and grainy products made up to then. Swiss chocolate became the world standard for the chocolate bar then and there! Conching is both a lengthy and costly procedure. Today some chocolate is made [of inferior quality] where the cocoa butter is replaced with a synthetic substitute, and "conching" replaced with the addition of soy lecithin [for smoothness]. The good news is that by law, a product that is made without cocoa butter, cannot be labeled as chocolate.

At last......milk chocolate!

In 1876 Daniel Peter & Henri Nestle created milk chocolate, by combining chocolate with sweetened condensed milk [an invention of Henri Nestle]. This opened up a whole new era of chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate.


Our very own chocolate factory

Manufacturing of chocolate in the good 'ol USA started in 1765 in Dorchester MA by a loveable Irishman by the name of John Hannon. [anyone that starts a chocolate factory HAS to be loveable]. Unfortunately John was subsequently lost at sea. But his financial backer, Dr. James Baker [bet you recognize that name.........see where our story is headed?] took over the firm. One of Dr. Bakers employees was named German. Mr. German left to go into his own chocolate making business and later he and Dr. Baker again joined up...............and, Bakers German Chocolate was born.

Some more famous chocolate names

Milton S. Hershey was running a successful caramel manufacturing plant [in Lancaster, PA] when in 1893 he visited the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He was thoroughly impressed with some German  [no no, not that Mr. German!] chocolate making equipment. Convinced that the wave of the future WAS chocolate, he got into the business with both feet and then some. Before you could say Rumplestilskin once or twice, he brought out the Hershey Almond Bar and the Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar [WOW...........what a combo]. Now it's a disappointment for me to have to report that Hershey Kisses were not an invention of Mr. Hershey. They were actually identical to Wilbur Buds, which were first made by the Wilbur Chocolate Company in 1894. But, Mr. Hershey, God love him, made them really really famous. 


That's a lot of chocolate!

In 1728 a large company reported selling 3,800 tons of cacao nibs. About 1900 the industry was selling about 100,000 tons. By the mid 1990's production was over 2,500,000 tons. The largest consuming country in the world is, no surprise, the United States. Then it's: Western Europe, Russia [it must go great with Vodka], and Japan. However, the statistics can be a little misleading because of population. If you look at chocolate consumption on a "per capita" basis, the undisputed leader is Switzerland, followed by the Brits [from Britain, naturally]. However the leaders in drinking the stuff are the Norwegians and then the Austrians. What did we tell you earlier...................chocolate is truly "international"!


Facts or fiction??   (These are in no particular order)  Tweety Bird

 [1] Chocolate as an aphrodisiac?

Well, let's put it this way; people have believed that since the 18th century. Eating chocolate certainly is a pleasant experience. And some people say if you believe it's true it's true. We can only say: You have to decide that one on your own.

[2] Chocolate outsells all other candy.

 Yes it's true. At least in the USA, more than half of all the candy sold is chocolate. And did you know that chocolate manufacturers use 20% of the world's peanuts & 40% of the world's almonds.......

 [3] White Chocolate is not chocolate.

Although many references say White Chocolate is NOT chocolate - The FDA in July 2008, issued a standard for White Chocolate, defining it as the solid or semi plastic food prepared by mixing and grinding cocoa butter with one or more dairy ingredients (such as cream, milk, skim milk, buttermilk) carbohydrate sweeteners, and other ingredients such as emulsifying agents, flavorings, etc. It contains a minimum of 20 percent cocoa butter, a minimum of 14 percent of total milk solids, a minimum of 3.5 percent milk fat, and a maximum of 55 percent nutritive carbohydrate sweeteners. 

[4] Eat chocolate and live longer!!

A 1999 article said researchers reported that people who eat chocolate three times a month could add a year to their lives. They say antioxidants deserve the credit: 3 oz. of high quality Swiss chocolate has 410 mg. - more than a serving of broccoli. And an antioxidant-rich diet helps protect you from disease, said researcher Andrew L. Waterhouse, PhD. WOW...............imagine if you ate chocolate three times a day! Smiley

[5] Chocolate causes hyperactivity in kids (so much sugar):

 This is kind of an old wives tale, but not really true. According to numerous studies sugar does NOT cause hyperactivity in children. Among others, studies at Vanderbuilt University, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine [Feb. 1994] found absolutely no evidence that sugar and hyperactivity were linked at all.

[6] Chocolate causes acne (or makes it worse):

Again, studies have reported no evidence for this at all.

 [7] Chocolate is addictive!

Now here's where we must answer the question very carefully and truthfully. After all, everyone knows you can't eat just one M & M!! Chocolate (the cacao) does contain "stimulants": theobromine & caffeine. Theobromine is a mild stimulant that occurs naturally in many plants, including cocoa, tea and coffee. Theobromine is similar to caffeine except it stimulates the nervous system about 10 times less. And caffeine, as many coffee drinkers will attest to, is mildly addictive. Researchers have reported that cacao consumption stimulates a mild "marijuana like" effect. It is however a harmless euphoria and does in fact help to reduce stress. The amount of caffeine in an ounce of milk chocolate is about the same as that found in a cup of decaffeinated coffee. You would have to eat more than a dozen Hershey bars, for example, to get the amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee. (You know, that's not such a bad idea, is it?) Here's a statistic for you: According to Pat Kendall, PhD, a Food Science and Nutrition Specialist at Colorado State University "Chocolate is the most commonly craved food in North America - 40% of American women and 15% of American men are "chocoholics" ' (reported on 5/3/2000) What's the matter guys?

I want to make my own from do I do it?

First of all you are to be commended for your ambition. Here's a basic recipe form producing your own chocolate. You start with the cacao beans, which you need to pick from the cacao tree. Now, if you read some of the other information you already know the cacao tree only grows in the tropics. In any case, here's how: Pick the cacao beans and dry them in the sun. Crack the dried beans open and the pods spill out. [you should get about 200 pods per bean]. Let the pods dry in the sun, when fully dehydrated [dry], roast them, then you grind and press the pods...............what you get is cocoa butter. Grind up the rest of the beans and you have cocoa powder (also called Chocolate liquor). Now simply follow the recipe below to make the chocolate of your choice.

Dark Unsweetened Chocolate

Cocoa butter, and cocoa powder [about 50% ea.]

Dark Chocolate

Cocoa butter [about 33%], cocoa powder [about 66%], a little sugar

Bittersweet Chocolate

Cocoa butter [50%], cocoa powder [35%], sugar, vanilla

Semisweet Chocolate

Same ingredients as bittersweet but more sugar added

Milk Chocolate

Cocoa butter, cocoa powder [about 10%], sugar, dry milk [about 12%] & vanilla

White Chocolate [not really chocolate]

Whole milk, sugar, vanilla and cocoa butter


Smiley  A few chocolate links   (just "click" & enjoy!)  Smiley

"The Chocolate Scoop" Articles and recipes. Includes The 12 Step Program for card carrying chocoholics.


No discussion of chocolate would be complete without a review of

"The History of Chocolate"! Check out the excellent links below:

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