That's a heck of a good question!!
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!
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
Does money grow
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!
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
beans were mixed with hot and cold water and with maize, ground
seeds, roots and flowers [pretty ones we trust] of many plants. Many
of the prepared dishes were soups [chocolate soup
?.................now THERE's a real treat!] and the liquid
chocolate was poured over other dishes.
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!
Or, at least it was back then. Now do you suppose someone was adding
wine to the chocolate too??
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].
[before Candyland Crafts]:
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.
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.
In 1876 Daniel
Peter & Henri Nestle created milk chocolate, by combining
sweetened condensed milk [an invention of Henri Nestle]. This opened
up a whole new era of chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate.
Our very own
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
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"!
(These are in no particular
Chocolate as an aphrodisiac?
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.
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.......
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,
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
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!
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.
Chocolate causes acne (or makes it worse):
Again, studies have
reported no evidence for this at all.
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 scratch.....how 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
liquor). Now simply follow the recipe below to make the
chocolate of your choice.
and cocoa powder [about 50% ea.]
[about 33%], cocoa powder [about 66%], a little sugar
[50%], cocoa powder [35%], sugar, vanilla
Same ingredients as bittersweet but more sugar
cocoa powder [about 10%], sugar, dry milk [about 12%] & vanilla
[not really chocolate]
sugar, vanilla and cocoa butter
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