FACTS AND HISTORY OF CHOCOLATE AND CACAO.
Chocolate ( See Photos) is one of the worlds favorite treats. It has been grown and consumed for over 2000 years. Theobroma cacao, native to Mexico, Central and South America, has been cultivated for at least three millennia in that region. Cocoa mass was used originally in Mesoamerica both as a beverage and as an ingredient in food. Chocolate has been used as a drink for nearly all of its history. The earliest record of using chocolate dates back before the Olmec. In November 2007, archaeologists reported finding evidence of the oldest known cultivation and use of cacao at a site in Puerto Escondido, Honduras, dating from about 1100 to 1400 BC Until the 16th century, no European had ever heard of the popular drink from the Central and South American peoples. It was not until the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs that chocolate could be imported to Europe. In Spain it quickly became a court favorite. In a century it had spread and become popular throughout the European continent To keep up with the high demand for this new drink, Spanish armies began enslaving Mesoamericans to produce cacao.
Chocolate in its solid form was invented in 1847. Joseph Fry & Son discovered a way to mix some of the cocoa butter back into the dutched chocolate, and added sugar, creating a paste that could be moulded. The result was the first modern chocolate bar. A Dutch family's (van Houten) inventions made mass production of shiny, tasty chocolate bars and related products possible. In the 1700s, mechanical mills were created that squeezed out cocoa butter. But, it was not until the arrival of the Industrial Revolution that these mills and new machinery allowed for the mass production of chocolates. Companies began advertising this new invention to sell many of the chocolate treats we see today and people began experiencing and consuming chocolate worldwide.
ORIGINS & PROCESS
Roughly two-thirds of the entire world's cocoa is produced in Western Africa, with 43% sourced from Ivory Coast. Cacao pods are harvested by cutting the pods from the tree using a machete, or by knocking them off the tree using a stick. Cocoa pods contain beans surrounded by a white membrane that are a bit like lichees and do not taste of chocolate at all. On average a pod produce enough cacao to make 5-7 chocolate bars. The beans with their surrounding pulp are removed from the pods and placed in piles or bins to ferment. The fermentation process is what gives the beans their familiar chocolate taste. The duration of the fermentation varies from 2 to more than 7 days. It is important to harvest the pods when they are fully ripe because if the pod is unripe, the beans will have a low cocoa butter content, or there will be insufficient sugars in the white pulp for fermentation, resulting in a weak flavor. After fermentation, the beans must be quickly dried to prevent mold growth. Climate and weather permitting, this is done by spreading the beans out in the sun from 5 to 7 days. The dried beans are then transported to a chocolate manufacturing facility. Cacao beans contain no sugar and between 12% and 50% fat depending on variety and growth conditions. The beans are cleaned, roasted, and graded. Roasted cacao nibs are made from the process whereby the cacao seeds are roasted in large, rotating ovens, at temperatures of about 210-290F. Roasting lasts from half an hour up to two hours. The heat brings out more flavor and aroma, and it dries and darkens the seeds. Next the shells are removed to extract the nib then the seeds are cracked and winnowed, that is, their outer shells are cracked and blown away, leaving the crushed and broken pieces of cacao seeds - "processed cacao nibs". At this point, we have something edible and really chocolaty. Finally, the nibs are ground and liquefied, resulting in pure chocolate in fluid form called chocolate liquor. The liquor can be further processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.
( Raw cacao nibs are not from roasted cacao seeds, instead, they are just made from raw cacao seeds. For example, you can manually press on the cacao seeds, peel it, and then break it into nibs.) To get cacao butter the Cacao liquor is pressed at high pressure which forces our the cacao butter. The pressed liquor once pressed is very dried and is ground into cacao powder. To make chocolate the chocolate liquor is blended with cacao butter, sugar, vanilla or milk to make different types of chocolate The basic blends of ingredients for the various types of chocolate (in order of highest quantity of cocoa liquor first), are as follows: Dark chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, and (sometimes) vanilla Milk chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, milk or milk powder, and vanilla White chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, milk or milk powder, and vanilla.
At this stage the chocolate is rather grainy so to make it smooth it is processed by "conching" in a conche. A conche, so called because a conche shell was originally used, is a container filled with metal beads which act as grinders. The refined and blended chocolate mass is kept in a liquid state by frictional heat in the conche. Conching can last a few hours for cheaper chocolates, and up to six days for the expensive chocolate. The final process is called tempering. Uncontrolled cooling of the conched chocolate causes crystallization of cocoa butter causing the surface of the chocolate to appear mottled and matte, and producing chocolate that crumbles rather than snaps when broken. The uniform sheen and crisp bite of properly processed chocolate are the result of consistently small cocoa butter crystals produced by the tempering process. The chocolate is stirring as it cools after conching, it is then heated back up slowly and the process repeated several times. This will give our chocolate that nice glossy look and effects the final chocolates texture from soft and crumbly to hard chocolate which snaps. This final tempering along with the cocoa content effects the final type chocolate produced by the Chocolatiers to make unique chocolates. These recipes are obviously great secrets protected fiercely by big chocolate brand like Cadbury and Nestle.
Chocolate has for many years been accused as a source of obesity. This seems to be obvious if the chocolate contains a lot of sugar but low sugar dark chocolate are low in calories. “Every study on chocolate is pointing to the same conclusion: there is something in chocolate that is really good for us. That something is the raw cacao bean, the nut that all chocolate is made from. The cacao bean has always been and will always be Nature’s #1 weight loss and high-energy food. Cacao beans are probably the best kept secret in the entire history of food.” — David Wolfe, co-author of Naked Chocolate: The Astonishing Truth About The World’s Greatest Food. Cacao and dark chocolate with a high cacao content has been found to have health benefits. Dark chocolate with its high cocoa content, is a rich source of epicatechin and gallic acid, which are thought to possess cardioprotective properties. Dark chocolate has also been said to reduce the possibility of a heart attack when consumed regularly in small amounts. One-third of the fat in chocolate comes in the forms of a saturated fat called stearic acid and a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. However, unlike other saturated fats, stearic acid does not raise levels of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream. Consuming relatively large amounts of dark chocolate and cocoa does not seem to raise serum LDL cholesterol levels; some studies even find that it could lower them. Indeed, small but regular amounts of dark chocolate lower the possibility of a heart attack. Cacao nibs contains Magnesium, Sulphur, and Anti-oxidant, Monoamine Oxidase Enzyme Inhibitors, Phenylethylamine, and Anandamide. These substances can help us having healthy heart, relieving us from stressful mood, and much more. So recent years cacao nibs are becoming a popular healthy food. Cacao seems to be the number one source of magnesium of any food. This is probably the primary reason women crave chocolate during their period. Magnesium is associated with balanced brain chemistry, strong bones, and happiness. Magnesium is the most deficient major mineral on the Standard UK Diet (SUKD); over 80% of us are chronically deficient in Magnesium! Cacao is high in the beauty mineral sulphur. Sulfur is associated with strong nails, hair, beautiful, shiny skin, and a clean liver and pancreas.
FAIR TRADE CHOCOLATE.
For years chocolate harvesting has been carried out by child labour in West Africa. Even though this is illegal it is still widespread in the Ivory Coast and Ghana according to BBC Panorama reports. Even though paperwork is required under the Harkin Engel protocol to prove that the cacao beans had no child labour in its production there are ways to get child labour beans into main stream through independent traders. Brands like Coop used Fair Trade chocolate and can verify its source. This idea spread to Cadbury and Nestle products and should guarantee farmers a fair price and all farms should be child labour free. This is slowly changing and the big chocolate companies have agreed to help with foundations and investment into cacao farms to stop child labour in Africa. This is a slow process though and child labour beans can still slip into the Fair Trade supply. The truth is that chocolate prices are still too low and an increase should be implemented to take African cacao farmers out of poverty so they do not need child labour.
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