Interesting facts about chocolate

WHAT IS CHOCOLATE? Chocolate is a royal delicacy; together with cocoa beans, it has reached us from Central America to spread all over the world. Native Americans were the first to start making chocolate. They would blend cocoa beans with a variety of spices to brew a drink, chocolate. The chocolate we are used to now is the product of 200 years of experimenting in Europe and North America. These days, we can indulge in milk, white, or dark chocolate, as well as a plenitude of different other chocolate sweets spiced with various extras, such as nuts, dried fruits and berries, spices, or even salt.

WHAT ARE THE HALLMARKS OF QUALITY CHOCOLATE? The surface of good quality chocolate is shiny, but not greasy. Before chocolate mass is poured into moulds, it is subjected to rigidly regulated temperature regimes, which define the stability of cocoa butter crystals to guarantee that the bar will stay shiny through its best-before date. Breaking a chocolate bar produces a specific pop, and the breaking line is clear, clean, and free from any sharp edges. When tasting, good chocolate should lightly melt in your mouth. Chocolate cannot be stored at warm places or in direct sunlight. Overheating leads to cocoa butter crystals forming at the surface, chocolate grows a coating of grey scurf much like mildew, yet still retains its good quality. According to the effective standards, chocolate cannot be allowed to become grey, because then it loses its marketable looks. When stored in a humid environment, chocolate turns white as sugar crystalizes at the surface. Ideally, chocolate should be stored in a dry place at a temperature of 18 °C – then it will stay delectable for long, while the temperature at which chocolate is at its most delicious is between 22 and 24 °C.

CLASSIFICATION OF CHOCOLATE. Chocolate can be classified as dark, milk, and white. Dark chocolate is a carefully proportioned blend of cocoa mass, cocoa butter, and sugar. Its ingredients are sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, emulsifiers (soy lecithin, E 476), and vanillin. In 1875, Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter produced first ever milk chocolate. Currently, it consists of sugar, cocoa butter, full cream milk powder, cocoa mass, milk fat, emulsifiers (soy lecithin, E 476), vanillin. White chocolate is a combination of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk powder. It contains sugar, cocoa butter, full cream milk powder, soy lecithin as emulsifier, and vanillin. In chocolate made for those afflicted by diabetes, sugar is substituted with maltitol. Quite often, chocolate and chocolate sweets come with different fillings. The list of fillings can go on and on, thanks to the ingenuity of chocolatiers.

FROM COCOA BEANS TO COCOA POWDER. When ripe, cocoa fruits are simply cut down with large knives. This is quite a hard labour that requires immense physical strength, and it is therefore men that harvest cocoa as often as not. Once harvested, cocoa fruit is fermented for 2–6 days at a temperature of 45–60 °C. During that time, the seed-vessel that nests the beans becomes softer just as the beans grow harder and their taste changes to an extent, becoming less bitter. Following fermentation, the beans are shelled, dried, and roasted. In the process of drying, they acquire their specific smell, which turns into a lovely aroma once the beans are roasted at 130 °C. Thus prepared, the beans are crushed and impurities that have no value are removed; the beans are prepared for further process of technological processing. Blending beans is a critical element of the chocolate industry. Such blends can consist of different types of beans to produce a “magical salad”, a process that is usually considered a secret and pride of the house. The taste, aroma, and quality of chocolate depends on the sort of the cocoa plant and the proportions of the blend.

WORLD CHOCOLATE DAY. July 11th is the World Chocolate Day. Its first celebration took place in France in 1995. Nonetheless, it was the ancient Aztecs that learned how to make chocolate first. They considered chocolate a food of gods. Spanish conquistadores were the first to bring chocolate to Europe, dubbing it the “black gold” and using it to bolster physical strength and stamina. For a long period of time, chocolate was the exclusive delicacy of the aristocracy. Women considered it to be a strong aphrodisiac. It was a hot favourite of Austrian monarch Maria Theresa, and the French king’s darling Madame de Pompadour believed that chocolate could spark the flame of passion. Soon the Chocolate Day, with its traditions and peculiarities, has spread across many countries the world over to become an international celebration. This day is an excellent occasion to treat yourself with sweets with no remorse. Moderation is key, though!

(Source: „The book of chocolate“ Preface by Jeanne Bourin, Flammarion 2004; „Chocolat ľenvers du décor“ Philippe Bertrand – Philippe Marand, 2000; „Le grand livre du chocolat“ Christine McFadden, Christine France, 2000)