This delicacy has history that is equally rich and compelling origins in the New World. The Latin name for cocoa—Theobroma—literally means, “food of the gods.” This valuable crop played an important role in many ancient South American cultures.
For nearly 100 years after the Spaniards were introduced to chocolatl, the coveted drink of New World inhabitants, they kept the secret of its production to themselves. In the same years as Shakespeare wrote his final plays, the missionary and theologian José de Acosta wrote about cocoa from Lima, Peru, saying, “It is so much esteemed among the Indians that it is one of the richest and the greatest traffickes of New Spain.”
CHOCOLATE GOES MAINSTREAM
After a century, Spain lost its monopoly on the European chocolate market. By the mid-1600s, the drink made from the little brown beans had gained widespread popularity in France.One enterprising Frenchman opened the first hot chocolate shop in London and by the 1700s, these “chocolate houses” were a common sight in England.
By the 18th century, every country, from England to Austria, was producing confections from the fruit of the cocoa tree. During this period, the introduction of the steam engine mechanized cocoa bean grinding, reducing production costs and making chocolate affordable to all.
From German chocolate cake to Swiss cocoa, people around the world enjoy chocolate in thousands of different forms, consuming more than 3 million tons of cocoa beans annually. Throughout its evolution, one thing has remained constant—chocolate has never lacked an avid following of people who love the “food of the gods.”
HEAT, HUMIDITY AND SHADE
The cocoa tree is cultivated in plantations situated on both sides of the Equator, the band that encircles the globe between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
This delicate tree, with a trunk of around 20 cm in diameter, a height ranging between 3 and 8 metres, but exceeding 12 metres in the wild, grows in hot and humid climates, in semi-obscurity, in the shade of tall-growing plants and trees.
An altitude of 400 to 700 metres is needed for ideal growth and development. It bears simultaneously white flowers and fruit, which it shelters in its dense and tapered foliage.
The tree begins to flower after around 2 to 5 years, reaches its maturity after 12 years and continues to bear fruit for 30 years. One tree bears 50 000 to 100 000 flowers per year. Approximately one in 100 of these will be fertilized and become a fruit – the cocoa pod.
Oblong in shape, the cocoa pod is 15 to 25 cm in length. On the same tree, young pods can be yellow, green or almost violet in color. On the inside of the fruit, beneath a tough skin, is found a white pulp called the “mucilage” from which grains are extracted. These grains become almond-shaped beans (20 to 40 per pod).
It is these beans that contain the precious cocoa. One cocoa tree only produces a kilo to a kilo and a half of beans per year !
In all three major growing regions, an estimated 30-40% of the crop is lost to pests and disease. Soil fertility levels degrade over time. Improving productivity through composting and application of fertilizer rejuvenates cocoa lands. Promoting agroforestry techniques, to sustain a diversity of shade trees, food crops, cocoa and other cash crops, encourages productive, healthy, and sustainable farms for cocoa-growing communities.
Cocoa production and processing can be complicated; we've provided these terms and definitions to help make it simpler.
Cacao Tree (Theobroma Cacao)
The tropical tree that produces cocoa beans. Theobroma means “food of the gods.”
The “meat” of the cocoa bean remaining when the shell is removed in the chocolate production process.
The liquid chocolate produced by grinding the cocoa nibs. It is the basic ingredient in all chocolate products. There is no alcohol in chocolate liquor.
The seed of the cacao tree, which is only called a cocoa bean once it is removed from the pod in which it grows.
The leathery oval pod that contains cocoa beans.
Criollo Cocoa Beans
A premium variety of cocoa beans grown primarily in South and Central America.
Part of the process by which chocolate is manufactured. Cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and sugar are blended and placed in large agitators, called ‘conches’ that stir the mixture under heat.
A method of treating the nib or the liquor with an alkali solution after roasting, which will reduce the acidity by increasing the normal pH factor from about 5.0 up to 8.0. The name honors the homeland of its inventor, C. J. Van Houten.
Forastero Cocoa Beans
The most commonly grown and used beans. These beans make up about 90 percent of the world’s production and are grown primarily in West Africa.
Trinitario Cocoa Beans
Believed to be a natural cross from strains of the other two types, Trinitario has a great variety of characteristics but generally possesses good, aromatic flavor. Trinitario trees are particularly suitable for cultivation.
Cocoa Value Chain: From Farmer to Consumer.
Every year, more than five million family farms in countries like Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Indonesia and Brazil produce about three million tons of cocoa beans. Cocoa is a valuable crop that is a vital part of cultures around the world, and essential to the livelihoods of 40-50 million people.
There are only 3 Cocoa Origins:
From a word meaning “creole” in old Spanish, this species of cocoa tree gives the finest cocoa. Very aromatic, only slightly bitter and with a long-lasting flavor, this exceptional cocoa makes up only 5 to 10 % of the world’s production. It originates from Central and South America, in particular from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia, as well as the islands of Trinidad, Grenada and Jamaica.
Originating from upper Amazonia, this species gives the most common and the most robust cocoa, with a bitter flavor and an acidic aroma, often used in cocoa mixes. The Forastero makes up 80% of the world’s cocoa production, due to the faster maturation of the trees and a greater amount of fruit. This is African cocoa by excellence, introduced to the Sao Tomé Island and also grown in Brazil, the West Indies and Central and Latin America.
The island of Trinidad gave its name to this cocoa species. Its story originated in Venezuela, “the land of chocolate”, from a natural hybrid of the Criollo and the Forastero. The Trinitario gives a fine cocoa rich in oil and represents 10 to 15 % of the world’s production. It is cultivated mainly in Central and South America, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
FROM BEAN TO BAR
Chocolate processing practices haven’t changed much from the time of the Maya; it is just that the equipment and processes have been refined. These processes can be divided into six major steps:
IN THE COCOA FIELD
Harvest and Fermentation
Cacao trees produce buds on a continuous basis—this can be year-round in subtropical areas, such as Central America or it can be tied to the rain cycle, as it is in Africa. Harvesting the cacao pods is still done by hand, as the mature pods need to be identified and cut from the tree, without damaging flower buds. Better fermentation results in better flavor and requires less roasting time to bring out that flavor.
Drying and Storage
The cocoa beans, as they are now called after fermentation, come out of this process with a high moisture content. In order to be shipped or stored, they must be dried. Once the moisture percentage in the cocoa beans has reached 6 to 7 percent, they are sorted and bagged.
IN THE MANUFACTURING PLANT
Each chocolate manufacturer has a closely guarded “secret recipe” for each chocolate product that it produces. This secret begins with the type and quality of the cocoa beans used.
Testing, Cleaning, and Roasting
When the selected § cocoa beans arrive at the manufacturing plant they go through a very extensive sampling and testing procedure. The cocoa beans then go into the roaster for anywhere from 10 to 35 minutes.
Cracking (or Fanning) and Grinding
While roasting, the shell of the cocoa bean separates from the bean kernel and is removed in the first step of the cracking or fanning process. The cracked beans are now called cocoa nibs. The nibs contain approximately 53 percent cocoa butter, depending on the cacao species.
Grinding or Refining
The first grind of the beans is usually done in a milling or grinding machine such as a melangeur. The nibs are ground or crushed to liquefy the cocoa butter and produce what is now called chocolate liquor or chocolate liquid.
For the second refining process, most chocolate manufacturers use a roll refiner or ball mill to distribute the cocoa butter evenly throughout the mass, coating all the particles.
The rolling process itself creates heat that melts and distributes the cocoa butter. This is the first step to developing chocolate’s smooth and creamy mouth-feel.
Different percentages of cocoa butter are removed or added to the chocolate liquor. The formula the chocolate manufacturer develops for combining specific ingredients with the chocolate liquor is what gives the chocolate its unique taste.
This process develops the flavor of the chocolate liquor, releasing some of the inherent bitterness and gives the resulting chocolate its smooth, melt-in-your-mouth quality.
Tempering and Forming Chocolate
For the last two steps in the chocolate process, the conched chocolate mass is tempered and molded into bulk bars or it may go into another production cycle to produce specialized retail products, such as coated-candy centers and molded items.
Switzerland is renowned for its exceptional chocolate. It comes as little surprise that Swiss people consume the most chocolate per capita of any country worldwide. Every year, the average Swiss person eats just under 20 lbs of chocolate. Neighboring Germany is also a nation of chocoholics with annual consumption per capita amounting to 17.4 lbs.
The Irish also have a sweet tooth and they come joint third with the United Kingdom with 16.3 lbs per year. The United States cannot compete with Europe in the chocolate consumption league and it comes in ninth overall – the average American eats about 9.5 lbs of chocolate each year.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF CHOCOLATE
Single Bean Chocolate
Chocolate is an $83 billion a year business, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets.
That makes the industry's value larger than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of more than 130 nations on earth, World Bank figures show.
POWER OR PLEASURE FOOD
In its earliest forms, the Mayans used cocoa to create a ritual beverage that was shared during betrothal and marriage ceremonies, providing one of the first known links between chocolate and romance.
By the mid-1600's, It was praised in France as a delicious and health-giving good enjoyed by the wealthy.
AN INVIGORATING AND STIMULATING NATURAL ANTI-DEPRESSANT
Without doubt, chocolate is a pleasure food. A 100-gram block of chocolate contains around 500 calories.
Chocolate contains three types of organic materials - carbohydrates, lipids and proteins - as well as several minerals: potassium, magnesium and phosphorus in large quantities, calcium, iron and sodium in small quantities.
In addition to the many vitamins it contains (A1, B1, B2), the analysis of a chocolate bar reveals the presence of several substances with tonic, stimulant, and anti-depressant properties:
- Theobromine, which stimulates the nervous system and facilitates muscular exertion
- Caffeine, which increases resistance to fatigue
- Phenylethylamine, which exhibits psycho-stimulant properties,
- Serotonin, which can compensate the loss of certain nerve cells in depression
The percentage of protein remains relatively constant regardless of the variety of chocolate (between 7 and 10%). By contrast, the proportions of carbohydrate and fat change depending on chocolate type. A chocolate bar contains more carbohydrate than melting chocolate (64% versus 52%) and, conversely, less fat (24% versus 38%).
Among all the food we consume, chocolate is also the richest in polyphenols. The levels are 500 and 840 mg/100 g in milk and dark chocolate respectively. About 13% of polyphenols in our diet come from chocolate.
Many researchers now believe that polyphenols have beneficial effects on health by reducing the oxidative stress that our tissues are constantly subjected to, thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic diseases.
Wold Cocoa Foundation
Facts About Chocolate
Institute of Culinary Education- Chocolate Lab