The World of Chocolates

BonbonsSpain makes Chocolate?
Spanish explorers discovered cacao in Mexico in the early 1500’s, and brought it back to the Spanish royalty. Since then, Spain has perfected their chocolate producing techniques, giving us some of the finest chocolates in the world. Today, Spanish chocolates, both hand-made and industrially produced, are made in the European style, and contain more cocoa and less sugar than is the case in the rest of the world. Connoisseurs consider the Spanish master craftsmen in chocolate production.

What is the history of Chocolate?
Spanish explorers brought back the rich, dark frothy beverage used by the Aztecs to the Spanish royalty in the early 1500s. By the 16th and 17th centuries, chocolate was the most characteristic drink of all Spain’s private houses. Chocolate houses, similar to cafés, sprouted up everywhere. Even today, Chocolaterias, where nothing but hot chocolate and pastries are served, exist in most of Spain’s major cities.

Spaniards created the first factories in about 1580, where the beans were made into a paste. They tightly guarded their production secrets for decades, but by 1650 the rest of Europe had caught on. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Spanish controlled cocoa production and trade in the Americas, and held the reigns over cocoa exports to Europe. At least until the French, Dutch and later the Portuguese began their own chocolate industries with cocoa plantings in their colonies.

By the early 1600s, chocolate became avidly sought after by the European upper classes. The Italians and English as well as the French developed a fondness for the beverage, adding sugar and vanilla to make it more potable but typically dispensing with the other flavorings that had become traditional in Spain. Milk was first blended with chocolate in 1727 by an Englishman, prior to which wine, beer, coffee and water were the blending liquids of choice.

Spain was the first country to mechanize the manufacture of chocolate in 1777. In the 1800s, cocoa butter, which was removed from the beans to make cocoa powder, was added back in to other ground cocoa beans to make that paste even smoother and more easily incorporated with sugar, thus providing the groundwork for chocolate candy. Solid mild chocolate was developed in 1876 followed by the filled chocolate shell. In the late 19th century, dried fruits and nuts were first added to chocolate bars and in 1924, an American came up with a way for making chocolate with creamy fillings.

How is chocolate produced?
The cocoa tree, named Theobroma Cacao (meaning food for the gods in Greek), is an unusual looking tropical evergreen tree, which grows up to about 20 feet tall and bears fat pods along its trunk and branches. Inside the pod is an aromatic, sweet, sticky white pulp surrounding a number of one inch long cocoa beans (~20-30 per pod), which are used to make chocolate (50 beans will make a 100-gram bar of choc). Cocoa trees start to provide their best yields at about eight years of age, and will continue to bear fruit for 30-35 years.

Once harvested, the beans are roasted and then cracked open and the kernels are separated from the shells. The kernels, called nibs, are ground up into a paste. To make cocoa powder, excess cocoa butter is pressed out. For chocolate bars, the paste is not pressed but instead is enhanced with the addition of even more cocoa butter. Sugar is added to make bittersweet chocolate, and sugar and milk solids are added to produce milk chocolate. The chocolate then undergoes conching, a process which utilizes a heavy roller to grind and mix the ingredients under heat to make the paste smoother and more flavorful. After pouring it into a mold and cooking it, a delicious bar or other shaped candy is formed.

Is chocolate unhealthy?
There has been a great deal of research on the health benefits of chocolate, which is great news for anyone who craves chocolate like we do!. Dark chocolate contains many beneficial compounds like flavonols, antioxidants which may have a positive effects on heart health. Click here to learn from the experts about the health benefits of chocolate.

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