How Chocolate Is MadeJune 7, 2023
Chocolate is an irresistibly delightful treat that comes in various forms. Enjoy it as an exquisite dessert or add it into other foods for an irresistibly delightful meal.
Take your time tasting each piece of chocolate you try, taking note of its texture whether smooth and creamy or gritty and powdery. Different palates perceive these textures differently and mouthfeel can reveal additional information about flavor.
Chocolate is produced from the seeds of Theobroma cacao trees, and has been cultivated for over 3 millennia. Olmecs were among the first peoples to drink chocolate before Maya, Toltec, and Aztec peoples embraced its use as currency and religious offerings, even using it to bury dignitaries with bowls full of this beverage as tomb offerings.
Pottery unearthed in Mexico and Guatemala has revealed remnants of chocolate, specifically Theobromine which gives chocolate its bitter flavor. Furthermore, there was evidence of mold growth on some pots found at excavation sites.
Aztecs associated chocolate with their god, Quetzalcoatl. It was seen as a drink of royal significance. By 16th century Europe had seen chocolate introduced through Francesco d’Anotnio Carletti who sold it to Ferdinand I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany.
Chocolate is composed of several key ingredients. These include cocoa mass, cocoa butter (or vegetable oil), sugar, milk or milk powder and an emulsifying agent such as lecithin. Some companies may add flavoring agents such as vanilla, raspberry or coconut. Artificial flavours sourced both naturally and synthetically may also be included – these will usually be specified on packaging as they come.
Chocolate contains other ingredients like maltitol, xylitol and sorbitol that help lower calories; however, these may leave an unpleasant aftertaste and be less satisfying to enjoy than more satisfying choices. Furthermore, they may lead to bloating or other unwanted side effects.
Chocolate making is an extremely complex process involving numerous chemical reactions. Most changes occur during fermentation, drying and roasting of cocoa beans, conching of chocolate mass as well as fermentation itself – these steps contribute to producing most of its flavor compounds.
Fermenting cocoa beans results in the production of volatile aromatic compounds known as pyrazines that act as key aroma precursors for chocolate products.
Next comes separating cacao hulls from sweet cacao nibs inside, producing chocolate liquor. Next is grounding and mixing this chocolate with sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifiers, flavoring agents and milk components (if needed). Finally it’s conched under controlled speed and temperature conditions to produce its desired texture and smoothness.
Chocolate’s complex flavors come from its base: the roasted cacao beans give it their signature, full-toned flavors. Chocolate also releases neurochemicals such as phenylethylamine (PEA), which your brain produces when you fall in love – hence why chocolate has long been associated with making us feel good.
Ecuador is home to some of the world’s finest cocoa producers, with flavors often emitting floral aromas and an abundance of magnesium content, an element which plays an essential role in both cell metabolism and nervous system functioning.
Consumers today demand authenticity in all that they consume, from their chocolate to its source. They want to know who was involved in creating it and whether or not its production was ethically sourced.
Chocolate has long been associated with its high fat and sugar content as being detrimental to our health, yet when consumed in moderation it may actually bring several health advantages.
Cocoa contains flavonoids which have been scientifically shown to improve blood flow, help prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as stimulate brain release of feel-good hormones. Furthermore, cocoa also contains phenylethylamine which acts to release feel-good hormones in your system.
Neurophysiologist Will Clower suggests that nibbling a piece of dark chocolate before meals could reduce appetite. And according to one recent study, pregnant women who consumed chocolate during gestation were less likely to develop pre-eclampsi – high blood pressure during gestation – than those who didn’t consume any.