What is Chocolate?
Chocolate comes from the cacao tree seeds. Ground tree seeds become a fine
powder that mixes with such things as sugar, vanilla, and flour to make many
delicious treats. The treats include cookies, cakes, and chocolate drinks.
Before mixing with sweeter ingredients, the fine powder has a bitter taste and
flavor. The best gourmet
dark chocolate sauce comes from these ingredients as they are blended.
Where Does Chocolate Come From?
Cultivating chocolate is not easy. It requires a tropical region with the
right combination of hot temperatures and humid conditions to cause the trees
to produce this amazing delicacy. As the trees only flourish in tropical areas,
the best areas of their growth include Africa, the Caribbean, Central America,
The cacao tree is as difficult to harvest as it is to grow. The tree
requires hand harvesting with machetes. The reason for this is because the pods
the chocolate originate in are extremely large, about the size of a small melon
or squash. Each pod holds 30 to 50 chocolate beans.
How Does Chocolate Become Chocolate?
Processing chocolate beans takes time and patience. The beans require
fermenting for up to 7 days before they are dried. The fermented beans are
extremely bitter and they require roasting to extract the cacao grains.
After extraction, the leftover product is the cacao nibs which are a mixture
of cocoa butter and solid cocoa. Cocoa butter is the chocolate fat, while the
solid cocoa gets ground into cocoa powder, which goes into making all kinds of
Why Do We Enjoy Chocolate?
The development and manufacturing of all the different types of chocolate began with the desire
to enjoy chocolate in as many different forms as possible.
- Milk Chocolate
Milk chocolate grew out of the need to create a tastier treat than the
bitter drinks produced in countries like Spain. The English didn’t mix it with
sweeter ingredients until the 1700s in an attempt to create a better-tasting
product. The chocolate wasn’t close to the milk chocolate of today.
The process of perfecting the chocolate was under production, while
different people tried different ingredients to create a better product. It
wasn’t until Henri Nestlé, a Swiss chemist, perfected the mixture of liquid
milk chocolate that the recipe came outright.
The process for making milk chocolate involves mixing sugar, cocoa butter,
and chocolate liquor, sweetened, condensed or powdered whole milk. At this
stage, additional flavorings get added. The percentages of each ingredient vary
depending on the flavors and textures you are aiming to get.
- Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is similar to milk chocolate except that more cacao joins the
mixture adding a deeper chocolate flavor in addition to the smooth milk
chocolate flavor. The percentage of chocolate mixed into a dark chocolate treat
can be up to 70 percent or more of the total mixture.
- White Chocolate
Not designated chocolate until 2002, white chocolate needs to have a minimum
of 20% cocoa butter to be chocolate. If it is less, it is a confection. White
chocolate is chocolate only in name for some chocolate purists because most
recipes do not contain chocolate liquor.
- Chocolate Coatings
A professional coating of chocolate usually has up to 39 percent cocoa
butter content. It requires special tempered formulas. These formulas create
smooth and shiny shells and coating for many treats. It is sold in up to
10-pound blocks for professional chefs and bakers.
A refined and higher quality chocolate requires the highest quality
ingredients. There are good years for the cacao beans, and there are bad years.
The various growers can produce wildly different cacao beans depending upon the
location of the beans and how cultivated it is.
Producing gourmet chocolates
requires smaller amounts of chocolate as long as the quality is top quality
beans, sugar, and other ingredients. They should also be pesticide and
chemical-free during cultivation. Many of us do not get to enjoy these
high-quality treats as they are quite expensive.
The Modern Chocolate
More people are developing a taste for higher quality chocolates which is
resulting in more of these delicacies becoming mainstream. They are also
healthier and less processed than other types of chocolate. They are ending up
on grocery store shelves as well as the small chocolate shops. The demand
continues to rise for quality and affordability. It is a growing empire.