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Chocolate - All the Facts You Need to Know

Titia is interested in photography, poetry, family, art, dogs, cats, insects, wildlife, history, war, camping, writing, and the environment.

All you need to know about Chocolate

All you need to know about Chocolate

The How, What and Where about Chocolate

Everybody knows chocolate, loves it or dislikes it, but do you know what chocolate actually is made of? Who invented the chocolate as we know it today?

Today it is one of the most popular gifts for Birthdays and specifically for Holidays like Eastern and Valentine.

Your hand and your mouth agreed many years ago that, as far as chocolate is concerned, there is no need to involve your brain.

— Dave Berry

Does Chocolate Grow on Trees?

Chocolate in fact does grow on trees in a way. It’s made from the seeds of a tropical tree. To be more specific: from the Theobroma Cacao tree, also known as Cacao Tree or Cocoa Tree. Its natural habitat is the tropics of South America, known as Mesoamerica.
It's a rather small tree, not higher than 4 to 8 meters (13 - 26ft).
The Cacao Tree is an evergreen tree, which means it has green leaves in all seasons.

Theobroma cacao

Theobroma cacao

Flowers of the CocoaTree grow in Clusters

The flowers of the cocoa tree are not big. They are rather small and grow in clusters and they belong to what we call 'cauliflory'.
Cauliflory means that the flowers sprout from the main trunk and branches . Interesting fact: The Cocoa. The flowers are not pollinated by bees (as one would expect), but by tiny flies.
The rather large fruits - called cocoa pods - contain 20 to 60 beans surrounded by pulp. In ancient times people used this pulp to make a juice which is still done in some countries.
People use the beans to make the final product: Chocolate. They consist at least for 40 - 50% of fat, which we call cacao-butter.

flowers and seed of the cacao tree

flowers and seed of the cacao tree

The greatest tragedies were written by the Greeks and Shakespeare...neither knew chocolate.

— Sandra Boynton

Chocolate Was Not Invented, but Discovered

About 3100 years ago the Aztecs in Mesoamerica brewed a beverage from cocoa beans. It looked a bit like beer. They called it xocolatl, meaning 'bitter water', because the cocoa bean tastes bitter. The earliest mention of cocoa related products was about 1100 years BC. The chocolate beverage was considered healthy, because it brought vitality and energy.

Around the 15th century, the Aztecs controlled the largest part of Mesoamerica. By that time they used the cocoa bean as a currency.In 1513 a man called Hernando de Oviedo y Valdez bought a slave for 100 cocoa beans. He brought him back to Spain. For the services of a 'woman' one had to pay 10 cocoa beans and for only 4 beans one could have a rabbit for dinner.
The Aztecs used the cocoa mass in the beverage and as an ingredient in food.

Two Mayans sit around a container of frothed chocolate.

Two Mayans sit around a container of frothed chocolate.

When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

— Regina Brett

European Adaptation of Chocolate

It wasn't until the 16th century, that chocolate came to Europe. The Spaniards brought it back after they had conquered the Aztecs. Credit goes to Christopher Columbus, who brought the cocoa beans back to Spain on his 4th trip.
Chocolate was still a beverage and it tasted quite bitter. They took out the 'chili pepper' and replaced it with some cane sugar and vanilla to make it taste more sweeter. The demand was high. The Spaniards enslaved the Mesoamerican people so they could produce more and more cocoa. In 1519 the first cocoa plantation was a fact.
Chocolate was an expensive product. Only royalties and the upper class could afford the chocolate beverage. The Western world has never incorporated chocolate as a food ingredient. It was always looked upon as a snack and dessert.

Chocolate comes in different forms as we know them today:

  • Dark Chocolate:
    Cocoa Solids with additional sugar and fat.
  • Milk Chocolate:
    Cocoa Solids with additional sugar, fat and milk powder.
  • White Chocolate:
    A mixture of sugar, cocoa butter and milk solids. It doesn't contain any cocoa solids at all.
  • Baking Chocolate:
    Pure cocoa solids without any addition of sugar.
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Christopher Columbus. Portrait by Sebastiano del Piombo uit 1519

Christopher Columbus. Portrait by Sebastiano del Piombo uit 1519

Industrial Inventions of Chocolate Machines

Cocoa Powder and Cocoa Butter

The cocoa bean contains about 54% fat which made the chocolate drink rather hard to digest. It was the Dutch chocolate factory owner Casparus van Houten, who invented a machine to separate the cocoa butter from the cocoa powder. This cocoa powder became the basis for all future chocolate products, because now it was possible to create a far more solid and much easier to mould substance. Van Houten patented his invention in 1928. The result of this invention was that it became so much easier to mingle the powder with other ingredients and even mix it with the squeezed out cocoa butter. The basis to our today's well-known chocolate products was born.

The patent of the hydraulic press ended in 1838, which opened the door to many other factories to use and modify this pressing method.

'Dutched Chocolate'

Cocoa beans also contain acids and Van Houten found a way to distract those acids from the powder by treating it with an alkalizing agent. The result was a far milder taste and up till today this method is still in use and the process is called Dutching. When you see the term "Dutched Chocolate", you know now why it's called that way.

cocoa powder and cocoa butter

cocoa powder and cocoa butter

Who Made the First Moulded Chocolate Bar?

It was the Fry's Chocolate Factory, which developed a method to make the first chocolate bar in the year 1847 which was suitable to conquer the world.

After Van Houten's patent on the chocolate press had ended, the road was free for every chocolate maker to use the chocolate press and develop their own process in making chocolate.

New Brands arose, like Hershey, Mars, Nestlé, the Fry's & Sons was renamed to Cadbury and the mass production of chocolate in many forms was a fact.

The first moulded chocolate bar by J.S. Fry & Sons Cocolate Factory

The first moulded chocolate bar by J.S. Fry & Sons Cocolate Factory

Not All Chocolate Is Good Chocolate

Of course, like always with mass production, you'll get the good guys and the bad guys. Due to the fact that it now was so easy to mix the cocoa powder with the fat and other ingredients, some manufacturers decided in order to decrease the production costs, to substitute the cocoa butter with other, less expensive fats or decreasing the amount of cocoa solid. This will result in the manufacturing of a lower quality chocolate.

In 2007 a few large well-known manufacturers of chocolate tried to gain the right of using hydrogenated vegetable oil as a substitute for the cocoa butter. The public concern led to the following response of the FDA: "Cacao fat, as one of the signature characteristics of the product, will remain a principal component of standardized chocolate." This means that today products containing substitute fats are not allowed to carry the name 'chocolate'.

When you see a percentage of cocoa on a chocolate label, then this means it is the percentage of both cocoa solids and cocoa butter. So it doesn't exactly tell you if and how much cocoa solids (the pure chocolate) has been used. Pure organic or fair trade certified chocolates are labeled accordingly.

Is Chocolate Vegan?

The question: "Is Chocolate Vegan" has been asked a trillion times and the answer is YES, Vegans can eat chocolate, BUT...not all chocolate is vegan.

Cocoa nibs and cocoa butter are both vegan and as long as no ingredients like milk or milk powder or any animal based fat is used in the process of making chocolate, there's nothing wrong for vegans to eat chocolate.

I found some reviews of the Vegan Chocolate Shakeology and some delicious Vegan Chocolate Recipes, which you can find below.

Review of the Vegan Chocolate Shakeology

Is Chocolate Healthy Or Not at All

You could say that chocolate sure must be unhealthy for people due to the extra sugar, fat and milk. You could be right if we eat too much of it. Yet, there are also scientific researches which point to some positive health effects. I’ll sum some up:

  • Limited use of dark chocolate is good for your heart
  • Large quantities of energy rich food without increase of activity can cause obesity
  • Dark chocolate contains much less cocoa butter, so dark chocolate is better than milk chocolate
  • Chocolate gives you energy
  • A passionate kiss is nothing compared to chocolate melting on your tongue as it comes to increasing brain activity and heart beat and the intensive feeling stays four times longer
  • Chocolate might cause osteoporosis with elderly people
  • Chocolate can reduce cardiovascular problems
  • Chocolate can reduce your blood pressure even if you’re overweight
  • Chocolate can boost your cognitive abilities
  • Dark chocolate can lower your cholesterol
  • Chocolate can arouse addiction

Chocolate can be poisoness for dogs and cats, due to the fact that it contains theomobrine. So if you love your pets, don't feed them anything chocolate.

Chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted power. It is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.

— Baron Justus von Liebig

Making Your Own Chocolate

In order to make chocolate from the cocoa beans, these beans have to be fermented first, which brings out the flavors. Then they have to be dried and cleaned before they get roasted. After roasting the shell has to be removed. When all that is done, the remains are called 'nibs' which will be grounded.

Grounding the beans turns them into a cocoa mass, which is chocolate in its purest form, but in the old days the chocolate was still used as a beverage and would stay that way for centuries.

Chocolate on a Spoon

Specially in winter when it is freezing cold I like to make myself a hot chocolate drink. I use ready made cocoa powder and put it in a glass of hot milk and then stir it.
When I did the research for this article I came across an Amazon advertisement about chocolate on a spoon . So I searched for it in my country and found one firm. Alas there's a great difference in quality and I didn't like the taste of the one I bought.

Hot Chocolate on a spoon

Hot Chocolate on a spoon

Some Chocolate Museums in Europe

© 2012 Titia Geertman

Tell me all your chocolate secrets - I hope you've enjoyed your visit

Nico from Ottawa, ON on April 07, 2015:

Great hub! Made me hungry though....

Lynn Klobuchar on January 12, 2014:

Thanks -- lots of interesting information here.

othellos on August 04, 2013:

Really beautiful lens with lots of interesting content. I learned so much here.

Kylyssa Shay from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on February 07, 2013:

Now I have to go add a heaping tablespoon of dark cocoa powder to a cup of coffee before my roommate's half-eaten dark chocolate bar becomes three quarters eaten.

Spletni Delavec on January 25, 2013:

This lens is really beautiful and informative. Thank you for sharing.

Jeanette from Australia on January 24, 2013:

Ooh. I love chocolate. I've been eating more dark chocolate of late because I know it's healthier for me. And I must admit, I'm beginning to enjoy it more.

flycatcherrr on January 13, 2013:

I love the smell of dark chocolate, maybe even better than eating it.

CatJGB on January 12, 2013:

Ooh, love, love looooove chocolate! Just re-filled my stash of the good stuff yesterday actually, lol, I had run out....catastrophe!

justramblin on January 09, 2013:

Lots of good chocolate facts here.thanks for the yummy info.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on January 09, 2013:

My husband loves chocolate so he is the one who gets the chocolate treats each holiday instead of me. Hope you are not too cold where you are. We are freezing here. Brrr. I can hardly wait for spring.

JumpinJake on January 09, 2013:

well done on making this a fun blog to review!

Nathalie Roy from France (Canadian expat) on January 08, 2013:

Oh these Dark Chocolate Caramels with Sea Salt look just...eatable! I love quality chocolate, not much a fan of those low quality "candy bar" such as mars etc

squidoo-profit on January 04, 2013:

This is a great Lens lots of information which I did not know prior to reading it and looks fantastic too

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