Chocolate is made from cacao beans, which is from the Cacao Tree. The Cacao Tree has grown wild in Central Asia since prehistoric times. Theobroma cacao is a small understory tree native to the American tropical rainforest, which has evolved to utilize the shade of the heavy canopy. It originated in clumps along riverbanks in the Amazon basin on the eastern equatorial slopes of the Andes. The Cacao Tree is a shade-tolerant, moisture-loving, understory rainforest tree. It naturally favors water zones so often in the wild, it is found along rivers.
The trees live for up to 100 years, but cultivated trees are considered economically productive for only about 60 years. Chocolate dates way back to Mesoamerica from the Mayans and Aztecs civilizations. Both the Aztecs and the Mayan consumed large quantities of xocolatl (bitter water) as a luxury drink. The Mayan version of xocolatl was a rather bitter little potion made from roasted cocoa beans, water and spices. However, the Aztec version was described as finely ground, soft, foamy, reddish, and bitter with chili water, aromatic flowers, vanilla and wild bee honey.
They used cocoa beans for currency. The Mayan used cocoa for the treatment of coughs, fever, and even discomfort during pregnancy. The Spaniards werent the first European explorers to discover chocolate. Christopher Columbus was the first European to discover cocoa beans on his fourth voyage to America on August 15, 1502. He found no interest in the cocoa beans. (Perhaps, he was more interested in searching for a sea route to India at the time. ) And so, all the credit was left to a Spanish conqueror. After the discovery of chocolate, it immediately became a popular beverage among the aristocrats.
By the 17th-century, chocolate was a fashionable drink throughout Europe, believed to have nutritious, medicinal, and even arousing aphrodisiac properties (its rumored that Casanova was especially fond of the stuff). It was a privilege of the rich until the invention of the steam engine made mass production possible in the late 1700s. In 1828, a Dutch chemist found a way to make powdered chocolate by removing about half the natural fat (cacao butter) from chocolate liquor, pulverizing what remained and treating the mixture with alkaline salts to cut the bitter taste.
His product became known as Dutch cocoa, and it soon led to the creation of solid chocolate. The Americans have adopted their own style of chocolate and it has become an American invention. Despite the cocoa bean originating in the New World, chocolate made its debut considerably later in America. The chocolate drink was first introduced in 1765 when John Hanau brought cocoa beans from the West Indies into Dorchester, Massachusetts to refine them with the help of James Baker who opened a processing house from where the chocolate drink began to flow through the States.
With the Industrial Revolution came the mass production of chocolate, spreading its popularity among the people. The heavy import duties which had made chocolate a luxury that only the wealthy could enjoy were reduced in 1853. Chocolate and cocoa became within the reach of the wider population and a number of manufacturers of cocoa and drinking chocolate started in business including Cadbury, Frys, Nestle, Lindt, and Hershey”all of which are world leaders in chocolate production today. Before chocolate was only taken as a beverage, now it can be both a solid and liquid.
For fine chocolate, the selection and mix of beans is very important. All of the beans are sorted by hand before being roasted. Each variety of bean is roasted separately. Following the roasting process, the beans are loaded into a machine known as the winnower, which removes the hard outer hulls and separates the nibs of the beans by size. The melangeur has granite runners which revolve on a steel or stone bed to mash the nibs into a thick paste. The chocolate liquor from the melangeur is transferred to the conche-refiner for further processing.
Heat is introduced and this process takes several hours. Conching ensures that the liquid is evenly blended. Following conching, the liquid chocolate is tempered for several hours. The tempering process involves heating the chocolate liquor and then cooling it in several stages. This process stabilizes the cocoa butter crystals so that they become more uniform in size. It also gives the chocolate a bright luster and a sharp snap when you break it. : The final steps in the process are molding the chocolate, allowing it to cool and harden, and then finally packaging it.
Chocolate has potential health benefits that most people consider false. Chocolate is also known for being everything from an anti-depressant to aphrodisiac. Eating chocolate neither causes nor aggravates acne. Chocolate also has not been proven to cause cavities or tooth decay. Chocolate carries high levels of chemicals known as phenolics, some of which may help lower the risk of heart disease. Chocolate is known to be the feel good food. One of the most pleasant effects of eating chocolate is the good feeling that many people experience after indulging.
Phenylethylamine is also found in chocolate. Its related to amphetamines, which are strong stimulants. All of these stimulants increase the activity of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) in parts of the brain that control our ability to pay attention and stay alert. In conclusion, chocolate is very meaningful to people all around the world. It could be a beverage or a dessert. You could enjoy it by yourself, with someone you love, or your family, and friends. Chocolate brings together many types of people whether its to help or to just eat chocolate.