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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Birthday of this Sweet Treat

July 7th of the year 1550 one of the sweetest treats was introduced. For all you chocolate lovers you should be thankful that the day arrived. You will also get to celebrate the love of chocolate on September 13th when it is International Chocolate Day. 

Did you know that Chocolate is a vegetable?? Well it is and that is what you can tell those that urge you to eat veggies rather than chocolate. Chocolate comes from the cacao tree. The seeds of the tree are used to make Chocolate. I know what you are thinking but let me give you the bad news first. Most of us will not be able to grow our own chocolate trees as the Cacao trees only grow in tropical regions like central America, the Caribbean, Indonesia and Africa.

It is labor intensive to get the Cacao seeds to produce chocolate. First trees require hand harvesting and machetes, as the pods can reach a size comparable to butternut squash and holds between 30 to 50 bens. The Cacao tree grow in the wild with shade and can grow for nearly 100 years. 

The beans about the size of almonds are allowed to ferment for 3 to 7 days. Then the beans dry. The dry fermented beans will be very bitter. The beans are sorted, cleaned and weighted before roasting. The roasted beans enter a machine that cracks the seed coats and blow them away leaving beind only the nibs. The nibs are made up of 47% cocoa solids and 53% cocoa butter. Cocoa butter makes up the fat in chocolate. The cocoa solids are ground into cocoa powder. Cocao nibs can be made into "nut butter" called chocolate liquor. The chocolate liquor on its own is dry and gritty. Combined with sugar, vanilla and other ingredients becomes tastier. 

The Mayans discovered the wild cacao tree. The tree lived in the forests of south America. The years between 250 - 900 A.D. the Mayans would cultivate the seeds of the tree and mad a chocolate beverage. To make the beverage they would use ground beans, water, chile, vanilla, black pepper and cornmeal. The drink was sweetened with honey. The Mayans would use the drink as part of a tradition and ritual. Cacao beans were also used as a form of currency.

The 1800s would see a change in chocolate. As a cocoa press would be invented in 1828. The cocoa press seperated chocolate into cocoa butter and solids (powder). The names "Nestle" and "Hershey" would become popular when milk chocolate and chocolate bars would be created and shared around the world.

So as you enjoy that chocolate malt, candy bar, or other treat take a moment and recall why we are so lucky to have such a sweet treat.
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