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Chocolate is a typically sweet, usually brown, food preparation of Theobroma cacao seeds, roasted and ground, often flavoured, as with vanilla. It is made in the form of a liquid, paste, or in a block, or used as a flavouring ingredient in other sweet foods. Cacao has been cultivated by many cultures for at least three millennia in Mesoamerica. The earliest evidence of use traces to the Mokaya (Mexico and Guatemala), with evidence of chocolate beverages dating back to 1900 BC. In fact, the majority of Mesoamerican people made chocolate beverages, including the Maya and Aztecs, who made it into a beverage known as xocolātl, a Nahuatl word meaning "bitter water". The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste and must be fermented to develop the flavour.
After fermentation, the beans are dried, cleaned, and roasted. The shell is removed to produce cacao nibs, which are then ground to cocoa mass, pure chocolate in rough form. Because the cocoa mass is usually liquefied before being moulded with or without other ingredients, it is called chocolate liquor. The liquor also may be processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Unsweetened baking chocolate (bitter chocolate) contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, a combination of cocoa solids, cocoa butter or other fat, and sugar. Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk. White chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk, but no cocoa solids.
Cocoa solids are one of the richest sources of flavanol antioxidants. They also contain alkaloids such as theobromine, phenethylamine and caffeine. These have physiological effects on the body and are linked to serotonin levels in the brain. Some research has found that chocolate, eaten in moderation, can lower blood pressure. The presence of theobromine renders chocolate toxic to some animals, including dogs and cats.
Chocolate has become one of the most popular food types and flavours in the world, and a vast number of foodstuffs involving chocolate have been created. Chocolate chip cookies have become very common, and very popular, in most parts of Europe and North America. Gifts of chocolate moulded into different shapes have become traditional on certain holidays. Chocolate is also used in cold and hot beverages such as chocolate milk and hot chocolate.
Although cocoa originated in the Americas, today Western Africa produces almost two-thirds of the world's cocoa, with Côte d'Ivoire growing almost half of it.
European Union regulations require dark chocolate to have at least 60% cocoa solids, milk chocolate 25%, and white chocolate none.
The word "chocolate" entered the English language from Spanish. How the word came into Spanish is less certain, and there are competing explanations. Perhaps the most cited explanation is that "chocolate" comes from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, from the word chocolātl, which many sources say derived from xocolātl, combining xococ, sour or bitter, and ātl, water or drink. However, as William Bright noted, the word "chocolatl" does not occur in central Mexican colonial sources, making this an unlikely derivation. Santamaria gives a derivation from the Yucatec Mayan word chokol meaning hot, and the Nahuatl atl meaning water. Sophie and Michael D. Coe agree with this etymology.
Pointing to various sources dating from the time of the Spanish conquest, they identify cacahuatl (cacao water) as the original Nahuatl word for the cold beverage consumed by the Aztecs. Noting that using a word with caca in it to describe a thick brown beverage would not have gone over well with most speakers of Spanish because caca means faeces in Spanish, the Coes suggest that the Spanish colonisers combined the Nahuatl atl with the Yucatec Mayan chocol, for, unlike the Aztec, the Maya tended to drink chocolate heated. The Spanish preferred the warm Maya preparation of the beverage to the cold Aztec one, so the colonisers substituted chocol in place of the culturally unacceptable caca.
More recently, Dakin and Wichmann derive it from another Nahuatl term, chicolatl from eastern Nahuatl, meaning "beaten drink". They derive this term from the word for the frothing stick, chicoli. However, the Coes write that xicalli referred to the gourd out of which the beverage was consumed and that the use of a frothing stick (known as a molinillo) was a product of creolisation between the Spanish and Aztec; the original frothing method used by the indigenous people was simply pouring the drink from a height into another vessel.
Chocolate has been prepared as a drink for nearly all of its history. For example, one vessel found at an Olmec archaeological site on the Gulf Coast of Veracruz, Mexico, dates chocolate's preparation by pre-Olmec peoples as early as 1750 BC. On the Pacific coast of Chiapas, Mexico, a Mokaya archaeological site provides evidence of cacao beverages dating even earlier, to 1900 BC. The residues and the kind of vessel in which they were found indicate the initial use of cacao was not simply as a beverage, but the white pulp around the cacao beans was likely used as a source of fermentable sugars for an alcoholic drink.
An early Classic-period (460–480 AD) Mayan tomb from the site in Rio Azul had vessels with the Maya glyph for cacao on them with residue of a chocolate drink, suggests the Maya were drinking chocolate around 400 AD. Documents in Maya hieroglyphs stated chocolate was used for ceremonial purposes, in addition to everyday life. The Maya grew cacao trees in their backyards, and used the cacao seeds the trees produced to make a frothy, bitter drink.
By the 15th century, the Aztecs gained control of a large part of Mesoamerica and adopted cacao into their culture. They associated chocolate with Quetzalcoatl, who, according to one legend, was cast away by the other gods for sharing chocolate with humans, and identified its extrication from the pod with the removal of the human heart in sacrifice. In contrast to the Maya, who liked their chocolate warm, the Aztecs drank it cold, seasoning it with a broad variety of additives, including the petals of the Cymbopetalum penduliflorum tree, chilli pepper, allspice, vanilla, and honey.
The Aztecs were not able to grow cacao themselves, as their home in the Mexican highlands was unsuitable for it, so chocolate was a luxury imported into the empire. Those who lived in areas ruled by the Aztecs were required to offer cacao seeds in payment of the tax they deemed "tribute". Cocoa beans were often used as currency. For example, the Aztecs used a system in which one turkey cost 100 cacao beans and one fresh avocado was worth three beans.
Until the 16th century, no European had ever heard of the popular drink from the Central and South American peoples. Christopher Columbus and his son Ferdinand encountered the cacao bean on Columbus's fourth mission to the Americas on 15 August 1502, when he and his crew seized a large native canoe that proved to contain cacao beans among other goods for trade. Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés may have been the first European to encounter it, as the frothy drink was part of the after-dinner routine of Montezuma. Jose de Acosta, a Spanish Jesuit missionary who lived in Peru and then Mexico in the later 16th century, wrote of its growing influence on the Spaniards:
Loathsome to such as are not acquainted with it, having a scum or froth that is very unpleasant taste. Yet it is a drink very much esteemed among the Indians, where with they feast noble men who pass through their country. The Spaniards, both men and women that are accustomed to the country are very greedy of this Chocolate. They say they make diverse sorts of it, some hot, some cold, and some temperate, and put therein much of that "chilli"; yea, they make paste thereof, the which they say is good for the stomach and against the catarrh.
While Columbus had taken cacao beans with him back to Spain, chocolate made no impact until Spanish friars introduced it to the Spanish court. After the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, chocolate was imported to Europe. There, it quickly became a court favourite. It was still served as a beverage, but the Spanish added sugar, as well as honey, to counteract the natural bitterness. Vanilla was also a popular additive, with pepper and other spices sometimes used to give the illusion of a more potent vanilla flavour. Unfortunately, these spices had the tendency to unsettle the European constitution; the Encyclopédie states, "The pleasant scent and sublime taste it imparts to chocolate have made it highly recommended; but a long experience having shown that it could potentially upset one's stomach," which is why chocolate without vanilla was sometimes referred to as "healthy chocolate." By 1602, chocolate had made its way from Spain to Austria. By 1662, the bishop of Rome had declared that religious fasts were not broken by consuming chocolate drinks. Within about a hundred years, chocolate established a foothold throughout Europe.
The new craze for chocolate brought with it a thriving slave market, as between the early 1600s and late 1800s, the laborious and slow processing of the cacao bean was manual. Cacao plantations spread, as the English, Dutch, and French colonized and planted. With the depletion of Mesoamerican workers, largely to disease, cacao production was often the work of poor wage labourers and African slaves. Wind-powered and horse-drawn mills were used to speed production, but chocolate would remain a treat for the elite and the wealthy until the arrival of the Industrial Revolution brought steam-powered engines to speed the processing of the bean. The first steam-driven chocolate mill was created by a French inventor named Debuisson in the early 1700s.
As the processes for chocolate making sped the production, new techniques and approaches revolutionized the texture and taste. In 1815, Dutch chemist Coenraad van Houten introduced alkaline salts to chocolate, which reduced its bitterness. A few years thereafter, in 1828, he created a press to remove about half the natural fat (cocoa butter or cacao butter) from chocolate liquor, which made chocolate both cheaper to produce and more consistent in quality. This innovation introduced the modern era of chocolate. Known as "Dutch cocoa", this machine-pressed chocolate was instrumental in the transformation of chocolate to its solid form when, in 1847, Joseph Fry learned to make chocolate mouldable by adding back melted cacao butter. Milk had sometimes been used as an addition to chocolate beverages since the mid-17th century, but in 1875 Daniel Peter invented milk chocolate by mixing a powdered milk developed by Henri Nestlé with the liquor. In 1879, the texture and taste of chocolate was further improved when Rudolphe Lindt invented the conching machine.
Besides Nestlé, a number of notable chocolate companies had their start in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Cadbury was manufacturing boxed chocolates in England by 1868. In 1893, Milton S. Hershey purchased chocolate processing equipment at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and soon began the career of Hershey's chocolates with chocolate-coated caramels.
Several types of chocolate can be distinguished. Pure, unsweetened chocolate contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, combining chocolate with sugar. Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk. In the U.K. and Ireland, milk chocolate must contain a minimum of 20% total dry cocoa solids; in the rest of the European Union, the minimum is 25%. "White chocolate" contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk, but no cocoa solids. Chocolate contains alkaloids such as theobromine and phenethylamine, which have some physiological effects in humans and has been linked to serotonin levels in the brain, but the presence of theobromine renders it toxic to some animals, such as dogs and cats. Dark chocolate has been promoted for unproven health benefits, as it seems to possess substantial amounts of antioxidants that reduce the formation of free radicals.
White chocolate, although similar in texture to that of milk and dark chocolate, does not contain any cocoa solids. Because of this, many countries do not consider white chocolate as chocolate at all. Although white chocolate was first introduced by Hebert Candies in 1955, Mars, Incorporated, was the first to produce it in the United States. Because it does not contain any cocoa solids, white chocolate does not contain any theobromine, so it can be consumed by animals.
Dark chocolate is produced by adding fat and sugar to the cacao mixture. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration calls this "sweet chocolate", and requires a 15% concentration of chocolate liquor. European rules specify a minimum of 35% cocoa solids. Dark chocolate, with its high cocoa content, is a rich source of epicatechin and gallic acid, which are thought to possess cardioprotective properties. Dark chocolate has also been said to reduce the possibility of a heart attack when consumed regularly in small amounts. Semisweet chocolate is a dark chocolate with a low sugar content. Bittersweet chocolate is chocolate liquor to which some sugar (typically a third), more cocoa butter, vanilla, and sometimes lecithin have been added. It has less sugar and more liquor than semisweet chocolate, but the two are interchangeable in baking.
Unsweetened chocolate is pure chocolate liquor, also known as bitter or baking chocolate. It is unadulterated chocolate: the pure, ground, roasted chocolate beans impart a strong, deep chocolate flavour.
Raw chocolate, often referred to as raw cacao, is always dark and a minimum of 75% cacao. Because the act of processing results in the loss of certain vitamins and minerals (such as magnesium), some consider raw cacao to be a more nutritious form of chocolate.
Chocolate may have whitish spots on the dark chocolate part, called chocolate bloom; it is an indication that sugar and/or fat has separated due to poor storage. It is not toxic.
Roughly two-thirds of the entire world's cocoa is produced in West Africa, with 43% sourced from Ivory Coast, where child labour is a common practice to obtain the product. According to the World Cocoa Foundation, some 50 million people around the world depend on cocoa as a source of livelihood. In the UK, most chocolatiers purchase their chocolate from them, to melt, mould and package to their own design. The WCF's report titled 'Cocoa Market Update (2012)' the Ivory Coast is the largest producer of cocoa in the world.
Production costs can be decreased by reducing cocoa solids content or by substituting cocoa butter with another fat. Cocoa growers object to allowing the resulting food to be called "chocolate", due to the risk of lower demand for their crops. The sequencing in 2010 of the genome of the cacao tree may allow yields to be improved.
The two main jobs associated with creating chocolate candy are chocolate makers and chocolatiers. Chocolate makers use harvested cacao beans and other ingredients to produce couverture chocolate (covering). Chocolatiers use the finished couverture to make chocolate candies (bars, truffles, etc.).
Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, the dried and partially fermented seeds of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao), a small (4– to 8-m-tall (15– to 26-ft-tall) evergreen tree native to the deep tropical region of the Americas. Recent genetic studies suggest the most common genotype of the plant originated in the Amazon basin and was gradually transported by humans throughout South and Central America. Early forms of another genotype have also been found in what is now Venezuela. The scientific name, Theobroma, means "food of the deities". The fruit, called a cacao pod, is ovoid, 15–30 cm (or 6–12 in) long and 8–10 cm (3–4 in) wide, ripening yellow to orange, and weighing about 500 g (1 lb) when ripe.
Cacao trees are small, understory trees that need rich, well-drained soils. They naturally grow within 20° of either side of the equator because they need about 2000 mm of rainfall a year, and temperatures in the range of 21 to 32 °C. Cacao trees cannot tolerate a temperature lower than 15 °C (59 °F).
The three main varieties of cacao beans used in chocolate are criollo, forastero, and trinitario.
Criollos are particularly difficult to grow, as they are vulnerable to a variety of environmental threats and produce low yields of cocoa per tree. The flavour of criollo is described as delicate yet complex, low in classic chocolate flavour, but rich in "secondary" notes of long duration.
It is important to harvest the pods when they are fully ripe, because if the pod is unripe, the beans will have a low cocoa butter content, or sugars in the white pulp will be insufficient for fermentation, resulting in a weak flavour. After fermentation, the beans must be quickly dried to prevent mould growth. Climate and weather permitting, this is done by spreading the beans out in the sun from five to seven days.
The dried beans are then transported to a chocolate manufacturing facility. The beans are cleaned (removing twigs, stones, and other debris), roasted, and graded. Next, the shell of each bean is removed to extract the nib. Finally, the nibs are ground and liquefied, resulting in pure chocolate in fluid form: chocolate liquor. The liquor can be further processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.
Dark chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, and (sometimes) vanilla
Milk chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, milk or milk powder, and vanilla
White chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, milk or milk powder, and vanilla
Usually, an emulsifying agent, such as soy lecithin, is added, though a few manufacturers prefer to exclude this ingredient for purity reasons and to remain GMO-free, sometimes at the cost of a perfectly smooth texture. Some manufacturers are now using PGPR, an artificial emulsifier derived from castor oil that allows them to reduce the amount of cocoa butter while maintaining the same mouthfeel.
The texture is also heavily influenced by processing, specifically conching (see below). The more expensive chocolate tends to be processed longer and thus have a smoother texture and mouthfeel, regardless of whether emulsifying agents are added.
Different manufacturers develop their own "signature" blends based on the above formulas, but varying proportions of the different constituents are used. The finest, plain dark chocolate couvertures contain at least 70% cocoa (both solids and butter), whereas milk chocolate usually contains up to 50%. High-quality white chocolate couvertures contain only about 35% cocoa butter.
Producers of high-quality, small-batch chocolate argue that mass production produces bad-quality chocolate. Some mass-produced chocolate contains much less cocoa (as low as 7% in many cases), and fats other than cocoa butter. Vegetable oils and artificial vanilla flavour are often used in cheaper chocolate to mask poorly fermented and/or roasted beans.
In 2007, the Chocolate Manufacturers Association in the United States, whose members include Hershey, Nestlé, and Archer Daniels Midland, lobbied the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to change the legal definition of chocolate to let them substitute partially hydrogenated vegetable oils for cocoa butter, in addition to using artificial sweeteners and milk substitutes. Currently, the FDA does not allow a product to be referred to as "chocolate" if the product contains any of these ingredients.
The penultimate process is called conching. A conche is a container filled with metal beads, which act as grinders. The refined and blended chocolate mass is kept in a liquid state by frictional heat. Chocolate prior to conching has an uneven and gritty texture. The conching process produces cocoa and sugar particles smaller than the tongue can detect, hence the smooth feel in the mouth. The length of the conching process determines the final smoothness and quality of the chocolate. High-quality chocolate is conched for about 72 hours, and lesser grades about four to six hours. After the process is complete, the chocolate mass is stored in tanks heated to about 45–50 °C (113–122 °F) until final processing.
The fats in cocoa butter can crystallize in six different forms (polymorphous crystallization). The primary purpose of tempering is to assure that only the best form is present. The six different crystal forms have different properties.
As a solid piece of chocolate, the cocoa butter fat particles are in a crystalline rigid structure that gives the chocolate its solid appearance. Once heated, the crystals of the polymorphic cocoa butter are able to break apart from the rigid structure and allow the chocolate to obtain a more fluid consistency as the temperature increases – the melting process. When the heat is removed, the cocoa butter crystals become rigid again and come closer together, allowing the chocolate to solidify.
The temperature in which the crystals obtain enough energy to break apart from their rigid conformation would depend on the milk fat content in the chocolate and the shape of the fat molecules, as well as the form of the cocoa butter fat. Chocolate with a higher fat content will melt at a lower temperature.
Making chocolate considered "good" is about forming as many type V crystals as possible. This provides the best appearance and texture and creates the most stable crystals, so the texture and appearance will not degrade over time. To accomplish this, the temperature is carefully manipulated during the crystallization.
Generally, the chocolate is first heated to 45 °C to melt all six forms of crystals. Next, the chocolate is cooled to about 27 °C, which will allow crystal types IV and V to form. At this temperature, the chocolate is agitated to create many small crystal "seeds" which will serve as nuclei to create small crystals in the chocolate. The chocolate is then heated to about 31 °C to eliminate any type IV crystals, leaving just type V. After this point, any excessive heating of the chocolate will destroy the temper and this process will have to be repeated. However, other methods of chocolate tempering are used. The most common variant is introducing already tempered, solid "seed" chocolate. The temper of chocolate can be measured with a chocolate temper meter to ensure accuracy and consistency. A sample cup is filled with the chocolate and placed in the unit which then displays or prints the results.
Two classic ways of manually tempering chocolate are:
Chocolate tempering machines (or temperers) with computer controls can be used for producing consistently tempered chocolate, particularly for large volume applications.
Chocolate is very sensitive to temperature and humidity. Ideal storage temperatures are between 15 and 17 °C (59 and 63 °F), with a relative humidity of less than 50%. Various types of "blooming" effects can occur if chocolate is stored or served improperly. Fat bloom is caused by storage temperature fluctuating or exceeding 24 °C, while sugar bloom is caused by temperature below 15 °C or excess humidity. To distinguish between different types of bloom, one can rub the surface of the chocolate lightly, and if the bloom disappears, it is fat bloom. One can get rid of bloom by retempering the chocolate or using it for any use that requires melting the chocolate.
Chocolate is generally stored away from other foods, as it can absorb different aromas. Ideally, chocolates are packed or wrapped, and placed in proper storage with the correct humidity and temperature. Additionally, chocolate is frequently stored in a dark place or protected from light by wrapping paper.
If refrigerated or frozen without containment, chocolate can absorb enough moisture to cause a whitish discoloration, the result of fat or sugar crystals rising to the surface. Moving chocolate from one temperature extreme to another, such as from a refrigerator on a hot day, can result in an oily texture. Although visually unappealing, chocolate suffering from bloom is perfectly safe for consumption.
Some manufacturers provide the percentage of chocolate in a finished chocolate confection as a label quoting percentage of "cocoa" or "cacao". It should be noted that this refers to the combined percentage of both cocoa solids and cocoa butter in the bar, not just the percentage of cocoa solids. The Belgian AMBAO certification mark indicates that no non-cocoa vegetable fats have been used in making the chocolate.
Chocolates that are organic or fair trade certified carry labels accordingly.
In the United States, some large chocolate manufacturers lobbied the federal government to permit confections containing cheaper hydrogenated vegetable oil in place of cocoa butter to be sold as "chocolate". In June 2007, as a response to consumer concern after the proposed change, the FDA reiterated "Cacao fat, as one of the signature characteristics of the product, will remain a principal component of standardized chocolate."
Chocolate manufacturers produce a range of products from chocolate bars to fudge. Large manufacturers of chocolate products include Cadbury (the world's largest confectionery manufacturer), Guylian, The Hershey Company, Lindt & Sprüngli, Mars, Incorporated, Milka, Neuhaus and Suchard.
Guylian is best known for its chocolate Sea Shells; Cadbury for its Dairy Milk and Creme Egg. The Hershey Company, the largest chocolate manufacturer in North America, produces the Hershey Bar and Hershey's Kisses. Mars Incorporated, a large privately owned U.S. corporation, produces Mars Bar, Milky Way, M&M's, Twix, and Snickers. Lindt is known for its truffle balls and Gold Easter Bunnies.
Food conglomerates Nestlé SA and Kraft Foods both have chocolate brands. Nestlé acquired Rowntree's in 1988 and now markets chocolates under their own brand, including Smarties and Kit Kat; Kraft Foods through its 1990 acquisition of Jacobs Suchard, now owns Milka and Suchard. In February 2010, Kraft also acquired British-based Cadbury. Fry's, Trebor Basset, the fair-trade brand Green & Black's, also belongs to the group.
THE CHOCOLATE INDUSTRY
The chocolate industry, a steadily growing, $50 billion-a-year worldwide business centred on the sale and consumption of chocolate, is prevalent throughout most of the world. Europe accounts for 45% of the world's chocolate revenue and the US $20 billion. Big Chocolate is the grouping of major international chocolate companies in Europe and the U.S. The U.S. companies, such as Mars and Hershey’s alone, generate $13 billion a year in chocolate sales and account for two-thirds of U.S. production. Despite the expanding reach of the chocolate industry internationally, cocoa farmers and labourers in the Ivory Coast are unaware of the uses of the beans. The high cost of chocolate in the Ivory Coast also means that it is inaccessible to the majority of the population, who are unaware of what it tastes like.
IN POPULAR CULTURE
Religious and cultural links
Chocolate is associated with festivals such as Easter, when moulded chocolate rabbits and eggs are traditionally given in Christian communities, and Hanukkah, when chocolate coins are given in Jewish communities. Chocolate hearts and chocolate in heart-shaped boxes are popular on Valentine's Day and are often presented along with flowers and a greeting card. Chocolate is an acceptable gift on other holidays and on occasions such as birthdays.
Many confectioners make holiday-specific chocolate candies. Chocolate Easter eggs or rabbits and Santa Claus figures are two examples. Such confections can be solid, hollow, or filled with sweets or fondant.
Books and film
Like Water for Chocolate (Como agua para chocolate), a 1989 love story by novelist Laura Esquivel, was adapted to film in 1992. The plot incorporates magical realism with Mexican cuisine, and the title is a double entendre in its native language, referring both to a recipe for hot chocolate and to an idiom that is a metaphor for sexual arousal. The film earned 11 Ariel Awards from the Academia Mexicana de Artes y Ciencias Cinematográficas, including Best Picture.
Chocolat, a 1999 novel by Joanne Harris, tells the story of Vianne Rocher, a young mother, whose confections change the lives of the townspeople. The 2000 film adaptation, Chocolat, also proved successful, grossing over US$150,000,000 worldwide, and receiving Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Original Score.
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