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             18 June, 2018
 

    
Category:  Articles » Food & Drinks » Chocolate

 

The History of Chocolate - From Bean to Bar

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2008-05-28 23:28:31     
Article by Donna Addesa

The cocoa tree is botanically called Theobroma Cacao - food form the Gods. The tree is native to the rain forests of the Americas and originally domesticated in Central America. It is a fussy sort of tree which can only grow in the band 20 degrees north and south of the equator. Even though there is still a debate , the Mayans were the first to cultivate the tree starting in 300AD then the Aztecs in 1100AD - seems as though EVERYONE wanted in on the decadent action. I would have to say I cannot blame them! The product that was consumed during these times was called Xocolatl which was a beverage consisting of cornmeal, chilies, cinnamon, anise seed, vanilla and other spices.

It was consumed only by royalty on special occasions, in golden cups which were used only once. The tree which is unique and special, grows in the shade of the rain forrest canopy. Loss of rainforest also means loss of growing areas for cacao. So if you are not already contributing to saving the rainforest for global warming and our wildlife - perhaps lack of decadent chocolate can be a motivator! One of the most unique features of this tree is that the blossoms form on the trunk and lower branches unlike the fruits we are familiar with growing on the upper and newer growth. They are pollinated by very tiny insects called midges often during the nighttime. The tree can have up to 10,000 blossoms, only 10-50 of them mature in the fruit (pod). The tree self regulates how many pods it can sustain without taxing its own internal systems or breaking its branches.

When the pod ripens, they manually pick the trees and spilt open the pod to reveal white pulpy materials surrounding the seeds. The seeds are the actual cocoa bean which are saved and the pulp is discarded. The pulp that is discarded is actually the sweetest part of the pod at that time and the beans are horribly bitter. The seeds are gathered and a fermentation process begins for 3 to 7 days. During this time chemical and physical changes are taking place that result in a seed that is on its way to becoming chocolate - although not the one we know and love yet! In this era of our beloved treat -it was still being used to make Xocolatl for royalty and so highly valued that they used this as a form of currency.

Specialized in: History - Chocolate - Bean - Bar
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