I am not talking about a beautiful melody you can serenade your sweetheart with on Valentine’s Day, nor am I referring to love letters, nor the money you buy the diamonds for: I am talking about the many flavors of chocolate.
Last Thursday, we had a very pleasant meeting at our Standing Room Only Toastmaster gathering this month. Our area governor came and introduced a “Chocolate Tasting.” We tasted different dark chocolates which are my favorite anyway. I learned about the different aromas, textures and tastes of chocolate, its origin and how it is made, which inspired me to research some more on the background of this heavenly food. The literal translation of the cocoa plant which is “theobroma cacao,” means food of the Gods.
Part of our tasting session was to detect the various flavor notes which are composed by their origin of location, the way of fermentation, and the process of roasting. Obviously, there is no right or wrong conclusion which of the chocolates one prefers.
Cacao plants can only grow in tropical countries. It requires a hot, rainy climate and will only bear fruit in countries within 20 degrees of the equator. Though it needs warm temperatures to thrive, it must be shielded from direct sun, and grows best under the shade of taller trees.
Each tree only produces about 2 pounds of bittersweet chocolate a year. The delicate process of harvest, fermentation, and the roasting requires a lot of personal attention, that’s why cocoa is produced mostly on small farms.
Just like with wine, the unique flavor notes found in chocolate depend on its country of origin. The taste of a cacao bean, like a wine grape, depends on the soil, growing conditions and type of plant from a particular place. Local harvesting and fermentation practices also affect flavor.
From a delicacy for kings to everyone’s favorite treat, from a sacred and revered health food to a modern scientific wonder, the history of chocolate is rich, varied, and never boring.
The food of the Gods “Theobroma cacao,” has been written about from all different angles. Cacao is used in all forms of cooking, baking and sweets. Cocoa by itself is bitter and almost chalky but with added milk, sugar and (cocoa) butter, it becomes irresistible. The chocolate industry has created many different types of chocolates from white, to milk and dark chocolates. Additionally, candy contains anything from nuts, coconut, fruits, liqueurs, or even peppery spices. In the recent years chocolate has been advocated as health food, especially dark chocolate with a cocoa content of more than 35-95% because of its high antioxidant content.
"It's not that chocolates are a substitute for love. Love is a substitute for chocolate. Chocolate is, let's face it, far more reliable than a man."~ Miranda Ingram
Chocolate in Romance
Chocolate is by many standards considered an aphrodisiac; that’s why chocolate is popular as gifts for Valentine’s Day. For that occasion hearts are wrapped in red and pink foils.
Health benefits of Chocolate
Chocolate is considered a superfood which means if you only have that one food, you could survive for quite some time on it. It is rich in antioxidants, fiber, trace minerals and nutrients beneficial to heart health, antidepressant, and stress-relief.
Harvest of Cocoa beans
Here is a link to a video that show the process of harvesting cocoa pots.Here is another video link to how chocolate is made or an account of how the process works.
Did I stir your curiosity to go out and buy some chocolate or participate in a chocolate tasting? Or better yet, get some candy for someone you love and share it together to savor the different flavor notes. Maybe you will discover that there is more to chocolate than the bars in the check-out isles. Enjoy the simple bars and delight in the various flavor notes and maybe you will detect which notes are combined in your favorite choice. Remember, dark chocolates are meant to be savored for their deliciously bitter underlying citrus, caramel, or tobacco like notes.