Chocolate is one choice of a gift one can seldom go wrong with, be it the all-time favourite milk chocolate or unsweetened dark chocolate or the exquisite coverture or Ruby. It has traversed the world in an adventurous journey and then been refined; the love it has received from humans has always been constant. The Aztecs used it as currency, while the Mayans considered it a gift from God. Today it is the most consumed flavour of almost any confectionery on earth, so let’s look at how it became as we see it today.
Current Brands and Montezuma
The most famous contemporary brands of chocolate are Cadbury and Hershey’s, aiming at the masses with their sweetened milk chocolates. The Indian one Amul is also a competitive name in the same category.
Then there are Ferro Rocherre and Montezuma, which have a slightly experimental variety of chocolates and luckily a fairly broad consumer base. Montezuma is an ode to the Mexican emperor Montezuma II who drank gallons of chocolate for energy and was an aphrodisiac.
At the same spices like chilli and pepper were added with honey to make a thick frothy concoction, in the fate of only the nobles and the rich. Sugar was first added to chocolate when it found itself in the European continent.
It reached Spain in the beginning as a present to Philip II, who was said to have ‘liked the taste but not the harsh taste’, which prompted the addition of milk and sugar to soothe the tongue; the rest, as they say, is history.
How is Chocolate Made?
When most people think about ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Vanilla’, the former inspires a mahogany brown bar image while the latter is usually white ice cream. Viewing their origin, though, it is quite the opposite.
Chocolate comes from the cacao tree’s fruit, a sour white fruit, while vanilla comes from a grass that is dried and crushed to a dark liquid to be used as a flavouring agent.
Cacao trees are almost immortal with a life of more than 200 years; the tree has several pods at any given time, with about 40 beans in each pod. It requires a tropical climate to grow and is generally found in Africa and Latin America.
The Ivory Coast of Western Africa single-handedly produces two-thirds of the world’s cocoa beans. Then after removing the fleshy fruit, the beans are dried, roasted and fermented. This process has several time parameters in the heat, altering how the various flavours are achieved.
Then it is ground into a fine mixture. An emulsifying agent like milk powder or vegetable oil is added along with the sweetener to form a batter to be poured into moulds to form bars of chocolate.
Why is Chocolate So Expensive?
The process requires patience and expertise, which was why it was so expensive before establishing the first cocoa press in 1828. Handcrafted merchandise is still very costly. In India, local plantations of Kerala and Tamil Nadu are attempting to popularize these.
Owing to the principle of history repeating itself; they are adding spices and berries to offer the consumer a bite of the first form of chocolate.
Paul and Mike, an artisanal Kerala based Bean to Bar chocolate maker, has become the first Indian company to win a silver in the international chocolate awards (2020-2021 world Final) for its 64% Sichuan pepper and orange peel vegan chocolate.
Health Benefits of Chocolate
If consumed in moderation, chocolate boasts several benefits; quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa content contains a decent amount of soluble fibre and is loaded with minerals like iron, magnesium and copper.
The fatty acid profile of cocoa and dark chocolate has ‘oleic’ acid, one of the few heart-healthy fats. It has way more antioxidants than blueberries and acai berries, so your youth is safeguarded by a piece or two of chocolate.
It also lowers the susceptibility of LDL (that is, low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol) to oxidative damage hence keeping the heart-healthy. The flavonols of cocoa can improve blood flow to the skin and protect it from sun damage.
So if the taste is not enough, it has health benefits to go with it. However, chocolate has a fan base equal to almost the number of people who have tasted it, even without knowing these facts.
I hope the next time you savour your bar of goodness, you recall the expedition it has made through maps and calendars to reach you and, more importantly, enjoy the indulgence guilt-free.