About chocolateA history of chocolate - How chocolate is made - Production process

historiacokolady

A history of chocolate

Cocoa beans found their place in history three thousand years ago. The Mayans, Olmecs and Aztecs learnt to make a drink from these beans that far surpassed other forms of chocolate consumption. The Aztecs believed that the cacao tree was a precious symbol of life and fertility. The base for chocolate is cocoa, which is obtained from the beans of the tropical cacao tree (Theobroma Cacao, from the Greek for ‘food of the gods’). Large cocoa plantations can be found near the equator in western Africa, but the best quality cocoa beans are cultivated in Central and South America. That ancient beverage is very different to the hot chocolate we know today. It was very bitter, foamy, and usually seasoned with exotic spices such as vanilla, pepper or chilli. The first European to discover cocoa beans was Christopher Columbus. However, to Spaniards they tasted like almonds and so they were not very interested in the beans. The modern history of chocolate in Europe begins in the 15th century, when the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes returned home with knowledge of how to make a hot, invigorating beverage called ‘xocolatl’, the Mayan word meaning ‘bitter water’. Whilst conquering Mexico, Cortes developed a taste for the frothy chocolate beverage served at the feast held to commemorate his meeting with the Aztec king, Montezuma. Cocoa beans were very precious, so only the nobility was permitted to drink the chocolate beverage. In the original recipe, the beverage was prepared by grinding green cocoa pods, adding corn flour to thicken, and flavouring it with vanilla and chilli. In Europe, chocolate became a very valuable beverage that provided energy and acted as an aphrodisiac. Chocolate found its way to France in the 16th century and became quite popular, but only among the aristocracy. In 1876, Swiss native Daniel Peter got the idea of adding sweetened condensed milk to chocolate, and so was born the first milk chocolate. Chocolate became the most popular sweet four years later, when another Swiss native, Rodolphe Lindt, invented the conche (mixing machine). Chocolate bars as we know them today were created in the early 19th century by the Dutch chemist Coenraad Van Houten, who invented the first press to separate cocoa butter from roasted cocoa beans. Chocolate was a standard military ration for soldiers during World War II, issued to them as a source of energy. Chocolate fever hit in the late 20th century, and it just keeps getting hotter….

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How chocolate is made

Chocolate is made from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree that grows in the tropics. It is very difficult to cultivate and requires specific climatic conditions. The pods in which cocoa seeds are encased are shaped like rugby balls, and they grow directly from the trunk. In a raw state, they are covered with a white pulp. They are harvested twice a year, after which the beans ferment for several days under banana leaves in the natural tropical heat. The white film sloughs off during this period. The cocoa beans are then spread on trays to dry in the sun for several days.

When they reach a suitable moisture content they travel to a factory to be roasted and cracked. They are then ground into a paste and pressed to separate the cocoa powder from the cocoa butter. In the next stage they are blended with other chocolate-making ingredients, such as cocoa powder, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla, milk, etc. The product is still gritty at this point, so they move on to the conching process. Rollers in the conche scrape and mix the chocolate, removing grittiness and remnants of bitterness, which makes the resulting product more delicate.

The highest quality chocolates can be conched for several days. The final step is tempering, which means the chocolate is repeatedly heated and cooled to give it a nice gloss. The chocolate is then heated to a precise temperature, depending on the type, and poured into moulds.

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Chocolate treatment

1. Cocoa typically grows in equatorial areas (mainly in the tropics)

2. Cocoa pods are harvested and then cracked open to remove the seeds

3. Cocoa seeds are fermented on banana leaves (the bacteria on the leaves start up the fermentation process)

4. Cocoa seeds are dried

5. Seed quality is checked and then they are placed into large sacks

6. They are transported to individual companies (most of the finest plantations in the world are owned by Callebaut)

7. Master blender – oversees the quality of cocoa supplies

8. Cocoa seeds are roasted

9. Cocoa seeds are milled

10. Conching is a thermal process by which chocolate acquires texture and smoothness (it is essentially several days of ‘milling’ the chocolate down to the finest microns to make it melt deliciously on your tongue)

11. Tempering stabilises cocoa butter crystals


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How chocolate came to northern Spiš

It is the year 1519 and the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes is colonising the New World. He has his first taste of the cocoa drink in what is now Mexico. Cortes took some cocoa beans, along with the recipe for a chocolate beverage back home to Spain, and in 1528 he introduced cocoa to the royal court of Ferdinand and Isabella. The Spanish courts kept the cocoa beverage a secret for more than a century. Only later did the Spanish princess Anne of the House of Habsburg, daughter of the late King Philip III, introduce the drinking of chocolate to the French royal court. Her sister Maria Anna of Spain, who married into the Austrian royal court in Vienna, similarly introduced chocolate to her new country. From there, it was just a stone’s throw to reach Slovakia. And yet, the Ľubovňa castle would have to wait a few more generations before this sweet treat arrived at its gates. It was Maria Theresa, herself a great lover of chocolate, who introduced the delicacy to Maria Josepha. Maria Josepha would later become Archduchess of Austria, Queen consort of Poland, and the lady of the Ľubovňa castle…


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Nestville Chocolate
Hniezdne 471
065 01 Hniezdne
Slovakia

 

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