Sunday, 1 May 2011

Report Text_Chocolates @Globio.org

Chocolate

It's the Flavor We Favor

The results are in. The favorite flavor of kids and adults in Europe and the United States is chocolate. This yummy confection begins as a seed of the tropical cacao tree. It has been a prized taste sensation for more than 2,500 years.
One reason chocolate is so nice to eat is that it melts just below body temperature. So it really does melt in your mouth! From hot cocoa to double fudge ice cream, chocolate shows little sign of fading in popularity.
The melting chocolate chips have come a long way from the cacao tree but their journey may not be done. These chips may be added to a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough or maybe straight into your mouth.
The melting chocolate chips have come a long way from the cacao tree but their journey may not be done. These chips may be added to a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough or maybe straight into your mouth.
©Chad Spaulding

A Treat Fit for Rulers and Gods

Evidence of cacao’s important role in Mayan culture can be seen in ancient artifacts. The vase above shows a Mayan diving goddess holding a cacao pod.
Evidence of cacao’s important role in Mayan culture can be seen in ancient artifacts. The vase above shows a Mayan diving goddess holding a cacao pod.
©Justin Kerr
Our story of chocolate begins in South andCentral America, where cacao trees areindigenous. The people of ancient Maya grew cacao and drank chocolate mixed with water, honey, and even chili peppers. The Maya believed chocolate had medicinal value. Offerings of cacao beans were given to the gods, and the drink was a part of religiousceremonies. Maya hieroglyphs show rulers and gods alike enjoying the drink. But the word “cacao” is thought to be Olmec in origin. Since the Olmec Indians lived 1,000 years before the Maya, chocolate may have an even longer history.

What a Bean Could Buy

The bags full of dried cacao beans would have been very valuable to an Aztec person thousands of years ago.
The bags full of dried cacao beans would have been very valuable to an Aztec person thousands of years ago.
©A30_Tsitika
When the Azteccivilization conquered the Maya, they took a love of chocolate to a new level. Cacao beans became a form of money. One cacao bean bought a tomato. Three bought a turkey egg. Aztec rulers demanded payment in cacao seeds from their subjects. When the Spanish came to Mexico and Central America in the 16th century, they realized the value of cacao too. They took shipments of the beans back to Spain, where the addition of sugar soon made chocolate very popular. But because chocolate was expensive to make, it remained a drink of the upper classes. That changed in the 1800s, when industrial production of chocolate made it available to everyone.

Growing Cacao Trees: It's Not Easy

Before long cacao was being grown outside of Central and South America. Today, the Republic of Ivory Coast in Africa produces the most cacao. Next are Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria, Guatemala, and several countries in South America. Cacao trees need lots of rain andhumid conditions. They won’t grow very far from the equator and are prone to disease and pests. They grow best in the shade of taller trees in tropical rainforests. But they also grow on farms. A cacao tree needs to be about five years old before it flowers and produces seeds.

Protecting Cacao's Rainforest Environment

Traditional cacao production is dependent on rainforests, which are threatened the world over. Farming practices that are sustainablehelp protect the rainforests and the farmers who earn a living growing the trees. Farmers are encouraged to grow cacao in the shade of existing rainforest trees near the forest border. They may also grow other trees and plants that produce products they can sell, such as rubber, cashews, or mangos. These techniques help protect the existing rainforests and the diversity of forest life.

Three Kinds of Cacao

In some countries, cacao is eaten before it is processed into chocolate. In addition to the beans, the pulp inside of the fruit is edible.
In some countries, cacao is eaten before it is processed into chocolate. In addition to the beans, the pulp inside of the fruit is edible.
©G.Ellis/GLOBIO.org
The fruit of a cacao tree is a pod that grows all along the tree’s branches and trunk. If you picked a pod and split it open, you’d see light fleshy pulp surrounding about 40 almond-shaped seeds. There are three varieties of cacao.
Forastero is the most common type, and the variety most grown in Africa.
The rarest cacao is Criollo, which was the type the Maya grew. Criollo grows today in Central and South America.
Trinitario is a hybrid of the other two varieties.

Three Kinds of Delicious

The three kinds of chocolate look and taste different. Which one is your favorite?
The three kinds of chocolate look and taste different. Which one is your favorite?
©Christian Guthier
There are three kinds of chocolate, dark, milk, and white. Dark chocolate is made of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar with vanilla sometimes added. Add milk to those four ingredients, and you have milk chocolate. Take away the cocoa solids and you get white chocolate. Whichever chocolate you prefer, there is a special process to get from the bean to your favorite candy treat.

Step-by-Step from Bean to Bar

Fermenting cacao beans don’t look good but they will eventually become tasty chocolate.
Fermenting cacao beans don’t look good but they will eventually become tasty chocolate.
©Sarah Endline/Sweetriot
Fermenting
To harvest cacao beans, first workers use large knives to cut down the pods and hack them open. They scoop the seeds and pulp out and allow the seeds to ferment in piles or shallow boxes. Fermenting makes heat and acids that change the flavor of the beans. It can take up to eight days for the white seeds to ferment and turn dark brown while the pulp falls away.
Cacao beans drying in the sun.
Cacao beans drying in the sun.
©Sarah Endline/Sweetriot
Drying
Then the beans are dried. Drying keeps them from getting moldy during shipment. The Sundoes the best job of drying, but there are also drying machines.
Roasting and Winnowing
When the bags of dried beans arrive at a chocolate-making plant, the beans are washed and then roasted in a barrel-shaped oven that turns them over so they roast evenly. Up to two hours later, they go into a machine called a winnower. The winnower cracks open the shells and removes them and collects the “meat” of each bean, called a nib. Inside the nibs are cocoa solids and fatty cocoa butter, which both go into chocolate.
After the nibs are ground into a paste it can be processed to make cocoa powder.
After the nibs are ground into a paste it can be processed to make cocoa powder.
©Jeannine Gabriel
Grinding and Processing
The nibs are ground into a paste in a heavy mill. This is the basic ingredient in all chocolate products. The paste is processed in two different ways. To make cocoa powder, like that used in hot chocolate, the paste is pressed to remove the cocoa butter. This leaves behind cocoa solids that can be ground into powder. The cocoa butter that gets removed is used in making other chocolates.
Rolling
To make a candy bar, the paste goes through several more steps. First other ingredients such as sugar or milk are added and mixed together. At this stage, the chocolate mix is still thick and grainy. Running it through giant rollers smoothes out the mixture and makes it dry and flaky.
Conching
After a bit more cocoa butter gets added in, it’s on to the conchingmachine. This machine churns the chocolate for up to six days to make it creamy and smooth. Conching also removes acids in the chocolate to make it taste better.
Chocolate can be tempered by hand but there are machines that do it too.
Chocolate can be tempered by hand but there are machines that do it too.
©Tamela Wolff
Tempering
The final step before molding the candy bar is to temper the chocolate. During tempering, the chocolate is heated and cooled over and over. This process makes the cocoa butter hold together and gives chocolate a shiny look. If it weren’t tempered, chocolate would be crumbly.
Molding 
Finally the mix is ready to pour into a mold. It might be made into a bar shape or poured over candy or nut centers. After the chocolate cools and hardens it is wrapped and ready to ship to stores.

More than Good Taste

Why do people love chocolate so much? Is there more to it than just the taste? The Maya and Aztecs believed chocolate was nutritious and strengthening. They used it to treat fevers and infections. They also thought it could make someone’s love life better. Perhaps that’s why the Aztec ruler Montezuma drank 50 cups a day!
You probably don’t drink 50 cups of chocolate a day like Montezuma but when it looks this good you may think you want to. Hot chocolate drinks are enjoyed around the world.
You probably don’t drink 50 cups of chocolate a day like Montezuma but when it looks this good you may think you want to. Hot chocolate drinks are enjoyed around the world.
©Jamie Lim
Love potion or not, the Aztecs may have been right about chocolate’s effects on the body. Many chocolates are sweet. Sugar causes the body to release chemicals calledendorphins that create a feeling of happiness and well-being. But chocolate also contains small amounts of other chemicals that do the same thing. Still other chemicals in chocolate, including caffeine, make you feel alert.

Benefits, but Bad Stuff Too

Eating chocolate may make us feel good, but might it also be good for us? There are chemicals in chocolate called antioxidants that may help fight heart disease by preventing the buildup of artery-clogging particles in the blood. A small amount of chocolate every day could be helpful. But the large amount of fat found in many chocolates would most likely offset such health benefits. There is also evidence that a bacteria-fighting chemical found in cacao bean husks might help prevent tooth decay. But the large amount of sugar in many chocolates only contributes to dental disease. Other research shows that chocolate may suppress coughs and treat diarrhea.

A Deadly Danger for Some

Animals such as dogs don’t know that chocolate is poisonous to them. The English bulldog may look sad, but he would be more upset if he ate chocolate. That would make the dog very sick.
Animals such as dogs don’t know that chocolate is poisonous to them. The English bulldog may look sad, but he would be more upset if he ate chocolate. That would make the dog very sick.
©Jenny Rollo
Chocolate, in its pure form, may or may not be health food. The sugar, fat, and other additives, though, aren’t so good for us. So enjoy your chocolate in moderation. One thing is certain. Chocolate can be very dangerous to animals. Dogs, cats, horses, birds, and small rodents can die from eating chocolate. Unlike humans, animals aren’t able to rid their bodies of the chemical that is chocolate’s main ingredient. The chemical builds up and becomes poisonous. So if you think your pet has eaten chocolate, you should take it to a veterinarian right away.

Chocolate's the Star All Year Long

What began as a drink for the rich and powerful is now a treat loved by most everyone. But because chocolate is everywhere doesn’t mean it isn’t still special. Chocolate candy is associated with holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day. During Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico people make offerings of cacao seeds or hot chocolate to welcome the spirits of dead ancestors. It’s even a “star” in the movies. What fun would “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” be without the chocolate? Chocolate has always been more than just a drink or sweet.
Samples of holiday chocolates from around the world. Try to name the five holidays that are represented by these candies.
Samples of holiday chocolates from around the world. Try to name the five holidays that are represented by these candies.
©CW: M.Terraza (egg), T.Gerritsen, B.Koslosky, D.Cortez, T.Bowles, L.Szekeres

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