Did you know that the first use of chocolate
by the Aztecs and other Central and South American peoples was probably
as an alcoholic beverage?
from John Hopkins and Pennsylvania Universities have found evidence
from early drinking vessels that pulp from the chocolate plant was used
to brew an alcoholic drink. It was much later that the beans were also
used to make a drink; probably only fifteen hundred or so years ago.
The drinking vessels that yielded up the evidence that they fermented
the pulp, came from as far back as 3400 years past.
comes from a small tree found in South American rain forests:
theobroma cacao. There are several varieties, the most
common of which is the forastero. The majority of chocolate consumed is
a mixture of varieties.
process of making a bar of chocolate is quite a lengthy one. First the
fruit is picked from the tree. It is a pod the size of an egg plant or
aubergine, in it there are twenty or thirty beans.
step is fermentation, this process allows the beans to be separated
from the pod. The fermentation process is nothing more than
stacking in piles or large containers. This takes a few days, the beans
are then dried and are then broken open to extract the 'nib' which is
then ground up, liquefied and processed into the chocolate that we all
know and love.
process the fatty component known as cocoa butter is removed and some
reintroduced at a later stage and after further processing of both
components. Controlling the cocoa butter content has an effect on the
texture of the finished chocolate.
coffee a roasting phase has to take place. This takes place at a
temperatire of 200 to 300 derees Fahrenheit.
the chocolate is a lengthy process. Achieving a smooth texture can take
several hours. The industry term for this process is 'conching' Steel
balls in a mill break the powder in to ever finer particles.
as a Cough Medicine! - Count me in on this one!!! it has
been discovered that theobromine, an ingredient in chocolate is very
effective in inhibiting coughing, even more than codeine or some of the
synthetic cough suppressants in proprietary medicines. According to Wikipedia it has also been
used as a diarrhea suppressant, and this is confirmed by other sources
but only small amounts of pure dark chocolate is likely to have any
the large chocolate producers have been lobbying to allow hydrogenated
fats to be added as a substitute for the cocoa butter.
also contains the stimulant drugs caffeine and theobromine.
one can also find Specialty producers such as the Grenada Chocolate
Company who produce ultra fine chocolate that has none of the tricks
that one finds with the industrial varieties. An advantage of such
products is that the important flavonoids are still present in the
Update Nov 2009 - A study
carried out in Switzerland (Where else??) found that volunteers given
40g of dark chocolate daily were less stressed. Levels of stress
hormones dropped most dramatically in those those who suffered from
stress traits. The team of scientists' research was published in the
'Journal of Proteome Research'.