Chocolate (IPA or /-ˈələt/) comprises a number of raw and processed foods that are produced from the seed of the tropical cacao tree. Native to lowland, tropical South America, cacao has been cultivated for at least three millennia in Central America and Mexico, with its earliest documented use around 1100 BC. The majority of the Mesoamerican peoples made chocolate beverages, including the Maya and Aztecs, who made it into a beverage known as xocolātl, a Nahuatl word meaning "bitter water". The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste, and must be fermented to develop the flavor. After fermentation, the beans are dried, cleaned, and roasted, and the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground and liquified, resulting in pure chocolate in fluid form: chocolate liquor. The liquor can be further processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.
Pure, unsweetened chocolate contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, combining chocolate with sugar. Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk. "White chocolate" contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk but no cocoa solids (and thus does not qualify to be considered true chocolate). Chocolate contains alkaloids such as theobromine and phenethylamine, which have some physiological effects in humans, but the presence of theobromine renders it toxic to some animals, such as dogs and cats.. It has been linked to serotonin levels in the brain. Scientists claim that chocolate, eaten in moderation, can lower blood pressure. Dark chocolate has recently been promoted for its health benefits, as it seems to possess substantial amount of antioxidants that reduce the formation of free radicals.
Chocolate has become one of the most popular flavors in the world. Gifts of chocolate molded into different shapes have become traditional on certain holidays: chocolate bunnies and eggs are popular on Easter, chocolate coins on Hanukkah, Santa Claus and other holiday symbols on Christmas, and hearts on Valentine's Day. Chocolate is also used in cold and hot beverages, to produce chocolate milk and hot chocolate.
Chocolate has been used as a drink for nearly all of its history. The earliest record of using chocolate dates back before the Olmec. In November 2007, archaeologists reported finding evidence of the oldest known cultivation and use of cacao at a site in Puerto Escondido, Honduras, dating from about 1100 to 1400 BC. The residues found and the kind of vessel they were found in indicate that the initial use of cacao was not simply as a beverage, but the white pulp around the cacao beans was likely used as a source of fermentable sugars for an alcoholic drink. The Maya civilization grew cacao trees in their backyard, and used the cacao seeds it produced to make a frothy, bitter drink. Documents in Maya hieroglyphs stated that chocolate was used for ceremonial purposes, in addition to everyday life. The chocolate residue found in an early ancient Maya pot in Río Azul, Guatemala, suggests that Maya were drinking chocolate around 400 AD. In the New World, chocolate was consumed in a bitter, spicy drink called xocoatl, and was often flavored with vanilla, chile pepper, and achiote (known today as annatto). Xocoatl was believed to fight fatigue, a belief that is probably attributable to the theobromine content. Chocolate was also an important luxury good throughout pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, and cacao beans were often used as currency. For example, the Aztecs used a system in which one turkey cost one hundred cacao beans and one fresh avocado was worth three beans. South American and European cultures have used cocoa to treat diarrhea for hundreds of years. All of the areas that were conquered by the Azetcs that grew cacao beans were ordered to pay them as a tax, or as the Aztecs called it, a "tribute".
Until the 1500s, no European had ever heard of the popular drink from the Central and South American peoples. It was not until the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs that chocolate could be imported to Europe, where it quickly became a court favorite. To keep up with the high demand for this new drink, Spanish armies began enslaving Mesoamericans to produce cacao. Even with cacao harvesting becoming a regular business, only royalty and the well-connected could afford to drink this expensive import. Before long, the Spanish began growing cacao beans on plantations, and using an African workforce to help manage them. The situation was different in England. Put simply, anyone with money could buy it. The first chocolate house opened in London in 1657. In 1689, noted physician and collector Hans Sloane developed a milk chocolate drink in Jamaica which was initially used by apothecaries, but later sold to the Cadbury brothers.
For hundreds of years, the chocolate making process remained unchanged. When the people saw the Industrial Revolution arrive, many changes occurred that brought the hard, sweet candy we love today to life. In the 1700s, mechanical mills were created that squeezed out cocoa butter, which in turn helped to create hard, durable chocolate. But, it was not until the arrival of the Industrial Revolution that these mills were put to bigger use. Not long after the revolution cooled down, companies began advertising this new invention to sell many of the chocolate treats we see today. When new machines were produced, people began experiencing and consuming chocolate worldwide.
White chocolate is formed from a mixture of sugar, cocoa butter, and milk solids. Although its texture is similar to milk and dark chocolate, it does not contain any cocoa solids; thus not officially qualifying as true chocolate. Because of this, many countries do not consider white chocolate as chocolate at all. Although first introduced by Hebert Candies in 1955, Mars, Incorporated was the first to produce white chocolate within the United States. Because it does not contain any cocoa solids, one benefit of white chocolate is that it also does not contain any theobromine, meaning it can be consumed by animals.
Dark chocolate is produced by adding fat and sugar to the cacao mixture. The U.S. Government calls this "sweet chocolate", and requires a 15% concentration of chocolate liquor. European rules specify a minimum of 35% cocoa solids. Dark chocolate, with its high cocoa content, is a rich source of the flavonoids epicatechin and gallic acid, which are thought to possess cardioprotective properties. Dark chocolate has also been said to reduce the possibility of a heart attack when consumed regularly in small amounts. Semisweet chocolate is a dark chocolate with a low sugar content. Bittersweet chocolate is chocolate liquor to which some sugar (typically a third), more cocoa butter, vanilla and sometimes lecithin have been added. It has less sugar and more liquor than semisweet chocolate, but the two are interchangeable in baking.
Unsweetened chocolate is pure chocolate liquor, also known as bitter or baking chocolate. It is unadulterated chocolate: the pure, ground, roasted chocolate beans impart a strong, deep chocolate flavor.
Roughly two-thirds of the entire world's cocoa is produced in Western Africa, with 43% sourced from Côte d'Ivoire. According to the World Cocoa Foundation, some 50 million people around the world depend on cocoa as a source of livelihood. The industry is dominated by three chocolate makers, Barry Callebaut, Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland Company. In the UK, 99.999% of chocolatiers, whether they be large companies such as Cadbury Schweppes or small independents, purchase their chocolate from them, to melt, mold and package to their own design. Despite some disagreement in the EU about the definition, chocolate is any product made primarily of cocoa solids and cocoa fat. The different flavors of chocolate can be obtained by varying the time and temperature when roasting the beans, by adjusting the relative quantities of the cocoa solids and cocoa fat, and by adding non-chocolate ingredients.
Production costs can be decreased by reducing cocoa solid content or by substituting cocoa butter with a non-cocoa fat. Cocoa growers object to allowing the resulting food to be called "chocolate", due to the risk of lower demand for their crops.
There are two main jobs associated with creating chocolate candy, chocolate makers and chocolatiers. Chocolate makers use harvested cacao beans and other ingredients to produce couverture chocolate. Chocolatiers use the finished couverture to make chocolate candies (bars, truffles, etc.).
Cacao trees are small, understory trees that need rich, well-drained soils. They naturally grow within 20 degrees of either side of the equator because they need about 2000 millimeters of rainfall a year, and temperatures in the range of 21 to 32 degrees Celsius. Cacao trees cannot tolerate a temperature lower than 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit).
The three main varieties of cacao beans used in chocolate are criollo, forastero and trinitario.
Representing only five percent of all cocoa beans grown, criollo is the rarest and most expensive cocoa on the market and is native to Central America, the Caribbean islands and the northern tier of South American states. There is some dispute about the genetic purity of cocoas sold today as Criollo, as most populations have been exposed to the genetic influence of other varieties. Criollos are particularly difficult to grow, as they are vulnerable to a variety of environmental threats and produce low yields of cocoa per tree. The flavor of Criollo is described as delicate yet complex, low in classic chocolate flavor, but rich in "secondary" notes of long duration.
The most commonly grown bean is forastero, a large group of wild and cultivated cacaos, most likely native to the Amazon basin. The African cocoa crop is entirely of the Forastero variety. They are significantly hardier and of higher yield than Criollo. The source of most chocolate marketed, forastero cocoas are typically strong in classic "chocolate" flavor, but have a short duration and are unsupported by secondary flavors, producing "quite bland" chocolate.
Trinitario is a natural hybrid of Criollo and Forastero. Trinitario originated in Trinidad after an introduction of Forastero to the local Criollo crop. Nearly all cacao produced over the past five decades is of the Forastero or lower-grade Trinitario varieties.
Chocolate liquor is blended with the cocoa butter in varying quantities to make different types of chocolate or couvertures. The basic blends of ingredients for the various types of chocolate (in order of highest quantity of cocoa liquor first), are as follows:
Usually, an emulsifying agent such as soy lecithin is added, though a few manufacturers prefer to exclude this ingredient for purity reasons and to remain GMO free, sometimes at the cost of a perfectly smooth texture. Some manufacturers are now using PGPR, an artificial emulsifier derived from castor oil that allows them to reduce the amount of cocoa butter while maintaining the same mouthfeel.
The texture is also heavily influenced by processing, specifically conching (see below). The more expensive chocolate tends to be processed longer and thus have a smoother texture and "feel" on the tongue, regardless of whether emulsifying agents are added.
Different manufacturers develop their own "signature" blends based on the above formulas, but varying proportions of the different constituents are used.
The finest, plain dark chocolate couvertures contain at least 70% cocoa (both solids and butter), whereas milk chocolate usually contains up to 50%. High-quality white chocolate couvertures contain only about 33% cocoa.
Producers of high quality, small batch chocolate argue that mass production produces bad quality chocolate. Some mass-produced chocolate contains much less cocoa (as low as 7% in many cases) and fats other than cocoa butter. Vegetable oils and artificial vanilla flavor are often used in cheaper chocolate to mask poorly fermented and/or roasted beans.
In 2007, the Chocolate Manufacturers Association in the United States, whose members include Hershey, Nestlé, and Archer Daniels Midland, lobbied the Food and Drug Administration to change the legal definition of chocolate to let them substitute partially hydrogenated vegetable oils for cocoa butter in addition to using artificial sweeteners and milk substitutes. Currently, the FDA does not allow a product to be referred to as "chocolate" if the product contains any of these ingredients.
The penultimate process is called conching. A conche is a container filled with metal beads, which act as grinders. The refined and blended chocolate mass is kept in a liquid state by frictional heat. Chocolate prior to conching has an uneven and gritty texture. The conching process produces cocoa and sugar particles smaller than the tongue can detect, hence the smooth feel in the mouth. The length of the conching process determines the final smoothness and quality of the chocolate. High-quality chocolate is conched for about 72 hours, lesser grades about four to six hours. After the process is complete, the chocolate mass is stored in tanks heated to approximately 45–50 °C (113–122 °F) until final processing.
The fats in cocoa butter can crystallize in six different forms (polymorphous crystallization). The primary purpose of tempering is to assure that only the best form is present. The six different crystal forms have different properties.
|I||17 °C (63 °F)||Soft, crumbly, melts too easily.|
|II||21 °C (70 °F)||Soft, crumbly, melts too easily.|
|III||26 °C (78 °F)||Firm, poor snap, melts too easily.|
|IV||28 °C (82 °F)||Firm, good snap, melts too easily.|
|V||34 °C (94 °F)||Glossy, firm, best snap, melts near body temperature (37 °C).|
|VI||36 °C (97 °F)||Hard, takes weeks to form.|
Making chocolate considered "good" is about forming as many type V crystals as possible. This provides the best appearance and texture and creates the most stable crystals so the texture and appearance will not degrade over time. To accomplish this, the temperature is carefully manipulated during the crystallization.
Generally, the chocolate is first heated to 45 °C (115 °F) to melt all six forms of crystals. Next, the chocolate is cooled to about 27 °C (80 °F), which will allow crystal types IV and V to form. At this temperature, the chocolate is agitated to create many small crystal "seeds" which will serve as nuclei to create small crystals in the chocolate. The chocolate is then heated to about 31 °C (88 °F) to eliminate any type IV crystals, leaving just type V. After this point, any excessive heating of the chocolate will destroy the temper and this process will have to be repeated. However, there are other methods of chocolate tempering used. The most common variant is introducing already tempered, solid "seed" chocolate. The temper of chocolate can be measured with a chocolate temper meter to ensure accuracy and consistency. A sample cup is filled with the chocolate and placed in the unit which then displays or prints the results.
Two classic ways of manually tempering chocolate are:
Chocolate tempering machines (or temperers) with computer controls can be used for producing consistently tempered chocolate, particularly for large volume applications.
Chocolate is very sensitive to temperature and humidity. Ideal storage temperatures are between 15 and 17 °C (59 to 63 °F), with a relative humidity of less than 50%. Chocolate is generally stored away from other foods as it can absorb different aromas. Ideally, chocolates are packed or wrapped, and placed in proper storage with the correct humidity and temperature. Additionally chocolate is frequently stored in a dark place or protected from light by wrapping paper. Various types of "blooming" effects can occur if chocolate is stored or served improperly. If refrigerated or frozen without containment, chocolate can absorb enough moisture to cause a whitish discoloration, the result of fat or sugar crystals rising to the surface. Moving chocolate from one temperature extreme to another, such as from a refrigerator on a hot day can result in an oily texture. Although visually unappealing, chocolate suffering from bloom is perfectly safe for consumption.
On the other hand, eating large quantities of any chocolate increases risk of obesity. There is concern of mild lead poisoning for some types of chocolate. Chocolate is toxic to many animals because of insufficient capacity to metabolize theobromine.
A study reported by the BBC indicated that melting chocolate in one's mouth produced an increase in brain activity and heart rate that was more intense than that associated with passionate kissing, and also lasted four times as long after the activity had ended.
One-third of the fat in chocolate comes in the forms of a saturated fat called stearic acid and a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. However, unlike other saturated fats, stearic acid does not raise levels of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream. Consuming relatively large amounts of dark chocolate and cocoa does not seem to raise serum LDL cholesterol levels; some studies even find that it could lower them. Indeed, small but regular amounts of dark chocolate lower the possibility of a heart attack, a result of cholesterol imbalance according to the lipid hypothesis.
Studies suggest a specially formulated type of cocoa may be nootropic and delay brain function decline as people age.
Mars, Incorporated, a Virginia-based candy company, spends money each year on flavonol research. The company is talking with pharmaceutical companies to license drugs based on synthesized cocoa flavonol molecules. According to Mars-funded researchers at Harvard, the University of California, and European universities, cocoa-based prescription drugs could potentially help treat diabetes, dementia and other diseases.
Other research indicates that chocolate may be effective at preventing persistent coughing. The ingredient theobromine was found to be almost one third more effective than codeine, the leading cough medicine. The chocolate also appears to soothe and moisten the throat.
There is a popular belief that the consumption of chocolate can cause acne. Various studies seem to show that this is the case for high glycemic index foods in general, though the question is still being studied. Milk is known to cause acne, including any which is mixed with chocolate.
A typical 20-kilogram (40-lb) dog will normally experience great intestinal distress after eating less than 240 grams (8.5 oz) of dark chocolate, but will not necessarily experience bradycardia or tachycardia unless it eats at least a half a kilogram (1.1 lb) of milk chocolate. Dark chocolate has 2 to 5 times more theobromine and thus is more dangerous to dogs. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, approximately 1.3 grams of baker's chocolate per kilogram of a dog's body weight (0.02 oz/lb) is sufficient to cause symptoms of toxicity. For example, a typical 25-gram (0.88 oz) baker's chocolate bar would be enough to bring about symptoms in a 20-kilogram (44 lb) dog. Of course, baking chocolate is rarely consumed directly due to its unpleasant taste, but other dark chocolates' canine toxicities may be extrapolated based on this figure. As dogs like the taste of chocolate products as much as humans do, and are capable of finding and eating quantities much larger than typical human servings, they should be kept out of their reach. There are reports that mulch made from cacao bean shells is dangerous to pets (and other animals). Treats made from carob can be used to substitute and pose no health threat to animals.
Chocolate contains a variety of substances, some of which have an effect on body chemistry. These include:
In the United States, some large chocolate manufacturers lobbied the federal government to permit confection containing cheaper hydrogenated vegetable oil in place of cocoa butter to be sold as "chocolate". In June 2007, as a response to consumer concern after the proposed change, the FDA re-iterated that "Cacao fat, as one of the signature characteristics of the product, will remain a principal component of standardized chocolate
Many chocolate manufacturers have created products from chocolate bars to fudge, hoping to attract more consumers with each creation. Both The Hershey Company and Mars have become the largest manufacturers in the world. Major examples include Cadbury, Nestlé and Lindt.
The Hershey Company is the largest chocolate manufacturer in North America. Its headquarters is in Hershey, Pennsylvania, a town permeated by the aroma of cocoa on some days, and home to Hershey's Chocolate World. It was founded by Milton S. Hershey in 1894 as the Hershey Chocolate Company, a subsidiary of his Lancaster Caramel Company. Hershey's candies and other products are sold worldwide.
Mars, Incorporated is a worldwide manufacturer of confectionery and other food products with US$21 billion in annual sales in 2006. Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, USA, the company is entirely owned by the Mars family, making it one of the largest privately owned U.S. corporations. Mars is most famous for its eponymous Mars Bar, as well as other confectionery such as Milky Way, M&M's, Twix, Skittles and Snickers.
Chocolat is a 1999 novel by Joanne Harris. It tells the story of Vianne Rocher, a young mother, whose confections change the lives of the townspeople through magic. The 2000 film adaptation, Chocolat, also proved successful, grossing over US$150,000,000 worldwide, and receiving Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Original Score.