Sunday, May 2, 2010

Chocolate: The Origin Part 1

The first record of Chocolate plantations and consumption was done by the Mayas in A.D. 600, but there was no doubt that they were familiar with coco several centuries earlier. The Aztec called chocolate "The Food of the God".

Chocolate indeed originated from Central America. The Mayans used chocolate as a form of currency and the kings would drink chocolate in order to increase his libidos. Even thousands of year ago, people knew of the health benefit of chocolate. Then, the Spanish colonialists discovered chocolate, and it was originally consumed as a medicine. Then, they started growing chocolate plantation around their other colonies.

Chocolate comes from the fruit of cocoa tree. (Technically, it's a fruit!) Cocoa trees only thrive within 10 degree latitude North and South of the equator. They need a year-long warm temperature between 19-32 degrees, and 80-100% humidity. They also need 2 meters of annual rainfall. Most importantly, they only grow in the shade of other taller trees, so you can't have a farm full of cocoa trees.

The huge cocoa pods are first harvested from the trees. They are split lengthwise and the seeds are removed from within their white pulp. These seeds are immediately fermented under the sun, and it is the length of this fermentation process (2 to 8 days) that determines the species of cocoa produced. During this period, the chocolate flavour begins to develop and the fermented seeds are called cocoa beans. Cocoa beans are then dried, cleaned and roasted. Once cooled, roasted cocoa beans are cracked to remove their outer shell and expose the interior kernels, called cocoa nibs. These cocoa nibs are the basis of chocolate-making.

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