We all love chocolate! In addition to being a tasty treat, there are many interesting things about chocolate that most people do not know.
Did You Know?! Ten Facts about Chocolate
- The smell of chocolate induces relaxation by increasing theta brainwaves
- Aztecs & Mayans used cacao beans as currency because they were so valuable
- Africa accounts for 70% of the world’s cacao. The Ivory Coast produces half of that
- One square of dark chocolate reduces stress because it causes the brain to release endorphins
- Dark chocolate is rich in healthy flavonols
- A recent study found that chocolate intake was “positively associated” with cognitive performance
- More than twice as many women than men eat & crave chocolate
- Eating dark chocolate everyday reduces the risk of heart disease by a third
- Chocolate has over 600 flavor compounds (red wine has about 200)
- A cacao bean naturally contains almost 300 different flavors and 400 separate aromas
Storing chocolate: Many people think that storing chocolate in a refrigerator is a good thing, but in fact it is probably the worst place to put it. A refrigerator is too moist for chocolate and since chocolate will absorb odors and tastes from anything near it, there are many things in the fridge that can spoil its taste.
Chocolate begins to melt at about 85o F. If you are comfortable, the chocolate will be fine. Although lower temperatures and drier climate will prolong the shelf life of chocolate, regular room temperature, without big swings from hot to cold, will keep chocolate fine for 3-5 months. When you absolutely must store chocolate for a long period of time, freezing will be best. Wrap it tightly and when you take it out, let it thaw at room temperature outside of the packing used to freeze it.
Nutritional facts about chocolate: There are many studies about the health benefits of chocolate. In moderation, it is a great food. We will be adding many facts here as we continue working on the site.
How chocolate is made – Bean to Bar: Chocolate is a plant based food and comes from the cacao tree. Cacao pods are harvested and the beans are fermented and dried. Cacao beans are then shipped to the chocolate producer where they go through several steps. This is a very condensed and basic overview:
In the first step the beans are winnowed, a process to remove the skin of each bean which creates smaller pieces of the ‘meat’ of the bean called the nib. Next the roasting process is done. The style of chocolate is really determined during the roasting stage. A darker roast will yield more intense, potentially bitter, tastes and less roasting will give smoother, more subtle flavor.
The cacao nibs are then crushed and ground slowly. Heat builds up and the cocoa butter inside melts, creating a sludge like mass called chocolate liquor. In this state, the liquor can be pressed and the cocoa butter separated from the cake.
To make chocolate, liquor is mixed with sugar and vanilla and an emulsifier to make sure everything mixes together well. The mixture is then conched, or mixed. Conching reduces the particle size so the chocolate does not feel grainy in the mouth. More conching time yields higher quality (and more expensive) chocolate.
In Dark chocolate, the amount of chocolate liquor as a % of the whole is sometimes displayed and usually when it is over 30%. Milk chocolate is made by adding a dried, or crumbed, whole milk to the mixture. White chocolate is simply cocoa butter, milk, sugar and vanilla.
Interesting Chocolate Links
Click here to check out this article/video about Cocoa Farmers