Category Archives: Learning to taste

A possible Maya lord forbids a person to touch a container of chocolate.

The brief and tasty History of Chocolate

A possible Maya lord forbids a person to touch a container of chocolate.

A possible Maya lord forbids a person to touch a container of chocolate.

The history of cocoa goes as far back as the 600 BC when the Olmec, the first major civilization in South Mexico and Central America, were the first to create cocoa plantations. Christopher Columbus didn’t even try to taste it, too bad for him! Instead Spanish conquistadores noticed that indigenous used to drink and to trade with it so they understood its value. At that time they used to roast and crush the seeds with stones. “Xocoatl” was the drink where the roasted powder was mixed with vanilla and honey.

Fun fact: after cocoa was brought to Europe, pope Pius V said that it was so disgusting you could even eat it on Friday, it wouldn’t affect the fasting commitment. Cocoa started becoming popular in 1727 when Nicholas Sanders made the first “chocolate milk” which was no drink, no yet chocolate, just something in between.

The real chocolate guy was C.J. van Houten of the Netherlands. He was looking for making the cocoa powder easy to mix in water. In 1847 he developed a way to separate fat from cacao roasted beans by hydraulic press obtaining cocoa powder separated from cocoa butter. The powder was still difficult to solve in water so he invented the so called “Dutch process”. He could modify the pH, obtain a powder darker in color and easy to solve in water.

What about the leftover fat part, or cocoa butter? Here comes Joseph Fry. If you are devoted to chocolate tablets you should have his image somewhere in your kitchen since he dared to mix cocoa powder, butter and sugar in a modelling paste! Fry & Sons started selling the new sweet treat in 1847.

From that point on, cocoa plantations started growing Brasil and in western Africa by Spanish colonists bringing it in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia and other countries.

Since we are talking about food and sweets some Italians had to have a role in this story. In 1865 Paolo Caffarel did something revolutionary: he put hazelnut in Chocolate making the “Gianduiotto”. We thank him for every Gianduia chocolate bar we make 😉

I know what you are thinking. What about Switzerland and chocolate? They are involved in the milk chocolate. Here we go, in 1875 Daniel Peters added it, he tried, he tried hard but water of milk fight with fat of chocolate. After him another Swiss guy came to help, Henry Nestlè had just invented the dried milk which is great to mix to cocoa mass. That chocolate however wasn’t still perfect: bittery and acid.

Again a famous name, Rudolph Lindt introduced a final process, the “conching” (you can read about it here). Chocolate is melt in your mouth now and that is way Lindt company is still good in making the chocolate melt in your mouth.

Interesting, yeah?

Pralines made by chocolatieur

The shapes of chocolate: powder, drink, spread…

Let’s get this straight. Nobody became good in anything in one week. When we started we had to figure out many thing that nobody told us before and after years and improvement we are still studying. Sometimes we feel like we are totally ignorant, sometimes we get lost among all the things we could, we should, maybe we have to do. The lesson is: if you want to be better in tasting start today and never finish, but before study the subject of your investigation. This is another post dedicated to the types of chocolate you can find around. It may sounds obvious but it actually gives you the chance to recap and to go deeper into the knowledge of chocolate. Continue reading

bancarella di tavolette di cioccolato in turchia

The shapes of chocolate: tablets

Hooked on your daily piece of chocolate? Welcome to the club of the tablet lovers! Next time you’ll be looking for your dark treat do it consciously thanks to our #LearningtoTaste course. You won’t have to ask the local surly hipster delicatessen shopkeeper how much those tablet contain of cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar, stevia, and more flavours you wish you could recognize.

Here are some tricks to #LearntoTaste e to recognize some of the classification and variety available in the market. Continue reading

uomo con occhiali e una fava di cacao in testa

Chocolate: origin and creation

The world “Chocolate” comes from xocolatl, which is the aztech world for “bitter water”. As a matter of fact chocolate is bitter itself, the same as coffee. Eventually we learned to mixing it with cocoa butter, sugar and other ingredients. During the last years we’ve been seeing more and more offers for high percentage cocoa chocolate bar, but don’t be fooled! A great chocolate doesn’t necessarily contains a lot of cocoa powder, instead a fabulous chocolate is the one with an excellent taste balance. You get an excellent chocolate out of high quality ingredients and a great preparation.

How is Chocolate Made?

The chocolate tree grows between 20 degree North and South of the Equator at its best. Its seeds, the cocoa beans, are fermented together and dried at the sun. At this initial stage the beans go to the chocolate producing factories for the next important process. Most of the chocolates commonly sold are produced out of a blend of cocoa of different origins, again like  coffee. Today it’s becoming common to find “single origin” cocoa chocolates, or Cru.

Usually the cocoa beans are selected and washed before being roasted. Now the barks are separated from cocoa nibs after a special process. The nibs are then powdered and resulted in a solid dry cocoa without any fat.

Last phase is the conching. It can last very long, days and days. Everything is put into machines that keep the temperature between 45 and 50 degree and they mix the future chocolate finely and longly. The very last part is the temperation. This is quite delicate since we don’t want a crumbled chocolate, we want a chocolate that melts in our mouths but not on our hands.

Congratulations: you just learned your first lesson about chocolate!   🙂