Category Archives: The Science of Chocolate

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?

mind-head-chocolate-cocoa-bean

What neuropsychology have been studying about chocolate and its effects…

…on your heart, on your mood and sex life.

 

We have been interviewing Giovanni Spinarelli, a young psychologist expert in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

 

On chocolate and its characteristics there have been several studies, especially in medical science and neuropsychology. These researches usually study the effects on the cardiovascular system, on the tone of our mood, also on the alleged aphrodisiac properties. We must say that such studies are very controversial. Some of them highlight the positive effects on blood pressure and on the mood, others stress the negative links with dependency and obesity. The answer? Don’t abuse chocolate, exaggeration is just bad for any substance!

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guy-holding-pile-of-chocolate-chips

When Chocolate Makes you Feel Happy or Guilty, Backed by Research

As you may know Chocolate comes from a tree, it grows from a plant but it’s not quite a salad. As a matter of fact, eating it sometimes generates feelings of guilt, in the same time it makes us happy. It seems to be bad for our teeth but, again, some studies contradict common sense finding it actually has antibacterial agents. Continue reading