Not about stevia no added sugar chocolate.

I have been reading about the production of chocolate.  I find it really fascinating and my mind boggles at who worked out how to produce it

 Where does Chocolate come from

Chocolate is extracted from the seeds of a plant that belongs to the genus Theobroma.. Cacao. . The plant likes a hot, humid climate (unlike the finished chocolate bars!) so it is grown in many regions near the equator.  Originally however, it grew in South America and was brought to Europe by Spanish explorers.   .    

 The History of Chocolate

Chocolate was very important to ancient civilizations in South America like the Mayan and Aztec people . It seems to have been grown as a crop and made into a drink as early as 400BC    Our word chocolate comes from the Aztec name for their chocolate drink  xocoatl.  In Europe it became popular as a drink and some of the early chocolate manufacturers in England were keen to promote it as an acceptable alternative to  alcohol.  

Chocolate - The Food of the Gods

The Latin name Theobroma means food of the gods and was given to the plant in 1753. This has to show just what a big impression it made.  

Harvesting  the cocoa pods

Unripe cocoa pods can be a variety of colours such as red  or purple, as they ripen they turn more orange and yellow.  The ripe cocoa pods are carefully harvested by hand as they branch off the main truck rather than the end of branches and they need to be harvested carefully to avoid damaging next years crop.

Post harvesting processing

Once the cocoa pods have been picked they need to be treated to harvest the cocca beans.

 The pods are sliced open with a machete and the husk discarded. The remaining bulk and cocoa beans are then fermented in the open or in barrels for a few days.  This separates the main bulk of the pods  to leave the magical cocoa beans.  This first process is extremely important as it can affect the overall  taste of the cocoa beams

At this point the cocoa beans are transported to a handling facility were they are fermented for 4 to 7 days and are stirred at 2 day intervals.  

The final stage before shipping they are dried out over 4 to for 14 days and are raked over to ensure they are dry. The reason for the time variation for drying is that it depends on the weather if it is very humid it takes longer for the beans to dry. The cocoa beans are now ready for shipping.  It is only after this, that the sophisticated processes can turn it into the delicious products we love.

 Does anyone remember a programme on Channel 4 about a UK based entrepreneur who set up a company to  grow the beans and make the chocolate .  His web site contains some great pictures of a cocoa farm http://www.williescacao.com/world-cacao/factory-farm/

 Kew has a really good page about Cocoa.   The tropical plant house at Kew Gardens even has a real live cacao plant!.  

http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/plants-fungi/theobroma-cacao-cocoa-tree

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