Saturday, February 27, 2021

Stories about cocoa and chocolate

History, from cocoa to chocolate

Povești despre cacao și ciocolată
Image from Pixabay

The seeds of the cocoa tree are said to have been brought to the people of Quetzalcoatl, the “gardener of Paradise”, according to pre-Columbian Mexican mythology. This cocoa tree has become their protector. Cocoa seeds were also called “Theobroma” or the food of the gods in Greek. The cocoa tree can reach 8 meters in 12 years and blooms all year round, having almost 100,000 flowers in bouquets, but of which only but only 0.2% give fruit.

Maya civilizations extracted from the cocoa tree a drink considered sacred, chocolate and used its seeds as bargaining chips. It seems that Emperor Montezuma consumed 40 portions of chocolate daily, served in gold goblets by young men dressed in white tunics. After the emperor’s death, tons of cocoa seeds were discovered under his palace.

The chocolate road, the exotic treasure

Povești despre cacao și ciocolată
Image from Pixabay

At first, the conquistadors considered the cocoa drink to be detestable. It was the Jesuit missionaries who improved the indian recipe that used red pepper and orange red dye extracted from a South American shrub, replacing them with cane sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.

Spanish settlers appreciated the new “variant” and could not give up the tasty cocoa drink, bringing it with them to Europe. In 1569, Pope Pius V declared that, like wine, liquid chocolate can be consumed during fasting.

During the 17th century, chocolate “flooded” Europe, at least in the royal courts, but it remained a very expensive commodity. In France, the habit of drinking chocolate was established by Anna of Austria, wife of King Louis XIII and daughter of Philippe II of Spain. Maria-Tereza, the infanta of Spain and the wife of Louis XIV, continued this tradition.

Where did solid chocolate first appear?

cocoa and chocolate
Image from Pixabay

In 1674, the first solid chocolate appeared in England, slowly replacing the cocoa drink. In the 18th century, the whole of Europe reveled in the taste of chocolate. Each people prepared it with a recipe of its own: the English mixed it with Madera wine, the Portuguese improved it with egg and sugar.

In the following century, the passion for chocolate translated into the expansion of plantations into colonies (some regions of Africa, Indonesia and other countries with warm and humid climates) and the development of a thriving, rapidly modernized industry on European soils.

The history of chocolate is staked by famous names: Dutchman Van Houten, Swiss Suchard and Kohler, British Cadbury, Frenchman Poulain. In the 19th century there were two important transformations in the history of chocolate. In 1847, an English company created a technological process of solidification of chocolate, and two years later, Swiss Daniel Peter thought to add a new ingredient: milk.

Shortly after, a new invention marked the history of chocolate: the melting temperature lower than that of the human body. So chocolate melts in the mouth and figuratively, but also literally. Dark chocolate melts at 34 to 35 degrees Celsius, while milk chocolate requires a lower temperature of a few degrees. Today milk chocolate is the most sought after assortment, with dark chocolate appreciated by only 5 – 10% of consumers of this product.

Although chocolate is eaten for pleasure, its consumption brings extraordinary benefits to the body. The consumption of chocolate (cacao), especially the bitter one, has beneficial effects on the circulatory system. Other studies have been conducted to prove the anticancer, brain stimulator and cough inhibitor effects.

Despite the possible benefits, excessive consumption of chocolate can promote obesity and the development of diabetes mellitus. A study presented by the BBC showed that during the melting of chocolate in the mouth, the human brain experiences an increase in energy activity, and the heart rate increases more than during a passionate kiss and the sensation lasts four times longer.

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