So if you’ve even glanced at my blog before then you’ll know I’m a cacao maniac! I love the stuff, I honestly feel it’s one (if not thee!) best thing I’ve discovered. Therefore, when I found out there was a book about chocolate, it’s origins & the bean-to-bar process, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.
FYI: Cacao refers to the less processed product & chocolate refers to the more processed typical form.
With a Masters in Food security, I do like to learn all I can about the food we eat and where it comes from, I’ve learnt so much from this book and feel that it should be shared with as many people as possible, so please share this post if you find it helpful.
The book I read and have used info-graphics from was “Chocolate- indulge your inner chocoholic” by Dom Ramsey.
Believe it or not, chocolate has been consumed for over 3500 years, it was originally used in a liquid form and in quite a sacred way such as during religious ceremonies or drunk by powerful leaders, thus was referred to as “food of the gods“. It was often flavoured with spices such as vanilla, chilli, floral plants and may have been sweetened with plant sap.
In 1847 the first moulded chocolate bar was made then it was continuously developed by people over the coming years, becoming closer and closer to the chocolate we know today. One of the main people in this process was Rodolphe Lindt (recognise that surname anyone?) who developed the conching method which involves continuously stirring the chocolate and adding some cocoa butter to give a smoother texture with more flavour.
Sourcing and stages of chocolate bar development
Chocolate is sourced from cacao beans which are big orange/yellow bean pods that are then harvested and undergo numerous processes as follows:
1-Harvested pods are opened & the beans are fermented for a few days
2-Beans are dried & sterilised using high pressure steam
3-Next, the beans are roasted to develop flavour, although some kinds are temperature controlled so that they remain as “raw” products which don’t go above a certain temperature
4-Beans are broken down into small “nibs” in a process called “winnowing”
5-Nibs are ground into a liquid which then undergoes conching and has flavours, sugar, salt etc added in before being shaped
|Bean to bar process|
Eat your chocolate like a boss!
So here are your pro-chocolate taster tips.
|How to taste chocolate like a pro!|
Choosing cacao products
If you are buying any cacao products for a raw foodie then you should opt for specified “raw” products, although these will taste slightly different from roasted products as the roasting helps the chocolate flavour to develop.
I first noticed this when I had 2 different cacao nibs products, one raw, one not and you could smell the difference with the more familiar scent coming from the roasted product. Taste wise, I personally prefer a roasted cacao flavour, but do use both.
|Sevenhills wholefoods have both raw & roasted cacao products|
Another tip when choosing raw cacao products is to go with a supplier/brand that follows regulations regarding the sterilisation process and testing of the products as raw ones will be more susceptible to microbial growth as they aren’t roasted but as long as the brand is performing tests/following guidelines then their products can only be sold if they are safe.
Different cacao forms
Nibs: Crunchy broken down beans
Powder: Beans ground into a fine powder, handy guilt free additions to smoothies/recipes
|Naturya’s roasted cacao nibs & some homemade cacao chocolate hearts|
Liquor: Nibs ground into a liquid then set again into shapes, usually coins and this form can melt unlike nibs
Butter: The fat that is pressed from the beans, it is white in colour and contains virtually none of the antioxidants that the brown products do hence why we’re encouraged to go as dark as we can in terms of cocoa solids when choosing chocolate bars (plus it typically means less sugar too).
|Real Food Source raw criollo nibs|
A product that I’m fairly new at using is cacao liquor. This is a fantastic product as previously, if I wanted to make my own chocolate I’d have to buy the cacao butter and powder separately then mix them together trying to get the right amount of powder to butter in order to get the right flavour and consistency.
Now I just melt the cacao liquor buttons in one easy step which makes the process faster. It’s also great for adding chocolate to recipes without it having any refined sugar so you can control the sweetness yourself. A great option for the health conscious chocoholics!
|Bulk powders organic cacao liquor buttons|
|My melted cacao liquor buttons, perfect for homemade chocolate|
How to choose good quality chocolate
As mentioned before, some of the things to look for in good chocolate is a low sugar, high cocoa content, minimally processed and preferably organic. Here is an infographic from the book which points out other things to look for such as origin and the bean-to-bar sign.
|Support organic chocolate if you can|
Benefits of chocolate
Yes there are benefits to chocolate, obviously cacao, the unprocessed version, is better than your typical store bought chocolate bar so getting cacao into your diet is the more preferable option (ill share recipes at the end). Here is my in depth “Healthy chocolate” post with some recipes that you can use to incorporate more cacao into your everyday food >>click here
|Chocolate with benefits!!|
I hope you’ve found it useful and that you feel it has helped you understand more about why chocolate doesn’t have to be your enemy, plus how it really can be good for you.
Obviously I encourage you to get the book and give it a read if you’d like to learn more.On a final note, if anyone knows of any up coming chocolate taster jobs, I’m ALWAYS available, so drop me a line! 😁😁