Learn About Chocolate in 5 Minutes
May 23, 2020

Chocolate

By allin5minutes

History of Chocolate

The modern-day chocolate that we drink or eat has a long history dating back to as early as 1750 BC. Its earliest consumption as a beverage occurred in Mexico during the Olmec civilization in Mesoamerica. Later, during the 16th century, the Europeans began drinking it, and it was considered a drink for the nobles.

In 1847, Joseph Fry discovered a way to mix sugar and cocoa powder components with melted cocoa butter to produce a paste that could be used to mass-produce solid chocolate bars.

Types of Chocolate

There are several types of chocolate with some bitter and others sweet. Even so, the main types of chocolate are:

  • Milk chocolate. Milk chocolate is the most available type. It has milk added in condensed, powdered, or liquid form. This chocolate type is known for its creamier, milder taste and it is the base of many chocolate bars.
  • Dark chocolate. Many people enjoy dark chocolate because of the purity. It contains fewer additives, and cocoa butter is used as a fat content instead of milk. Two forms of dark chocolate are available in the U.S. – semisweet with little sugar and bittersweet, which is more bitter.
  • White chocolate. White chocolate is similar to milk chocolate because it has sugar and milk added, but it differs in that there are no cocoa solids. The white color is a result of cocoa butter, which is the only cocoa product added. White chocolate is sweeter than the other types and usually contains additional ingredients like vanilla to enhance flavor.
  • Chocolate liquor. Chocolate liquor is also known as baking chocolate as it is typically used for baking. It’s unsweetened and unadulterated, thus giving it a profound chocolate flavor. 
  • Ruby chocolate. Ruby chocolate is a product of the ruby cocoa bean, a unique bean type, which is a rare variety. The chocolate is pink and it has a sweet and sour flavor combination. It’s quite different from the other chocolate types and it is still not widely distributed.

How is Chocolate Made?

The process of making chocolate hasn’t changed much during the years. Each stage in the process is significant to the overall end flavor. The chocolate-making process is as follows:

  • Harvesting and fermentation. The cocoa pods are first harvested by cutting them from the tree. After that, they are opened to obtain the beans embedded in pulp. They are then fermented for up to eight days. Sun-drying to reduce moisture content follows, and then the beans are packed ready for manufacturing.
  • Roasting. The manufacturers will roast the cocoa beans at high temperatures. This occurs after they’ve tested the beans for any defects, approved them, and thoroughly cleaned them.
  • Grinding and Refining. During roasting, the bean shells are separated from the kernel. The cocoa beans are cracked, resulting in cocoa nibs, which are then grounded. The finely grounded particles are refined using a roll refiner that melts the cocoa butter.
  • Conching. The flavor of the chocolate is developed in the conching stage. Ingredients are added to the chocolate liquor, some bitterness is removed, and the desired texture and flavor attained. 
  • Tempering and chocolate formation. Finally, the conched mass is tempered and blended to form the chocolate bars we eat.

Health Benefits of Chocolate

Chocolate has several health benefits attributed to its antioxidant property. The higher the cocoa content, like in dark chocolate, the more benefits you can reap. 

  • Reduction in cholesterol levels. Chocolate bars having plant sterols and cocoa flavanols have been found to reduce ‘bad cholesterol’, thus improving heart health. 
  • Lower risk of heart disease and stroke. A study from Canada found that those who eat chocolate are 22% less likely to experience a stroke. Other findings have also shown that a daily intake of 100g of chocolate can reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Prevention of cognitive decline. Research from Harvard Medical School has shown that you can maintain a healthy brain and reduce memory lapse by taking two cups of hot chocolate per day.
  • Fetal growth enhancement. Taking 30g of chocolate each day during pregnancy can help in proper fetal growth and development. 
  • Protection of the skin. Eating dark chocolate can protect your skin from sun damage, improve blood flow, and enhance skin hydration. That’s because of the bioactive compounds it contains like flavonols, which are excellent antioxidants. 

Risks of Chocolate

Overeating chocolate can also affect you negatively in the following ways:

  • Tooth decay. Some chocolates contain lots of sugar that can be damaging to your teeth and liver.
  • Weight gain. If you are into fitness or are trying to lose weight, then chocolate is not for you. It is high in calories and can result in weight gain.
  • Toxicity. The presence of heavy metals like lead and cadmium in some cocoa products can be toxic to the kidneys and other tissues.
  • Bone health. Extreme chocolate intake, especially among the elderly, might lead to reduced bone formation and structure.

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