If there is one thing that I will always stock up in my fridge, it would be chocolate. Honestly, I can’t imagine life without this rich, decadent and addictive sweet treat.
The food world would be less exciting without the invention of chocolate. Not only as a chocolate candy but other chocolate-based products as well.
The process of making chocolate is a rather interesting one.
In this article, we will be looking at how this globally loved food product ends up on our supermarket shelves.
Where Does Chocolate Come From?
To the surprise of many, chocolate actually comes from a plant. Yup, you heard me right. Chocolate is made from cacao beans.
Cacao beans are from the cacao tree which grows in hot tropical climates.
The cacao beans are harvested from cacao pods which house about 30-50 beans per pod. An interesting fact is that cacao beans taste far from chocolatey at first. They have a very intense bitter taste.
The seeds need to be fermented to produce that chocolate flavor that we are familiar with.
Fun fact: It takes 500 cacao beans to make a pound of chocolate.
So make sure your savor every bite.
The fermentation process is the first and most important step of developing the beans’ natural flavors. It also helps to remove the acidic and bitter taste which can ruin the chocolate.
The fermentation process can last between 2-8 days and is largely dependent on the type of beans.
The beans are left to dry out in the open or in huge baskets and protected by a layer of banana leaves.
The fermented cocoa beans are then sun-dried for another 7-14 days. The color of the beans will start to change from red to dark brown during this time.
The cocoa beans are then shipped to chocolate manufacturers all around the world for them to produce their chocolate or chocolate-based products.
There is still one more step to be done before the bean releases that rich chocolatey smell and flavor.
And that is roasting the cacao beans. Just like how coffee beans are made. The longer that the beans are roasted, the richer and more intoxicating the smell gets.
The process of roasting helps to fulfil a few functions. It kills off any bacteria or contaminants that might be present in the beans during the fermentation process.
Chocolate manufacturers need to get this part absolutely right or they can under or over roast the beans.
The roasting is controlled by machines that manipulate the roasting time and temperature to get that perfect roast.
After the beans are roasted, the outer shell of the bean is removed and what remains is called the nib that will be soon be turned into chocolate.
Making Chocolate Paste
A machine will then ground these nibs into a paste-like texture called chocolate liquor. The weird thing is this paste is called chocolate liquor even though there is no alcohol in it.
This paste goes through a process whereby the cocoa butter is removed and what remains is the fresh cocoa powder.
The Final Product
Every chocolate manufacturer will have its own secret formula when making its own chocolate. But the common ingredients will usually be sugar, milk and oil. Sometimes ingredients like nuts and dried fruits are also added.
Once the mix is finalized, the mixture is then poured into molds to cool before getting packed and shipped out.
Benefits Of Chocolate
Contrary to widespread belief, there are certain health benefits when it comes to eating chocolate.
One thing to note is that it has to be dark chocolate with a high cocoa percentage. Milk or white chocolate has too much sugar and milk to be considered healthy.
Aim for 70% dark chocolate if you wish to reap the health benefits.
Chocolate Is Nutritious
Chocolate has many nutrients and minerals that help to support our bodily functions. It is high in iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, zinc, potassium, etc.
The fatty acid that is found in dark chocolate helps to promote a healthy heart.
Chocolate Has Antioxidants
Cocoa and dark chocolate have been shown to have the highest levels of antioxidants as compared to any other fruit.
Antioxidants help to reduce internal body inflammation that can lead to a higher risk of cancer and other terminal diseases.
Chocolate Can Lower Blood Pressure
Dark chocolate contains flavanols that can help to increase blood flow and lower blood pressure.
Don’t expect this to help much if your overall diet is bad though as the effects are rather mild.
Chocolate Helps Protect Your Skin
The flavanols in dark chocolate not only can help lower blood pressure but it can keep your skin healthy as well.
It increases blood flow and hydration to your skin thus keeping it soft and supple.
This is why there are many hands, face and body creams made from cocoa butter due to its healing properties.
Chocolate Helps To Improve Brain Functions
There are certain compounds in dark chocolate that helps with brain functions. It can help to improve our reaction time and memory.
Flavanols help to improve blood flow to the brain.
Chocolate Helps To Reduce Stress
Whether it is dark or milk chocolate, nothing comes close to taking a generous bite of a chocolate bar after a long hard day.
Researches say that dark chocolate helps to reduce cortisol levels in us which is responsible for stress.
It could be due to flavanols or just the mental release eating chocolate gives us.
Any Cons To Eating Chocolate?
Only if you abuse chocolate and overeat it. Even dark chocolate contains sugar and fat which can add to your calorie intake in you are not careful with how much you eat.
Especially when it comes to chocolate donuts which are hard to resist.
People who are diabetic or overweight should exercise more restraint when consuming chocolate or chocolate-based products.
One thing to note is that you should never feed chocolate to your cat or dog as it is toxic to animals.
Whether you are a chocolate lover or not, there is no denying that eating chocolate in moderation does bring about some health benefits.
Even though you might not like the taste of dark chocolate, any other type of chocolate is bound to put a smile on your face and melt the stress away.
And that to me is a miracle at work.