Chocolate

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File:Chocolate.jpg
Chocolate most commonly comes in dark, milk, and white varieties, with cocoa solids contributing to the brown coloration.
Chocolate (pronounced /ˈtʃɒklət/ ) comprises a number of raw and processed foods that are produced from the seed of the tropical cacao tree. Native to lowland tropical South America, cacao has been cultivated for three millennia in Central America and Mexico, with its earliest documented use around 1100 BC. All of the Mesoamerican peoples made chocolate beverages, including the Maya and Aztecs, who made it into a beverage known as xocolātl, a Nahuatl word meaning "bitter water". The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste, and must be fermented to develop the flavor. After being roasted and ground, the resulting products are known as chocolate or cocoa.

Much of the chocolate consumed today is made into bars that combine cocoa solids, fats like cocoa butter, and sugar. Chocolate has become one of the most popular flavours in the world. Gifts of chocolate molded into different shapes have become traditional on certain holidays: chocolate bunnies and eggs are popular on Easter, coins on Hanukkah, Santa Claus and other holiday symbols on Christmas, and hearts on Valentine's Day. Chocolate is also used in cold and hot beverages, to produce chocolate milk and cocoa.

Chocolate contains alkaloids such as theobromine, phenethylamine, and anandamide, which have physiological effects on the body. It has been linked to serotonin levels in the brain. Scientists claim that chocolate, eaten in moderation, can lower blood pressure.[1] The presence of theobromine renders it toxic to some animals.

History

File:Hot chocolate.jpg
A mug of modern hot chocolate. Chocolate was first drunk rather than eaten.

The word "chocolate" comes from the Aztecs of Mexico, and is derived from the Nahuatl word xocolatl (pronounced [ʃoˈkolaːtɬ])[2], which is a combination of the words, xocolli, meaning "bitter", and atl, which is "water". The Aztecs associated chocolate with Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility. Chocolate is also associated with the Mayan god of fertility. Mexican philologist Ignacio Davila Garibi, proposed that "Spaniards had coined the word by taking the Maya word chocol and then replacing the Maya term for water, haa, with the Aztec one, atl."[3] However, it is more likely that the Aztecs themselves coined the term,[4] having long adopted into Nahuatl the Mayan word for the "cacao" bean; the Spanish had little contact with the Mayans before Cortés's early reports to the Spanish King of the beverage known as xocolatl.[5] William Bright (personal communication cited in a 1977 article by Lyle Campbell [6]) noted that the word xocoatl does not occur in early Spanish or Nahuatl colonial sources.

Chocolate has been used as a drink for nearly all of its history. The earliest record of using chocolate pre-dates the Maya. In November, 2007, archeologists reported finding evidence of the oldest known cultivation and use of cacao at a site in Puerto Escondido, Honduras, dating from about 1100 to 1400 BC. [7] The residues found and the kind of vessel they were found in, indicate that the initial use of cacao was not simply as a beverage, but the white pulp around the cacao beans was likely used as a source of sugar for an alcoholic drink. The chocolate residue found in an early classic ancient Maya pot in Río Azul, northern Guatemala, suggests that Mayans were drinking chocolate around 400 A.D.. In the New World, chocolate was consumed in a bitter, spicy drink called xocoatl, and was often flavored with vanilla, chile pepper, and achiote (known today as annatto). Xocoatl was believed to fight fatigue, a belief that is probably attributable to the theobromine content. Other chocolate drinks combined it with such edibles as maize starch paste (which acts as an emulsifier and thickener), various fruits, and honey.Template:Fix/category[citation needed] In 1689 noted physician and collector Hans Sloane, developed a milk chocolate drink in Jamaica which was initially used by apothecaries, but later sold by the Cadbury brothers.[8]

Chocolate was also an important luxury good throughout pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, and cacao beans were often used as currency.[9] For example, the Aztecs used a system in which one turkey cost one hundred cacao beans and one fresh avocado was worth three beans.[10]

Production

File:Cocoa Pods.JPG
Chocolate is created from the cocoa bean. A cacao tree with fruit pods in various stages of ripening

Roughly two-thirds of the entire world's cocoa is produced in Western Africa, with 43% sourced from Côte d'Ivoire.[11] Like many food industry producers, individual cocoa farmers are at the mercy of volatile world markets. The price can vary from £500 ($945) to £3,000 ($5,672) per ton, in the space of just a few years. While investors trading in cacao can dump shares at will, individual cocoa farmers cannot increase production or abandon trees very quickly. When cocoa prices drop, farmers in West Africa sometimes cut costs by using slave labor.[12] It has been alleged that an estimated 90% of cocoa farms in Côte d'Ivoire have used some form of slave labor in order to remain viable.[13] According to the World Cocoa Foundation, some 50 million people around the world depend on cocoa as a source of livelihood. [1] The industry is dominated by three chocolate makers, Barry Callebaut, Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) and in the UK, 99.999% of chocolatiers, whether they be large companies such as Cadbury Schweppes or small independents, purchase their chocolate from them, to melt, mould and package to their own design. [14]

Despite some disagreement in the EU about the definition, chocolate is any product made primarily of cocoa solids and cocoa fat. The different flavours of chocolate can be obtained by varying the time and temperature when roasting the beans, by adjusting the relative quantities of the cocoa solids and cocoa fat, and by adding non-chocolate ingredients.

Production costs can be decreased by reducing cocoa solid content or by substituting cocoa butter with a non-cocoa fat. Cocoa growers oppose allowing the resulting food to be called "chocolate", because that would lower demand for their crops.[1]

There are two main jobs associated with creating chocolate candy, chocolate makers and chocolatiers. Chocolate makers use harvested cacao beans and other ingredients to produce couverture chocolate. Chocolatiers use the finished couverture to make chocolate candies (bars, truffles, baked goods, etc.).[15]

Cacao

Varieties

The three main varieties of cacao beans used in chocolate are criollo, forastero and trinitario.

Criollo is the rarest and most expensive cocoa on the market and is native to Central America, the Caribbean islands and the northern tier of South American states.Template:Fix/category[citation needed] There is some dispute about the genetic purity of cocoas sold today as Criollo, because most populations have been exposed to the genetic influence of other varieties. Criollos are particularly difficult to grow, as they are vulnerable to a variety of environmental threats and produce low yields of cocoa per tree. The flavour of Criollo is unique. It is described as delicate yet complex, low in classic chocolate flavour, but rich in "secondary" notes of long duration.Template:Fix/category[citation needed]

Forastero is a large group of wild and cultivated cacaos, most likely native to the Amazon basin. The African cocoa crop is entirely of the Forastero variety. They are significantly hardier and of higher yield than Criollo. Forastero cocoas are typically strong in classic "chocolate" flavour, but have a short duration and are unsupported by secondary flavours. There are exceptional Forasteros, such as the "Nacional" or the "Arriba" varieties, which can be very complex flavors.Template:Fix/category[citation needed]

Trinitario is a natural hybrid of Criollo and Forastero. Trinitario originated in Trinidad (hence the name) after an introduction of (Amelonado) Forastero to the local Criollo crop. These cocoas encompass a wide range of flavour profiles according to the genetic heritage of each tree.Template:Fix/category[citation needed]

Nearly all cacao produced over the past five decades is of the Forastero or lower-grade Trinitario varieties. The share of higher quality Criollos and Trinitarios (so-called flavour cacao) is just under 5%.[16]

Cacao trees are small understory trees that need rich well drained soils. They naturally grow within 20 degrees of either side of the equator because they need about 2000 milimeters of rainfall a year, and temperatures in the range of 21-32 degrees Celsius, and cannot tolerate a temperature lower than 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit)[17].

Harvesting

Harvesting cacao beans is a delicate process. First, the pods, containing cacao beans, are harvested. The beans, together with their surrounding pulp, are removed from the pod and placed in piles or bins to ferment for three to seven days. The fermentation process is what gives the beans their familiar chocolate taste. The beans must then be quickly dried to prevent mold growth; weather permitting, this is done by spreading the beans out in the sun.

Chocolate liquor

The dried beans are transported from the plantation where they were grown to a chocolate manufacturing facility.

The beans are then cleaned (removing twigs, stones, and other debris), roasted, and graded. Next the shells are removed to extract the nib. Finally, the nibs are ground which releases and melts the cocoa butter producing chocolate liquor.

There are three things that can be done with the chocolate liquor at this point:

  • It can be solidified and sold as unsweetened baking chocolate.
  • Cocoa butter can be removed from it and the result is cocoa powder. There are several mechanisms for removing cocoa butter from chocolate liquor. These include using hydraulic pressure and the Broma process.
  • Cocoa butter can be added to it to make eating chocolate.

Blending

Chocolate liquor is blended with the cocoa butter in varying quantities to make different types of chocolate or couvertures. The basic blends of ingredients for the various types of chocolate (in order of highest quantity of cocoa liquor first), are as follows:

  • Dark chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, and (sometimes) vanilla
  • Milk chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, milk or milk powder, and vanilla
  • White chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, milk or milk powder, and vanilla

Usually, an emulsifying agent such as soya lecithin is added, though a few manufacturers prefer to exclude this ingredient for purity reasons and to remain GMO-free (Soya is a heavily genetically modified crop), sometimes at the cost of a perfectly smooth texture. Some manufacturers are now using PGPR, an artificial emulsifier derived from castor oil that allows them to reduce the amount of cocoa butter while maintaining the same mouthfeel.

The texture is also heavily influenced by processing, specifically conching (see below). The more expensive chocolates tend to be processed longer and thus have a smoother texture and "feel" on the tongue, regardless of whether emulsifying agents are added.

Different manufacturers develop their own "signature" blends based on the above formulas but varying proportions of the different constituents are used.

File:Chocolate fountain.jpg
Chocolate made with enough cocoa butter flows gently over a chocolate fountain to serve dessert fondue.

The finest plain dark chocolate couvertures contain at least 70% cocoa (solids + butter), whereas milk chocolate usually contains up to 50%. High-quality white chocolate couvertures contain only about 33% cocoa. Some mass-produced chocolate contains much less cocoa (as low as 7% in many cases) and fats other than cocoa butter. Some chocolate makers say that these "chocolate" products should not be classed as couvertures, or even as chocolate, because of the low or virtually non-existent cocoa content. Template:Fix/category[citation needed]

In 2007, the Chocolate Manufacturers Association in the United States, whose members include Hershey, Nestlé, and Archer Daniels Midland, lobbied the Food and Drug Administration to change the legal definition of chocolate to let them substitute partially hydrogenated vegetable oils for cocoa butter in addition to using artificial sweeteners and milk substitutes.[18] Currently, the FDA does not allow a product to be referred to as "chocolate" if the product contains any of these ingredients. [19][20]

Conching

The penultimate process is called conching. A conche is a container filled with metal beads, which act as grinders. The refined and blended chocolate mass is kept liquid by frictional heat. Chocolate prior to conching has an uneven and gritty texture. The conching process produces cocoa and sugar particles smaller than the tongue can detect, hence the smooth feel in the mouth. The length of the conching process determines the final smoothness and quality of the chocolate. High-quality chocolate is conched for about 72 hours, lesser grades about four to six hours. After the process is complete, the chocolate mass is stored in tanks heated to approximately 45–50 °C (113–122 °F) until final processing.

Tempering

File:Bowl of truffles.jpg
Chocolate truffles typically have a thin shell of tempered chocolate, a dusting of cocoa powder and a soft creamy center.

The final process is called tempering. Uncontrolled crystallization of cocoa butter typically results in crystals of varying size, some or all large enough to be clearly seen with the naked eye. This causes the surface of the chocolate to appear mottled and matte, and causes the chocolate to crumble rather than snap when broken. The uniform sheen and crisp bite of properly processed chocolate are the result of consistently small cocoa butter crystals produced by the tempering process.

The fats in cocoa butter can crystallize in six different forms (polymorphous crystallization). The primary purpose of tempering is to assure that only the best form is present. The six different crystal forms have different properties.

Crystal Melting Temp. Notes
I 17 °C (63 °F) Soft, crumbly, melts too easily.
II 21 °C (70 °F) Soft, crumbly, melts too easily.
III 26 °C (78 °F) Firm, poor snap, melts too easily.
IV 28 °C (82 °F) Firm, good snap, melts too easily.
V 34 °C (94 °F) Glossy, firm, best snap, melts near body temperature (37 °C).
VI 36 °C (97 °F) Hard, takes weeks to form.

Making good chocolate is about forming the most of the type V crystals. This provides the best appearance and mouth feel and creates the most stable crystals so the texture and appearance will not degrade over time. To accomplish this, the temperature is carefully manipulated during the crystallization.

Generally, the chocolate is first heated to 45 °C (113 °F) to melt all six forms of crystals. Then the chocolate is cooled to about 27 °C (80 °F), which will allow crystal types IV and V to form (VI takes too long to form). At this temperature, the chocolate is agitated to create many small crystal "seeds" which will serve as nuclei to create small crystals in the chocolate. The chocolate is then heated to about 31 °C (88 °F) to eliminate any type IV crystals, leaving just the type V. After this point, any excessive heating of the chocolate will destroy the temper and this process will have to be repeated. However, there are other methods of chocolate tempering used-- the most common variant is introducing already tempered, solid "seed" chocolate. The temper of chocolate can be measured with a chocolate temper meter to ensure accuracy and consistency. A sample cup is filled with the chocolate and placed in the unit which then displays or prints the results.

Two classic ways of manually tempering chocolate are:

  • Working the molten chocolate on a heat-absorbing surface, such as a stone slab, until thickening indicates the presence of sufficient crystal "seeds"; the chocolate is then gently warmed to working temperature.
  • Stirring solid chocolate into molten chocolate to "inoculate" the liquid chocolate with crystals (this method uses the already formed crystal of the solid chocolate to "seed" the molten chocolate).

Chocolate tempering machines (or temperers) with computer controls can be used for producing consistently tempered chocolate, particularly for large volume applications.

Storing

Chocolate is very sensitive to temperature and humidity. Ideal storage temperatures are between 15 and 17 degrees Celsius (59 to 63 degrees Fahrenheit), with a relative humidity of less than 50%. Chocolate should be stored away from other foods as it can absorb different aromas. Ideally, chocolates are packed or wrapped, and placed in proper storage with the correct humidity and temperature. Additionally chocolate should be stored in a dark place or protected from light by wrapping paper. Various types of "blooming" effects can occur if chocolate is stored or served improperly. If refrigerated or frozen without containment, chocolate can absorb enough moisture to cause a whitish discoloration, the result of fat or sugar crystals rising to the surface. Moving chocolate from one temperature extreme to another, such as from a refrigerator on a hot day can result in an oily texture. Although visually unappealing, these conditions are perfectly safe for consumption.[21][22][23]

Physiological effects

Pleasure of consuming

File:Melted chocolate.jpg
Molten Chocolate

Part of the pleasure of eating chocolate is due to the fact that its melting point is slightly below human body temperature: it melts in the mouth. A study reported by the BBC indicated that melting chocolate in one's mouth produced an increase in brain activity and heart rate that was more intense than that associated with passionate kissing, and also lasted four times as long after the activity had ended.[24]

Potential health benefits and risks

Recent studies have suggested that cocoa or dark chocolate may possess certain beneficial effects on human health. Dark chocolate, with its high cocoa content, is a rich source of the flavonoids epicatechin and gallic acid, which are thought to possess cardioprotective properties. Cocoa possesses a significant antioxidant action, protecting against LDL oxidation, perhaps more than other polyphenol antioxidant-rich foods and beverages. Processing cocoa with alkali destroys most of the flavonoids.[25] Some studies have also observed a modest reduction in blood pressure and flow-mediated dilation after consuming approximately 100g of dark chocolate daily. There has even been a fad diet, named "Chocolate diet", that emphasizes eating chocolate and cocoa powder in capsules. However, consuming milk chocolate or white chocolate, or drinking fat-containing milk with dark chocolate, appears largely to negate the health benefit.[26] Processed cocoa powder (so called Dutch chocolate), processed with alkali greatly reduces the antioxidant capacity as compared to "raw" cocoa powder. [27] Chocolate is also a calorie-rich food with a high fat content, so daily intake of chocolate also requires reducing caloric intake of other foods.

Two-thirds of the fat in chocolate comes in the forms of a saturated fat called stearic acid and a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. However, unlike other saturated fats, stearic acid does not raise levels of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream.[28] Consuming relatively large amounts of dark chocolate and cocoa does not seem to raise serum LDL cholesterol levels; some studies even find that it could lower them[29].

Several population studies have observed an increase in the risk of certain cancers among people who frequently consume sweet 'junk' foods such as chocolate. However, very little evidence exists to suggest whether consuming flavonoid-rich dark chocolate may increase or decrease the risk of cancer. Evidence from laboratory studies suggests that cocoa flavonoids may possess anticarcinogenic mechanisms, but more research is needed to prove this idea.

The major concern that nutritionists have is that even though eating dark chocolate may favorably affect certain biomarkers of cardiovascular disease, the amount needed to have this effect would provide a relatively large quantity of calories which, if unused, would promote weight gain. Obesity is a significant risk factor for many diseases, including cardiovascular disease. As a consequence, consuming large quantities of dark chocolate in an attempt to protect against cardiovascular disease has been described as 'cutting off one's nose to spite one's face'.[30].

Studies suggest a specially formulated type of cocoa may boost brain function and delay decline as people age.[31]

Small but regular amounts of dark chocolate were shown to lower the possibility of heart attack.[32]

Mars, Incorporated, a Virginia-based candy company, spends millions of dollars each year on flavonol research.Template:Fix/category[citation needed] The company is talking with pharmaceutical companies to license drugs based on synthesized cocoa flavonol molecules. According to Mars-funded researchers at Harvard, the University of California, and European universities, cocoa-based prescription drugs could potentially help treat diabetes, dementia and other diseases.[33]

Other research indicates that chocolate may be effective at preventing persistent coughing. The ingredient theobromine was found to be almost one third more effective than codeine, the leading cough medicine.[34] The chocolate also appears to soothe and moisten the throat.

South American and European cultures have used cocoa to treat diarrhea for hundreds of years.[35] A study done at Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland, in collaboration with scientists at Heinrich Heine University in Germany, has shown that flavonoids can inhibit the developmentTemplate:Fix/category[clarify] of fluids that result in diarrhea.[36]

As a stimulant

Molten chocolate and a piece of a chocolate bar
See also: chocoholism

Chocolate contains a variety of substances, some of which have an effect on body chemistry. These include:

Chocolate is a mild stimulant to humans mainly mainly due to the presence of theobromine.[39] It is much more potent for horses, and its use in horse racing is prohibited. Theobromine is also a contributing factor in acid reflux due to its relaxing effects on the esophageal sphincter muscle.

Aphrodisiac

Romantic lore commonly identifies chocolate as an aphrodisiac. The reputed aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate are most often associated with the simple sensual pleasure of its consumption. More recently, suggestion has been made that serotonin and other chemicals found in chocolate, most notably phenethylamine, can act as mild sexual stimulants. While there is no firm proof that chocolate is indeed an aphrodisiac, a gift of chocolate is a familiar courtship ritual.[40].

Acne

File:Dscn4337-choc-chicks crop 600x1000.jpg
Chocolate, ranging from dark to light, can be molded and decorated like these chickens with ribbons.

There is a popular belief that the consumption of chocolate can cause acne. Various studies seem to show that this is the case for high glycemic index foods in general, though the question is still being studied. Milk is known to cause acne, including any which is mixed with chocolate.[41]

Lead

Chocolate has one of the higher concentrations of lead among products that constitute a typical Westerner's diet. Recent studies have shown that although the beans themselves absorb little lead, it tends to bind to cocoa shells and contamination may occur during the manufacturing process.[42] A recent peer-reviewed publication found significant amounts of lead in chocolate.[43] A review article published in a peer-reviewed journal in 2006 states that despite high consumption levels of chocolate, there is a paucity of data on lead concentrations in chocolate products. In a USDA study in 2004, mean lead levels in the samples tested ranged from 0.0010 to 0.0965 µg lead per gram of chocolate, but another study by a Swiss research group in 2002 found that some chocolate contained up to 0.769 µg per gram, close to the international (voluntary) standard limit for lead in cocoa powder or beans, which is 1 µg of lead per gram.[44] In 2006, the U.S. FDA lowered by one-fifth the amount of lead permissible in candy, but compliance is only voluntary.[45] While studies show that the lead consumed in chocolate may not all be absorbed by the human body, there is no known threshold for the effects of lead on children's brain function and even small quantities of lead can cause permanent neurodevelopmental deficits including impaired IQ.[46]

Toxicity in animals

In sufficient amounts, the theobromine found in chocolate is toxic to animals such as horses, dogs, parrots, small rodents, and cats (kittens especially) because they are unable to metabolise the chemical effectively. If they are fed chocolate, the theobromine will remain in their bloodstream for up to 20 hours, and these animals may experience epileptic seizures, heart attacks, internal bleeding, and eventually death. Medical treatment involves inducing vomiting within two hours of ingestion, or contacting a veterinarian.

A typical 20-kilogram (40-lb) dog will normally experience great intestinal distress after eating less than 240 grams (8.5 oz) of dark chocolate, but will not necessarily experience bradycardia or tachycardia unless it eats at least a half a kilogram (1.1 lb) of milk chocolate. Dark chocolate has 2 to 5 times more theobromine and thus is more dangerous to dogs. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, approximately 1.3 grams of baker's chocolate per kilogram of a dog's body weight (0.02 oz/lb) is sufficient to cause symptoms of toxicity. For example, a typical 25-gram (0.88 oz) baker's chocolate bar would be enough to bring about symptoms in a 20-kilogram (44 lb) dog. Of course, baking chocolate is rarely consumed directly due to its unpleasant taste, but other dark chocolates' canine toxicities may be extrapolated based on this figure. As dogs like the taste of chocolate products as much as humans do, and are capable of finding and eating quantities much larger than typical human servings, they should be kept out of their reach. There are reports that mulch made from cacao bean shells is dangerous to pets (and other animals).[47][48][49] Treats made from carob can be used to substitute and pose no health threat to animals.Template:Fix/category[citation needed]

Labelling

Some manufacturers provide the percentage of chocolate in a finished chocolate confection as a label quoting percentage of "cocoa" or "cacao". It should be noted that this refers to the combined percentage of both cocoa solids and cocoa butter in the bar, not just the percentage of cocoa solids [6].

Chocolates that are organic or fair trade certified carry labels accordingly. Manufacturers may also state whether their chocolate is shade grown.

In the United States, some large chocolate manufacturers are lobbying the federal government to permit confection containing cheaper hydrogenated vegetable oil in place of cocoa butter to be sold as "chocolate". This is controversial[7], and as of September 2007 the FDA has not yet consented to permit it.

Popularity

The percentage of people in the world (according to Nestle.com) that prefer dark, milk, and white chocolate, respectively, are 68%, 22%, and 10%.

References

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Further reading

  • Bitter Chocolate: Investigating the Dark Side of the World's Most Seductive Sweet, by Carol Off, Random House, 2006.
  • Chocolate, by the editors of Fine Cooking magazine, 2006.
  • The True History of Chocolate, by Sophie D. Coe & Michael D. Coe, Thames & Hudson, 1996. ISBN-13 978-0500282298
  • Naked Chocolate, by David Wolfe and Shazzie, Rawcreation, 2005.
  • The Great Book of Chocolate, by David Lebovitz, Ten Speed Press, 2004.
  • The Chocolate Connoisseur, by Chloe Doutre-Roussel, Piatkus, 2005.
  • Green & Black's Chocolate Recipes, by Kyle Cathie Limited, 2003.
  • Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America (book) ISBN 0-15-603293-7
  • McNeil, Cameron (editor) (2006). Chocolate in Mesoamerica: A Cultural History of Cacao. Gainesville: University of Florida Press. ISBN 0-8130-2953-8. 

See also

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