Without any doubt in my mind at all, chocolate has become one one of the worlds most most popular food. And while we are all familiar with chocolate in its yummy block of tasty goodness, what on earth is it? To find the answer, you need to look to the rainforests of South America.
It turns out that chocolate is produced from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. A tree that has been cultivated for at least three millennia in Mexico, Central and South America.
The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste, and must be fermented to develop the flavour. Its earliest documented use is around 1100 BC. During this time, the majority of the early native American people used chocolate to make chocolate beverages, including the Aztec's. In particular, the Aztecs used the chocolate nut to make a drink known as xocolātl [ʃo'kolaːt͡ɬ], a Nahuatl word meaning bitter water'.
Cocoa mass was also used in the early South American civilizations as an ingredient in foods. In fact, chocolate played a special role in both Maya and Aztec royal and religious events. Priests presented cacao seeds as offerings to the deities and served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies. All of the areas that were conquered by the Aztecs that grew cacao beans were ordered to pay them as a tax, or as the Aztecs called it, a 'tribute'.
However, while cocoa is originally from South America, Western Africa now produces almost two-thirds of the world's cocoa, with the Ivory Coast growing almost half of it!
As mentioned earlier, the seeds of the cacao tree must be fermented to develop their chocolaty flavour. After fermentation, the beans are dried, cleaned, and then roasted, after which the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs.
The nibs are then ground to cocoa mass - this is pure chocolate in its roughest form. Because this cocoa mass usually is liquefied then molded with or without other ingredients, it is called chocolate liquor. The liquor also may be processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Unsweetened baking chocolate (bitter chocolate) contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions.
Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, combining cocoa solids, cocoa butter or other fat, and sugar. Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk. White chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk but no cocoa solids.
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Images care of http://whydowelovechocolate.wordpress.com/category/plantation-cocoa-tree/ and http://blogs.ubc.ca/106fb2011wl1c/author/rachellm/ and http://www.familles.com/v4/forums/forums-familiaux-metiers-d-autrefois-liste-des-metiers-etudies-en-page-15-t887169-p79.html