Zest Files

The Art of Chocolate

Chocolate has been deemed the first luxury and continues to be a divine indulgence. In its melt-in-the-mouth essence as a solid bar, as a mousse persuasion, as a heady dissolution in hot milk, as a decadence muddled into chilled concoctions…
Many Names of Chocolate

‘Azteca’s Delight’
‘Drink of the Gods’
‘Blessed Money’
‘Liquid Gold’
‘The Perfect Food’

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Olmec Origins

The mysterious Olmecs are considered one of the first major civilisations of Pre-Classical Mesoamerica, preceding other important ones like the Mayans and Toltecs. Linguists have in the past pointed out references to the word ‘cocoa’ in vocabulary and depictions from the  Olmec times, also indicating that it was savoured as a drink in round ceramic jars called ‘tecomates’. Thus, the genesis of chocolate may have occurred almost 3000 years ago.

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Birth of the Food of The Gods

Some said it was ‘the food and drink of the Gods’. Others called it ‘a sinful heaven’. And a few even believed that the ‘god of air’ bought the seeds of the cocoa tree from the Garden of Eden, which when sown into the Earth gave mankind

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The Spanish Touch

Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés, on his voyage of discovery of the famed El Dorado (Spanish gold), chanced upon something that seemed almost equally rich, what he later referred to as ‘liquid gold’. When Cortés arrived in the New World in 1519, Aztec emperor Montezuma II believed him to be the reincarnation of former king Quetzalcoatl.

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Brews of Bliss

The Aztecs called their brew of chocolate ‘tchocolatl’ or ‘xocolatl’. Another name that caught the fancy was champurrado, which is popular even today as part of the Mexican breakfast.

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Chocolate Crosses the Seas

The first cocoa beans landed in Spain via ships in 1585 from the New World. Merchants, along with monasteries and convents, played a part in bringing chocolate to the Spanish land, where it soon took root.

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The many Shades of Chocolate across History

Chocolate has, as we see and consume it today, undergone centuries of makeovers. From the first form as a bean beverage, to a medicine, to beyond just a confectionary in the present day, chocolate has been put to umpteen uses by different civilisations in the past, and the innovations aren’t stopping anywhere.

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Van Houten’s Cocoa Magic

The greatest transformation of chocolate in history is accorded to Dutch chemist and chocolate maker Coenraad Johannes van Houten. In 1828, van Houten patented a process of extracting fat (or cocoa butter) from the beans. Van Houten’s press, a hydraulic machine, separated almost 50 percent of the fat, leaving behind a brittle ‘cake’ that could be made into powder.

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Processing Chocolate

Chocolate tastes different depending upon where it is grown. Much like wine, cacao beans  differ widely by terroir: the effects of the area it is being grown in, from the soil to the water and climate, all influence flavour. For example, South American beans tend to be intensely fruity and floral, African beans are known for simple and earthy chocolate flavour, and Madagascar beans are often fruity and acidic.

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Choosing Your Chocolate

Though chocolate and its myriad products are ubiquitous, not all chocolate is equal. Different grades and formulations serve varying purposes. Options include chocolate that is created for fillings such as ganache, or couvertures that are used in enrobing and baking.

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