World Chocolate Day celebrates everything chocolaty from scrummy truffles, super moist fudge cake, hot chocolate, decadent gateaux, rocky road, delicious brownies and melt in the mouth soufflés to anything else involving chocolate that you can imagine.
You can indulge in your favourite chocolate treat this Thursday knowing that other chocoholics worldwide will be joining you.
It is the one day of the year all chocoholics will relish.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if chocolate grew on trees? Well, here’s the thing, it actually does.
Chocolate starts as the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree which has been cultivated for thousands of years.
Its oval-shaped pods measure about 30.5cm/ 12 inches long and contain up to 50 seeds. You wouldn’t want to eat cacao seeds straight from the pod as they have an extremely bitter taste.
The flavour is improved after the beans (each about the size of an olive) are fermented under banana leaves, and then dried in the sunshine.
The beans are shipped to the chocolate makers who process them by roasting. At this point they can be blended or kept separate as ‘single origin chocolate.’
After roasting at low temperatures, the shells are removed and the nibs inside are ground into cocoa mass known as cocoa liquor, which is solid at room temperature. When placed under pressure it produces cocoa powder and cocoa butter.
From there the different flavours are created. Dark chocolate only requires cocoa mass, cocoa butter and sugar. Adding milk powder turns it into milk chocolate. And white chocolate is made from cocoa butter, sugar and milk powder. It has no cocoa mass, so some people don’t consider it ‘real’ chocolate.
Before being ready to eat, chocolate is tempered. This means it’s brought to a particular temperature at which the cocoa butter reaches its most stable form. It should be smooth, have a shiny surface and a satisfying snap.
It is said that nine out of 10 people love chocolate and around a billion people eat it every day.
Aside from the fact that it tastes so good it can encourage greediness, there are several health benefits of consuming dark chocolate. It is nutritious, it helps boost the mood, contains a source of antioxidants, may help to improve blood flow, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. Some say it can improve brain function and may even protect your skin from the sun. Despite all the advantages don’t take them as a licence to overeat this tasty treat as it is high in fat and sugar and packed with calories. Show restraint when the chocolate box comes your way.
Would you like to find out more about chocolate? You can visit Cadbury World at Bourneville near Birmingham, the chocolate theme park. There’s a museum and factory tour and a demonstration area.
Nearer home, in Bournemouth, you can book an event at The Chocolate Box Hotel on West Cliff Road and chocolate fountains can be involved.
If you can to wait until 2025 you will be able to indulge yourself in a Nestlé amusement park in Switzerland dedicated to cocoa, which is currently in the making.
The Americans have already been there and done that with their sweet getaway Hershey’s Chocolate Town in Pennsylvania, which seems to be a big excuse to include their biggest coaster ever, Candymonium®.
Aside from the fun, here is an interesting fact about chocolate: seventy per cent of the world’s cocoa beans come from four West African countries: Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. Some six million hectares are planted with cocoa and you can imagine the impact on the local environment.
There is a Cocoa & Forests initiative with the governments of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana and 35 leading cocoa and chocolate companies that have joined together to end deforestation and restore forest areas. In Columbia, the government and cocoa and chocolate companies have signed the Cocoa, Forest & Peace Initiative to eliminate cocoa-related deforestation. (www.worldcocoafoundation.org)
When savouring your favourite piece of chocolate on 7 July, close your eyes and let it take you on an exotic journey back to the tropical regions around the equator from where it originated.
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