Archive for chocolate

Chocolate tasting

Chocolate tasting

Of course, the cocoa beans themselves and how varying amounts of cocoa solids are combined with other ingredients (such as sugar and milk for example) have a big role to play when it comes to how the chocolate we know and love tastes.

We’re all unique too, so your own tasting experience will be yours alone.  You might love a particular flavour, combination of flavours or particular texture that another person dislikes.  The fun lies in discovering these differences.

Chocolate can differ in all sorts of ways; for example, appearance, texture, intensity of colour, aroma, although chocolate doesn’t have the same level of flavour complexity as wine.  But, chocolate tasting, like wine tasting, tends to be considered a little hi-brow, something best confined to specialist, artisan chocolates.

So we’ve put together some tips and ideas to help you get more enjoyment from chocolate and to demonstrate that chocolate tasting can be fun for all.

Hosting a chocolate tasting party can be a fun way of getting together with friends and sharing and contrasting your experience

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How chocolate is made??

How chocolate is made??

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Cocoa beans come from cocoa pods that grow on cocoa trees – simple! The cocoa tree, (real name Theobroma Cacao), grows in warm, humid places near the Equator.

There’s got to be guaranteed rainfall and fertile soil for it to thrive, and Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Brazil, and Nigeria are all perfect – production’s increasing in Malaysia too.

A cocoa tree looks a bit like an apple tree but has broader, rich green leaves. It flowers and fruits all year round, and produces large cocoa pods that sprout from tree trunks and main branches. There’s not that many of them though – each tree only has 20-30 pods a year. Take a look inside the pods and you’d see 30-40 seeds sitting in a sweet white pulp rather like cotton wool – these are the cocoa beans.  And no wonder cocoa is precious; it takes a whole year’s crop from one tree to make 454 grammes (1lb) of cocoa.

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Different trees, different cocoa

There are three main types of cocoa: Forastero, Criollo and Trinitario – this last one is a cross between the first two.

Forastero is widely grown – it’s a hardy tree producing the strongest flavour beans. And within Forastero, a variety called Amelonado is most popular, largely grown in West Africa and Brazil.

Criollo trees aren’t as tough as Forastero. Its beans have a milder chocolate flavour and a unique aroma. They’re grown in Central and South American and Indonesia.

Trinitario isn’t found in the wild, but is grown in the Caribbean as well as in Cameroon and Papua New Guinea.

Cadbury get their cocoa from Ghana in West Africa, where the main harvesting period is October to December. When they’re ripe, the cocoa pods turn a rich golden colour. They’re cut down from the trees and split open, and the pulp and beans are removed from the outside husk.

To get a good chocolate flavour, the beans then have to be fermented. There are two main methods: Heap and Box. In West Africa the Heap method is used. The cocoa beans are piled up on a layer of banana tree leaves, with more leaves on top to cover them. Then they’re left for five or six days to ferment – this when much of the chocolate flavour develops. The pulp around the beans becomes liquid and drains away.

Next the wet beans are dried in the sun and turned frequently so they dry evenly – this is crucial because if any beans are still wet, they’ll go mouldy when they’re stored. Once the farmers are happy that the beans are dry, they’re taken to buying stations, where the beans are weighed and packed into sacks.

The Box method is used in the West Indies, Latin America and in Malaysia, and you tend to find it in large plantations. Over a tonne of beans is put in to a wooden box which has gaps in the base for air to get in and liquid to drain out. The boxes are covered in banana leaves and stored in a building for 6-8 days. They’re mixed a couple of times during this process, and then special equipment is used to dry them.