SOMETHING SWEET

Melted Chocolate

FOOD OF THE GODS

Most of us LOVE chocolate. Chocolate is an exceptionally tasty Superfood, which activates our brain’s “Happiness Center”. We feel good because chocolate bathes our mouths in a rich creamy dissolving umami taste and causes our brain to release natural pain-killers called endorphins. In our mind, the taste of chocolate is associated with all those special times that chocolate showed up as a prize or a mediator of happiness and festivity.

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THE CACAO TREE

The Cacao Tree, the fruits from which chocolate is manufactured, was domesticated by the inhabitants of Meso-America more than 4000 years ago. It originally served as holy food in religious rituals and as currency for obtaining and transferring wealth. It is said that the Aztec Emperor Montezuma exclusively fed on cocoa mixed with vanilla and other spices. In the 17th century, cocoa appeared in the French court as an aphrodisiac drink. Cocoa’s popularity grew quickly and it spread across Europe. The botanical name for the cacao tree is Theobroma cacao L. “Theobroma” literally means “Food of the Gods”, and probably most of us can agree that we are thankful they left it here on earth for us poor mortals to enjoy.

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WHERE IS CACAO GROWN?

Cacao is grown in the wet and warm regions in the tropical belt of the Global South. In nature, a young cacao shoot develops under the shade of large forest trees until it grows and produces fruit in its 4th or 5th year. Plant diseases and low soil fertility caused the centers of cacao production to move from its origins in Central and South America to Africa during the 20th century. Today, about 70% of the approximately 4.5 million tons of cocoa beans produced in the world each year come from West Africa, where the Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are the main growers.

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FROM CACAO TO CHOCOLATE

Cacao pods resemble elongated melons of varying yellow, red, orange and green colors, and they each contain about 30-50 seeds coated in a thick sweet white pulp. Mature fruits are broken open and the seeds and pulp removed from the pod to be fermented. This takes about one week, after which the fermented seeds are dried, packed in bags, and shipped to processors. Chocolate makers roast and shell the seeds before grinding them into a thick paste which is then separated into two components. Oil turns into cocoa butter and is used for confectionary, cosmetics, and soap. The remaining solids are called “cocoa powder”, which is the base for chocolate. While the words ‘cacao’ and ‘cocoa’ are often used interchangeably, ‘cacao’ actually refers to the plant itself, while the products made from the plant are referred to as ‘cocoa’.

Cocoa Powder

SUPERFOOD OF SUPERFOODS

Cocoa is healthy for humans and it is considered the “Superfood of Superfoods”. Chocolate having a high percentage of cocoa contains mainly cocoa powder, with lower amounts of sugar, milk (absent in most dark chocolates) and oil or cocoa butter. Cocoa is rich in flavonoids which are powerful antioxidants and are involved in destroying carcinogenic cells. Flavonoids also enhance blood flow and aid the building of muscle and other tissues. Chocolate causes our brain to secrete endorphins – those natural painkillers responsible for mood elevation and happiness – which are definite promoters of good health. Chocolate is rich in the L-arginine amino acid, an agent suggested to promote sexual desire and improve sexual functioning.

Chocolate Dessert

ABSURDLY EASY CHOCOLATE FUDGE - A RECIPE

Absolutely delicious and addictive. Click on the link at your own risk – and please don’t complain that we didn’t warn you!