From Bean to Delight

Cocoa tree – The chocolate tree

Cocoa tree

Heat, humidity and shade

The cocoa tree is cultivated in plantations situated on both sides of the Equator, the band that encircles the globe between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. This delicate tree, with a trunk of around 20 cm in diameter, a height ranging between 3 and 8 metres, but exceeding 12 metres in the wild, grows in hot and humid climates, in semi-obscurity, in the shade of tall-growing plants and trees. An altitude of 400 to 700 metres is needed for ideal growth and development. It bears simultaneously white flowers and fruit, which it shelters in its dense and tapered foliage. The tree begins to flower after around 2 to 5 years, reaches its maturity after 12 years and continues to bear fruit for 30 years. One tree bears 50,000 to 100,000 flowers per year. Approximately one in 100 of these will be fertilised and become a fruit – the cocoa pod. Oblong in shape, the cocoa pod is 15 to 25 cm in length. On the same tree, young pods can be yellow, green or almost violet in colour. Mature pods ready for harvest are also varied in colour. On the inside of the fruit, beneath a tough skin, is found a white pulp called the “mucilage” from which grains are extracted. These grains become almond-shaped beans (20 to 40 per pod). It is these beans that contain the precious cocoa. One cocoa tree can produce between a kilogram and a kilogram and a half of beans per year. The chocolate tree has conquered the whole world with the richness of its fruit.

Criollo

From a word meaning “creole” in old Spanish, this species of cocoa tree gives the finest cocoa. Very aromatic, only slightly bitter and with a long-lasting flavour, this exceptional cocoa makes up only 5 to 10 % of the world’s production. It originates from Central and South America, in particular from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia, as well as the islands of Trinidad, Grenada and Jamaica.

Forastero

Originating from upper Amazonia, this species gives the most common and the most robust cocoa, with a bitter flavour and an acidic aroma, often used in cocoa mixes. An exception is the “amenolado” variety of Forastero, delicate, fragrant, and cultivated in the Equator. The Forastero makes up 80% of the world’s cocoa production, due to the faster maturation of the trees and a greater amount of fruit. This is African cocoa par excellence, introduced to the Sao Tomé Island and also grown in Brazil, the West Indies and Central and Latin America.

Trinitario

The island of Trinidad gave its name to this cocoa species. Its story originated in Venezuela, “the land of chocolate”, from a natural hybrid of the Criollo and the Forastero. The Trinitario gives a fine cocoa rich in oil and represents 10 to 15 % of the world’s production. It is cultivated mainly in Central America, South America, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

The main cocoa producing countries

Cocoa, often nicknamed “black gold”, is mainly cultivated in West Africa, Latin America and Asia. 45 countries produce cocoa, and 8 of these countries are responsible for 90% of the world’s production, which is estimated to be 3 million tonnes a year and represents more than 4 billion dollars in sales figures. The 8 countries include the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria, Brazil, Cameroon, Ecuador and Malaysia. After sugar and coffee, cocoa occupies third place in the global market of raw food materials. In the absence of a specialised industry, few of these countries process cocoa beans into chocolate themselves. After drying, the beans are transported to chocolate-processing plants in other countries. The remaining 37 cocoa-producing countries represent only 10% of the world’s production. However, some of these countries distinguish themselves by the quality and the delicacy of their harvest.

Africa

Côte d’Ivoire – 39% Côte d’Ivoire, where the production soars to 1 to 1.5 million tonnes of cocoa beans per year, is world’s largest producer of cocoa. Its cultivation directly sustains 700,000 growers of cocoa. The cocoa network, under State control, is privatised. With the industrialisation of the country, a part of the harvest started to be transformed into intermediary cocoa products (such as pastes). Thanks to its sweetness, its slight acidity and its traditional aroma, cocoa from Côte d’Ivoire is widely used by manufacturers all over the world. Today, the achievements accomplished by the whole cocoa network have led to the production of high quality cocoa.
Ghana – 18% After a long time at the top of cocoa production, today Ghana is at second place. Most of the time, cocoa is cultivated on family farms of less than 10 hectares. The yield is poor on those farms where the trees have aged. Originally, cocoa was produced in the east of the country. From 1940, production moved to the Brong Ahafo and Ashanti regions. Since the middle of the 1980s, production has been situated in the west of the country. Ghana produces an average of 500,000 tonnes of cocoa beans per year. Cocoa remains an important part of the country’s economy.
Nigeria – 6% Nigeria produces approximately 200,000 tonnes of cocoa beans per year. The soil and the climate are favourable to cocoa cultivation, but there is a lack of land available for growing. Nigeria is in fourth place of world cocoa production. This position is due to the aging of the plantations, which are often more than 40 years old.
Cameroon – 5% Cocoa is Cameroon’s main export crop. Cocoa production has stabilised since the 1960s. The plantations, with an average size of 3 hectares, are cultivated by a maximum of 3 employees to obtain a yield of 300kg per hectare. Half of the plantations are more than 50 years old. The cocoa of Cameroon is especially sought after for the Trinitario variety. The country produces around 180,000 tonnes of cocoa beans per year.

Central and South America

Brazil – 5% Brazil is the fifth producer of cocoa in the world with an annual production of 100,000 tons. The State of Bahia is the largest region of production of the country and has highly organized cocoa farms and one of the most advanced research centres in the world.
Ecuador – 3% Currently the 7th largest producer of cocoa, after having been the largest during the second half of the 19th century until the beginning of the 20th, Ecuador produces 78,000 tonnes of cocoa per year. The average size of a cocoa plantation is around 5 hectares. A large part of Ecuadorian cocoa is cultivated by small farmers in the remote heights of the Esmeraldas. In 1997/1998, the plantations were considerably damaged by the cyclone El Niño.

Asia and Oceania

Indonesia – 13% Following a spectacular growth and expansion of the cocoa plantations in the last 20 years, Indonesia has become the world’s third largest producer of cocoa. It is one of the Earth’s oldest cocoa-growing regions, after the Spanish introduced the Criollo cocoa tree in 1560. Production was concentrated on the island of Java, until Sulawesi, Sumatra and Kalimantan islands also became large centres of production. The country produces approximately 430,000 tonnes of cocoa beans.
Malaysia – 1% Here, cocoa cultivation is recent. Production started to blossom in the 1970s. Malaysia boasts an important cocoa processing industry. Its products, cocoa butter and cocoa powder, are made predominantly for exportation. The cocoa tree is cultivated in both a communal and industrial manner.

Cocoa Harvest

Cocoa beans are harvested twice a year, in spring and autumn. Each harvest lasts several months and requires thorough and extensive work on the part of the growers. When the pod turns orange and makes a flat sound when tapped, it is ripe and harvest can begin. The first step is to gently twist the stems of pods that are accessible by hand, whereas others are cut with a knife attached to a long handle. The operation is very delicate as one must be careful not to damage the buds and flowers of the next harvest. This initial handling of the pod should be done with great care because it can affect product quality. The fruits are gathered and opened on site or transported to a processing centre where fermentation will take place.

Manufacture

Cracking the pod

This step consists of cracking open the cocoa pod to release the beans, which are wrapped in a white pulp.

Fermentation

The first treatment after the harvest, fermentation rids the beans of their sweet pulp, reduces the bitterness and astringency of the seed and develops the precursors of the aroma. It results in a swelling of the bean and the appearance of a characteristic brown colour. The beans are placed in containers made of wood, rattan (a type of cane) or cement, allowing the removal of the fermentation broth, and are covered with banana leaves. They are brewed and aerated regularly to ensure uniform fermentation.

Drying

After fermentation, the beans still contain 60% moisture, which needs to be reduced to 7% to ensure conservation and transportation under optimal conditions. This is when the drying phase comes in. The beans are placed in full sun on large drying surfaces with the possibility of quick coverage in the case of rain. During the drying phase, an average of two weeks, the beans are sorted briefly to remove residual pulp or large foreign objects.

Roasting

Timed and coordinated by the master roaster, roasting aims to develop the flavours of chocolate and to eliminate moisture. This procedure consists of roasting cocoa beans in a roasting machine at a temperature of 120° to 140° for 20-30 minutes.

Crushing

After cooling, the beans are transported to the crushing machine. The crusher reduces the beans into particles a few millimetres in size. The body of the bean is separated from its shell using a screen on which a stream of hot air is blown. These crushed beans with their skins shed are called nibs.

Grinding

The nibs are then finely ground between steel cylinders. Under the twin influence of grinding and heat, they turn into a liquid paste: cocoa mass or cocoa liquor. This paste consists of cocoa butter (natural cocoa fat) and a dry bean substance. The paste is then refined to reduce its grading from 50 microns to 17 microns. When making milk chocolate, milk and sugar are added at this stage.

Conching

Conching eliminates all traces of residual moisture, removes undesirable aromas, disposes of excess acidity and bitterness, allows the complete diffusion of cocoa butter in the cocoa paste, releases aromas and obtains a soft and velvety paste. Placed in large tanks called conches, the chocolate paste is maintained at a controlled temperature. This is one of the most important phases for the production of quality chocolate.

The original consumers of cocoa

The Olmec people (1500-400 BCE), the oldest in Mesoamerica, were probably the first to cultivate cacao and therefore consume cacau (the predecessor of the word «cocoa»). They passed the secrets of this foodstuff and its extraordinary virtues from generation to generation.

From the third century BCE, the Mayans, living in the region of Guatemala and the Yucatan integrated cocoa farming into their ancient rites. They built numerous cities dominated by pyramidal temples dedicated to their gods, including El Chuah, the god of merchants and cacao. Mastering Mathematics and Astronomy, they developed a calendar system (Sacred cycle of 260 days), as well as hieroglyphic writing.

Initially, the men ate the flesh of the pod and the tangy beans, enjoying their refreshing properties. The pods also provided them with butter and a fermented liquid used as vinegar.

It was the Mayans who discovered that the dried and ground cocoa bean could be mixed with water, creating a drink they called “chacau haa” (hot water).

The beans were used as offerings in tombs of high officials, but also during everyday life events: births, engagements, weddings. The beans were also used as currency to settle small household debts and became units of reference for accounting. This use stimulated trade relations across Central America.

Towards the end of the 9th century, the Mayan civilization disappeared.

From the 10th to 12th centuries, the Toltecs ruled Mexico and in their capital, Tula, lived their mythical king Quetzalcoatl, a priest and bearer of the legend of “the feathered serpent”.

At the end of the 12th century, the Aztecs went south to conquer new territories. After two centuries of migration, in 1300 they reached the Valley of Mexico, where they founded the lakeside city of Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City). The Aztecs continued using the beans as a currency to be payed as tax by the conquered people…

With one bean you could buy a tomato, With three, an avocado, with four, a pumpkin, With ten, a rabbit. For a slave or a nice turkey, you need a hundred beans.

The Mayan «cacau» became the Aztec «cacahuatl», and then xoxolate.

The beans, once dried in the sun, were roasted at a low heat in earthenware pots, and then removed from their shells. They were then crushed on a grinding stone, called metate, using a roller, the métlapilli.

To prepare the Xocoalt (chocolate), cocoa powder was diluted in water and mixed with a corn porridge called atolle. The wealthiest Aztecs added hot peppers, spices, vanilla, annatto or axiotl (red colouring), and sometimes honey and flowers (especially hueinacaztli or «ear flower»).

The Aztecs, like the Mayans eight centuries earlier, poured the brew from one container to another to cause foaming, embraced by the people as the “Spirit of cocoa”, considered to bring them closer to the Gods. The divine drink was served in decorated gourds called Xicalli or in turtle shells.

Chocolate was reserved for the elite – the clergy, nobility, warriors and great merchants – and played a crucial role in religious rituals, but also in ceremonies, festivals and banquets, where it was served after the meal.

In the court of the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma, more than fifty jars of frothy cocoa, presented in cups of fine gold, could be served by women in the course of one banquet. Up to 640 cups of cocoa were consumed in one day.

In addition, more than 960 million beans were stored in the imperial reserves.

The conquistadores

For the “Xocoalt” to become “chocolate”, it took for the “conquistadores” to conquer the continents of the New World in search of “a famous metal”. They would of course bring back gold, but they would also load their caravel boats with a hitherto unknown “brown gold” – cocoa.

The first European encounter with cocoa was in July 1502 during the fourth voyage of Christopher Columbus. Off the island of Guanaja, a boat approached the caravel, and the natives offered an assortment of products they were carrying, in particular, unfamiliar brown seeds and a curious drink. Nobody understood the value of this, and thus the first contact with cocoa was dismissed as inconsequential.

Seventeen years later, in 1519, Hernan Cortez landed in eastern Mexico on the coast of Tabasco with 700 men, 16 horses and 11 boats. He was welcomed as a god and allowed himself to be showered with gifts by the Aztecs, who believed that the prophecy of Quetzalcoatl had been fulfilled and the feathered serpent had returned.

In 1524, King Charles V received from Cortez a cargo of cane sugar and cocoa beans. The king saw it as a mere botanical curiosity although the Spanish conquerors had by that stage already become involved in cocoa farming and had even collected some benefits.

On his return to Spain in 1528, Cortez brought from Mexico beans and utensils for manufacturing chocolate, including the reel, which froths and degreases the brew before drinking. He recounted to Charles V that a cup of chocolate prepared by the Aztecs augmented the body’s resistance and decreased fatigue. The recipe was transformed by nuns, who added the famous sugar cane, and later cinnamon or vanilla.

The liquid chocolate drink became very popular with Spaniards and soon, the Spanish colonists tried to increase cocoa yields by expanding the areas of cocoa plantations using local manpower.

Spain was able to acquire a monopoly of trade in beans and take control of a part of the New World. From then on, people began to drink chocolate everywhere and at any time. Upper-class ladies would even bring it to church.

In 1680, the word “chocolate” appeared in the dictionary.

Chocolate and the Royal Court

The Court of Spain would be the first to serve chocolate to its members. Until the 18th century, the ancient “Drink of the Gods” remained the preserve of nobles and clerics. It would be the merchants and travellers who would assist in the discovery of chocolate across the whole of Europe. Even Pope Pius V declared that drinking chocolate does not break the fast and soon all of Europe became infatuated with this new beverage.

Cistercian monks working on chocolate (Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de Piedra, Nuévalos, Zaragoza, Spain)

In France, in 1615, it was during the wedding of Louis XIII to Anne of Austria, daughter of Philip III of Spain, that chocolate was introduced to the Court.

Until the 17th century, chocolate was only consumed in beverage form.

Around 1660, Maria Theresa of Austria, wife of Louis XIV, the new Queen of France was quick to share her passion for chocolate at the Court of Versailles. David Chaillou, originally from Toulouse, was the first chocolate manufacturer of France, and obtained from King Louis XIV the exclusive privilege of manufacturing, selling and issuing “chocolate” as drinks or lozenges, in his shop on Rue de l’Arbre Sec in Paris.

Meanwhile, in London, the first “Chocolate Houses” were being launched by a Frenchman who popularized chocolate in 1655 and immediately started stocking it behind the counters of bars and pubs. In 1674 the first eating chocolate, “Spanish chocolate puddings”, was born.

Chocolate makers became fashionable, and their presence was essential during chocolate degustation.

Chocolate soon became synonymous with refinement.

For example, Madame de Maintenon and Ninon de l’Enclos, who first offered chocolate to Voltaire, were chocolate’s devoted admirers, taking great pleasure from consuming as well as sharing chocolate.

When it was learned that chocolate might have aphrodisiac properties, the demand for cocoa intensified. In 1768, the Marquis de Sade encountered a few problems for having ordered some fancy chocolate candies poisoned with Spanish Fly!

Casanova believed that chocolate improved the prowess of love-making. Much more than champagne, chocolate inspired real passion. He devoured chocolate in all its forms.

The favourites of Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour and Madame Dubarry, were also fanatical about chocolate.

Chocolate thus became a sign of aristocracy but also a certain libertinism.

Marie Antoinette, known for her gourmet tastes, arrived at the court of Louis XVI accompanied by her personal chocolate maker, who each morning brought her chocolate elixir flavoured with amber and vanilla.

At the beginning of the 17th century, the regent Philippe d’Orleans enjoyed some chocolate every morning at sunrise while receiving his courtiers. Later, this would give rise to the French expression “to be received to chocolate”, meaning to receive a great favour from the Royal Court.

Later, after the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution saw the democratization of the chocolate, which began to be consumed in new ways.

The industrial era

Thanks to several revolutionary inventions, the production of chocolate was modernised and chocolate became widely available in the late 18th century.

In 1778, the English geologist Joseph Townsend had the idea to use hydraulic energy to grind the beans. This invention, approved by the Faculty of Medicine, was the first major step in mass chocolate manufacture. This machine, the brainchild of a visionary, would increase the volume of cocoa processed during the crushing and grinding stage.

In 1811, a French engineer named Poincelet would develop the first type of blender of cocoa beans. This principle would soon be adopted by all of Europe.

The steel industry helped produce malleable iron plates resistant to stretching. In 1825, Felix Gum developed the pendulum press that would revolutionize the manufacture of chocolate.

The casting and moulding industry flourished in the 19th century. In 1832, the first casts appeared, with the advent of mechanical grinder that gave chocolate a very fine texture. The casts were used to produce three-dimensional images in chocolate, and were first cast of silver or pewter, and then copper- or silver-plated and or made of stainless steel. These images reflect the imagination of engravers and metalworkers – anonymous for the most part – better known as the houses of Pinat, Cadot and especially Letang, who have transformed the way we look at chocolate today.

From these inventions followed a rapid chocolate evolution. In 1819, Cailler founded the first chocolate factory in Switzerland. He was closely followed by Suchard and Tobler Kholer.

But the greatest invention would probably be in 1828, when the Dutch pharmacist Van Houten invented the cocoa skimming press, and obtained cocoa powder, which was best suited for the preparation of drinking chocolate. He also managed to separate the various components of cocoa.

  • In 1842, the Englishman Charles Barry moved to Meulan and created the famous “Cocoa Barry” powder.
  • In 1847, the House of Fry in England’s moulded the first chocolate block.
  • In 1862, Victor Auguste Poulain moved to Blois.
  • In 1867, Henri Nestlé invented powdered milk.
  • In 1875, the Swiss Daniel Peter added Henri Nestlé powdered milk to chocolate.
  • In 1879, Rodolphe Lindt perfected the process of conching. This process helps to refine the flavour and gives chocolate that melt-in-the-mouth texture.

By the end of the 19th century, the chocolate industry was progressing well in all European countries. Then Weiss moved to Saint-Etienne in France in 1882, Valrhona to Tain l’Hermitage in 1924 and Michel Cluizel to Damville in 1948.

The acceleration of the industry during the 20th century would see the pioneers of Western countries become multinational groups.

The pioneers of chocolate

France

Sulpice Debauve and Antoine Gallais established the oldest chocolate factory in Paris in 1800. At the beginning of the 19th century, Jean-Antoine Brutus Menier, pharmacist’s assistant, bought a small chocolate factory, which became an empire thanks to his son Emile-Justin. Victor-Auguste Poulain established his chocolate factory in Blois in 1848.

Belgium

Jean Neuhaus founded Neuhaus-Perrin confectionary and chocolate factory in 1895. His grandson would later invent praline. The Jacques chocolate factory, founded in 1986 by Antoine Jacques, manufactured chocolate, confection and gingerbread. Jean Galler founded his business in 1909 near Brussels. Subsequently, in 1911, Léonidas Kestekides, confectioner, established the house of Léonidas, which currently has 1650 points of sale around the world. Callebaut set up shop near Liège after the First World War.

On the chocolate trail in Brussels

Germany

Stollwerck established the biggest chocolate factory in the world in Koln in 1860.

England

John Cadbury established a housing development for workers of his factory on Bull Street, Birmingham, in 1824. In 1842, Englishman Charles Barry created Barry powdered cocoa. In 1860, Joseph Fry put in place a method allowing cocoa butter to be reincorporated into cocoa mass. In 1920, John Mars launched the famous chocolate bar that carries his name.

Chocolate elevenses at the Langham
Chocolate elevenses at the Langham

Italy

In Genoa, the House of Romanegro rose again in 1780. In 1865, the house of Caffarel in Turin invented gianduja chocolate. Pietro Ferrero established the Ferrero society in Alba in the north of Italy in 1946.

Austria

In 1832, Franz Sacher created the most famous chocolate torte in Europe: the Sachertorte.

The Netherlands

Coenraad Van Houten created powdered chocolate in 1828.

Puccini Bomboni, Oudekerksplein 17, Amsterdam

North America

In 1883, Milton Hershey bought German machines he saw being exposed in Chicago. He created a chocolate bar that was launched in 1894 and founded his factory in 1903.

🙂

Clearly, little bears have to visit a few more places!

Choc-ing tales

In the early 19th century, chocolate makers, knowing children’s love of sweets, inserted pictures or images in their chocolate bars in order to secure the loyalty of their young customers.

These gifts were in the form of black and white photographs, stamp collections, key holders, cut-outs or educational pictures or stickers to stick in albums. The images were personalized by the major chocolate brands and were given to well-behaved children to decorate their books and notebooks.

Taking advantage of the industrial revolution, chocolate makers wanted to make chocolate a mass product with a large number of consumers. Thus, they started to put in place chocolate distributors, and to display advertising signs and cardboard versions of their products in order to creatively promote their brands. These were soon replaced by colourful enamel plaques, which were more durable and could be exhibited outside of stores.

In the early 20th century, advertising broadened its product range: lithographed boxes, paper blotters and notebook protectors commonly used by schoolkids.

One of the most famous advertisements was that of powdered chocolate praised by a convalescing Senegalese soldier, who exclaimed “It’s good, Banania!” And who could forget the ad of Bouisset Firmin in 1893, featuring a little girl writing “Beware of cheap imitations” on a wall, an image that will forever be tied to Menier. The second half of the 19th century was marked by great illustrators such as Mucha, Grebault and Carrey who contributed their talents to chocolate.

For example, in 1905, Cappiello designed a poster depicting a gambolling young foal, which has since become the emblem of the brand Poulain.

Coffee and chocolate

A sacred union

Biting into coffee beans while sipping hot chocolate, enjoying a piece of chocolate with your steaming hot coffee… A splash of strong coffee in your chocolate mousse… A few drops of coffee liqueur in a chocolate cream pie… A traditional coffee-flavoured tiramisu powdered with cocoa… In desserts, these sister flavours, with their seeds and pods in matching colours, have been united for a long time.

Chocolate or coffee? Coffee or chocolate? Both are prepared, melted and combined in a subtle blend of flavours. Actually, coffee and chocolate have a similar history and botanical make-up. There is no better way to speak of the association of coffee and chocolate than to evoke the care afforded to their respective preparations.

In sub-tropical climates, appropriate fermentation and special drying processes are vital. This is followed by very careful selection of the rarest grains and a slow roasting process that provides the ultimate touch and reveals the depth, quality and finesse of the aromas. The wonderful aromatic combination of chocolate and coffee can be found naturally in some vintages.

How wonderful to discover a hint of chocolate aroma in the woody notes of Indonesia’s Java, in the gentle aroma of a fine Yrgacheffe of Ethiopia, in the magnificent fragrances of Papua New Guinean Tagari? Bite into a chocolate and the cocoa fragrance, discerned over the dried fruit of Brazilian Mogiana or Sul do Minas, will be revealed in all its glory!

Wine and chocolate

The secrets of a complicated relationship

Many think that the combination of wine and chocolate is impossible, or is limited to port wine. Indeed, with age, the flavours of port transform and take notes of prunes and raisins, as well as cocoa, coffee and the aroma of roasting. This type of fortified or dessert wine would naturally attract the chocolate lover. But in France, for example, there are naturally sweet wines, similar to port, such as the Maury, which comes from the grenache vintage and is aged in glass cylinders.

And there is of course the Maydie, a Tannat wine developed from the liqueur of the Aydie estate in the Madiran territory of the south-west. In general, choose mature wines that contain roasting aromas: for example, the Maury, aged for 20 years, aged Banyuls (20-30 years) or aged Rivesaltes. Some chocolates also marry perfectly with certain wines. Indeed, the proliferation of chocolates flavoured with fresh fruits, herbs and spices has encouraged the creation of several new wine-chocolate combinations. A dark chocolate with candied ginger may, for example, go very well with an ice wine, while a dark chocolate with a little orange is the perfect accompaniment to an Italian raisin Muscat. Dark chocolate rich in cocoa (70%) will balance perfectly with an excellent Spanish Pedro Ximenez.

For those who prefer caramel chocolate, the addition of an aged, slightly caramelised Madeira could result in the perfect union. To fully appreciate the alliance of wine and chocolate, use wine glasses designed specifically for wines like Muscat, Pedro Ximenez or Ice wine.

Chocolate cocktails

Partner in crime

Dark chocolate liqueur, white or dark crème de cacao, chocolate ice-cream, chocolate chips, and even chocolate powder – all delicious ingredients to shake-up an original cocktail! Playing with its creaminess, aroma, colour and unique taste, bartenders, the inventors of cocktail recipes, blend chocolate into countless recipes for vodka-, whiskey-, coffee liqueur- or rum-based cocktails.

The most popular cocktail is the “Alexander” and its many variations. This cocktail was invented in 1910 in New York and was described for the first time in Hugo Ensslin’s book of recipes in 1915: gin, white crème de cacao and cream. Many books about cocktails tell elaborate stories about the origins of the “Alexander,” but the truth is that the creator, the place and the context remain a mystery. The “Brandy Alexander”, meanwhile, has become very popular since its invention 28 February 1922 in London, at the wedding of Princess Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary and Earl Henry George Charles Lascelles. Based on the “Alexander”, gin is replaced by Cognac and dark crème de cacao brown replaces its white counterpart.

The recipe became very popular in underground bars during prohibition. Later, in 1950, three authors of several books on cocktails renamed the Brandy Alexander just Alexandra, in a tribute to the princess whose wedding gave rise to the cocktail. The Alexandra – Cognac, dark crème de cacao and cream, was the favourite drink of John Lennon, Ringo Starr and Harry Nilsson. John Lennon drank it like a milkshake…

For the Amaretto Alexander, amaretto, cream and chocolate melted in hot milk were shaken, not stirred! Chocolate punch combined whipped cream, coffee liqueur, sugar, instant coffee and chocolate powder with an exotic touch of cinnamon.

  • Chocolate Soldier: Crème de cacao liqueur, dry vermouth, orange bitters and brandy.
  • Abyssinia : Dark crème de cacao, cognac, grapefruit juice.
    Klimt Special: Champagne, Dark Crème de cacao, rum, vodka, Angostura bitters.
  • Chocolate Flip: Crème de cacao liqueur, port, egg yolk, sugar and cinnamon.
  • ASAP: White crème de cacao, mandarin vodka, whipped dairy cream.
  • Deaf Knees: Chocolate cream, Grand Marnier, crème de menthe.
    Chocolate Vice: Dark rum, whiskey (bourbon), Dark crème de cacao, chocolate milk, whipped cream.
  • Chocolate Monk: Kahlua (coffee liqueur), Bailey’s Irish Cream (cream of whiskey), Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur).
    Absolute Trappy Tea: Dark crème de cacao, mandarin vodka, tea, lemon juice.
  • Ninja: Dark crème de cacao, Frangelico, Midori (melon liqueur).
    Chocolate Martini: Dark chocolate liqueur, dark crème de cacao, vodka, light cream.
  • Milky Way Martini: Dark chocolate liqueur, Baileys Irish Cream, vanilla vodka.
  • Little Pampering: White chocolate liqueur, gin, amaretto, cherry cream.
  • Dirty Banana: Dark rum, bourbon, dark crème de cacao, chocolate milk and whipped cream.
  • German Chocolate Cake: Malibu, white crème de cacao, Frangelico, light dairy cream.
  • Golden Cadillac: White crème de cacao, Galliano (vanilla liqueur), light dairy cream.
  • Red Lady: White chocolate liqueur, strawberry liqueur, brandy, condensed milk.
  • Cherry Lady: White chocolate liqueur, cherry liqueur, brandy, condensed milk 🙂

We’ll be busy! 🙂

Savoury chocolate

A gourmet alliance

The combination of chocolate in savoury dishes is a sumptuous example of French palates starting to appreciate sweet and savoury combinations.

However, this tendency is not new in French gastronomy. For a long time, chefs have added chocolate to their savoury dishes. For example, a square of chocolate added to Grand Veneur game sauce gives it a silky feel, whereas coq au vin with a few squares of chocolate added at the very end becomes smoother and richer. It’s the little secret of the Cordons Bleus.

Constantly looking for new and exotic flavours, French chefs have introduced cocoa as the new spice to season meats, poultry, seafood and cheeses…

Chocolate and health

An invigorating and stimulating natural anti-depressant Without doubt, chocolate is a pleasure food. A 100-gram block of chocolate contains around 500 calories. Chocolate contains three types of organic materials – carbohydrates, lipids and proteins – as well as several minerals: potassium, magnesium and phosphorus in large quantities, calcium, iron and sodium in small quantities. In addition to the many vitamins it contains (A1, B1, B2 …), the analysis of a chocolate bar reveals the presence of several substances with tonic, stimulant, and anti-depressant properties:

  • Theobromine, which stimulates the nervous system and facilitates muscular exertion
  • Caffeine, which increases resistance to fatigue
  • Phenylethylamine, which exhibits psychostimulant properties
  • Serotonin, which can compensate the loss of certain nerve cells in depression
  • Tyramine

The percentage of protein remains relatively constant regardless of the variety of chocolate (between 7 and 10%). By contrast, the proportions of carbohydrate and fat change depending on chocolate type. A chocolate bar contains more carbohydrate than melting chocolate (64% versus 52%) and, conversely, less fat (24% versus 38%). Among all the food we consume, chocolate is also the richest in polyphenols. The levels are 500 and 840 mg/100 g in milk and dark chocolate respectively. About 13% of polyphenols in our diet come from chocolate. Many researchers now believe that polyphenols have beneficial effects on health by reducing the oxidative stress that our tissues are constantly subjected to, thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic diseases.

Time for a chocolate dinner 🙂

It’s Chocolate Week in London.

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