Category Archives: Just Having Fun

Bear Necessities

Is watching The Jungle Book and having elevenses 🙂 The original animated film turns fifty today!

The Jungle Book, based on the Mowgli stories by Rudyard Kipling, was the last cartoon feature personally overseen by Walt Disney, and its release one year after his death marked the start of a period of creative wandering for the company. Like a lot of the company’s 1960s and ’70s output, it was relaxed to a fault — a succession of beautifully rendered, mostly jokey set-pieces strung together by memorable songs, including The Bare Necessities, I Wanna Be Like You and the anaconda’s seduction song Trust in Me — but it still made a deep impression on the ’60s and ’70s kids.

Published in 1894, Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book proved to be a hit with young and old alike. The Jungle Book‘s stories of a human boy named Mowgli raised by animals in the wild made for riveting reading. In these tales, the animals proved to be both Mowgli’s allies and adversaries. Baloo the bear, Bagheera the panther and Shere Khan the tiger have all become famous characters in children’s literature. They even appeared in Kipling’s sequel, The Second Jungle Book, which debuted in 1895.

Rudyard Kipling

Kipling wrote The Jungle Book while living in the United States. Kipling had been good friends with American writer and editor Wolcott Balestier, and he ended up marrying Wolcott’s sister Caroline “Carrie” Balestier, in January 1892. The couple bought land from one of her other brothers, Beatty Balestier, in Vermont where they built their dream home, called The Naulahka. Naulakha means “jewel beyond price” in Hindi, according to the home’s website. The name is also shared with a book Kipling worked on with Wolcott Balestier.

Becoming a father inspired Kipling to write for children. He had started The Jungle Book around the time he and his wife were expecting their first child together. Daughter Josephine was born in 1892. According to BBC News, he gave a special copy of The Jungle Book to his daughter, in which he wrote: “This book belongs to Josephine Kipling for whom it was written by her father, May 1894.” The Kipling family soon grew to include daughter Elsie, born in 1895, and later son John in 1897. Sadly, Josephine only lived to be six years old. Both she and her father came down with pneumonia in 1899, and she ended up succumbing to the illness. Her death left Kipling heartbroken, and he never fully recovered from this tremendous loss.

Kipling never visited the jungle mentioned in The Jungle Book. Despite spending years in India, he chose to set his stories in the Seonee jungle (now known as Seoni), an area he’d never visited. Kipling instead drew from the experiences of others. According to Angus Wilson’s The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Works, Kipling saw photographs of this jungle taken by his friends, Aleck and Edmonia “Ted” Hill, and listened to their experiences there. He also likely found inspiration from the works of Robert Armitage Sterndale, including Mammalia of India, according to Martin Seymour-Smith’s Rudyard Kipling: A Biography. Others point to Sterndale’s 1877 book Seonee: Or, Camp Life on the Satpura Range, as an important influence on Kipling’s tales.

An illustration from The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.

Another significant source was likely to be Kipling’s own father, John Lockwood Kipling. The elder Kipling was an illustrator, museum curator and art teacher. He produced Beast and Man in India: A Popular Sketch of Indian Animals in Their Relations with the People, which was published in 1891. John Lockwood Kipling also provided the images for some of his son’s works, including The Jungle Book and the 1901 novel Kim.

The Law of the Jungle
(From The Jungle Book)
by Rudyard Kipling

Now this is the Law of the Jungle —
as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper,
but the Wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk
the Law runneth forward and back —
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf,
and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

Wash daily from nose-tip to tail-tip;
drink deeply, but never too deep;
And remember the night is for hunting,
and forget not the day is for sleep.

The Jackal may follow the Tiger,
but, Cub, when thy whiskers are grown,
Remember the Wolf is a Hunter —
go forth and get food of thine own.

Keep peace withe Lords of the Jungle —
the Tiger, the Panther, and Bear.
And trouble not Hathi the Silent,
and mock not the Boar in his lair.

When Pack meets with Pack in the Jungle,
and neither will go from the trail,
Lie down till the leaders have spoken —
it may be fair words shall prevail.

When ye fight with a Wolf of the Pack,
ye must fight him alone and afar,
Lest others take part in the quarrel,
and the Pack be diminished by war.

The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge,
and where he has made him his home,
Not even the Head Wolf may enter,
not even the Council may come.

The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge,
but where he has digged it too plain,
The Council shall send him a message,
and so he shall change it again.

If ye kill before midnight, be silent,
and wake not the woods with your bay,
Lest ye frighten the deer from the crop,
and your brothers go empty away.

Ye may kill for yourselves, and your mates,
and your cubs as they need, and ye can;
But kill not for pleasure of killing,
and seven times never kill Man!

If ye plunder his Kill from a weaker,
devour not all in thy pride;
Pack-Right is the right of the meanest;
so leave him the head and the hide.

The Kill of the Pack is the meat of the Pack.
Ye must eat where it lies;
And no one may carry away of that meat to his lair,
or he dies.

The Kill of the Wolf is the meat of the Wolf.
He may do what he will;
But, till he has given permission,
the Pack may not eat of that Kill.

Cub-Right is the right of the Yearling.
From all of his Pack he may claim
Full-gorge when the killer has eaten;
and none may refuse him the same.

Lair-Right is the right of the Mother.
From all of her year she may claim
One haunch of each kill for her litter,
and none may deny her the same.

Cave-Right is the right of the Father —
to hunt by himself for his own:
He is freed of all calls to the Pack;
he is judged by the Council alone.

Because of his age and his cunning,
because of his gripe and his paw,
In all that the Law leaveth open,
the word of your Head Wolf is Law.

Now these are the Laws of the Jungle,
and many and mighty are they;
But the head and the hoof of the Law
and the haunch and the hump is — Obey!

Rudyard Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907, “in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author”. Nobel prizes had been established in 1901 and Kipling was the first English-language recipient. Rudyard Kipling was 42 years old when he was awarded the prize, and he remains the youngest Literature Laureate to date.

The Jungle Book has inspired countless adaptations. The first live action film debuted in 1942, but the best-known movie version up until now was the 1967 animated Disney tale. Disney took a lot of license with the original story and transformed it into a feel-good family musical. One of its songs, The Bare Necessities, credited to Terry Gilkyson, was nominated for an Academy Award. An interesting mix of actors lent their voices to the project: Sebastian Cabot played Bagheera; Louis Prima played King Louie of the apes and Phil Harris played Baloo. The voice of Mowgli, however, came from a rookie performer. Bruce Reitherman, the son of the film’s director Wolfgang Reitherman, played the endearing “man cub” in the film. He told the Express newspaper that “The voice of Mowgli required something special, in the sense that he had to be absolutely ordinary. It had to feel like a really average kid.”

The 1967 animated adaptation was filmed at a declared cost of $4 million over a 42-month period. Full directorial credit is given to Wolfgang Reitherman, a 35-year Disney vet. Reitherman was one of several Jungle hands who worked on Disney’s first animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released thirty years earlier!

Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman wrote five other songs, best of which is ‘Wanna Be Like You’, sung in free-wheeling fashion by Louis Prima, vocalizing King Louie.

Little Puffles and Honey met Baloo and Louie at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park in Orlando 🙂

The Name of the Game

Is play!

ABBA! Europe! Roxette! Ace of Base! Neneh Cherry! Robyn! Avicii! Zara Larsson!

Sweden is the home country of all these popular musicians and bands. Also popular songs from stars like Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Backstreet Boys and Celine Dion, have been written and produced by Swedes. Songwriters and producers Max Martin (Karl Martin Sandberg) and Denniz Pop (Dag Krister Volle) have penned catchy pop tunes for Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Pink, Usher, Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync and even Bon Jovi. Producer Shellback has topped Billboard’s 2012 chart as the #1 producer and has written for Maroon 5. RedOne (Nadir Khayat) has written for Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga (Just Dance, Poker Face, Love Game, Bad Romance and Alejandro), Pitbull, and One Direction.

Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeuwas, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad – ABBA

ABBA is the most famous of them all. It’s a phenomenon no one would have predicted in 1982, when the band seemed to be heading for oblivion.

The little dancing queens discovered ABBA Downstairs @ The Maj.

Chiquitita and Fernando

Chiquitita and Fernando are “Sweden’s hottest musical export” along with their friends, ABBA, Europe, Roxette and Ace of Base. They constantly tour world-wide. How fortunate we were to be able to see them in the intimacy of the cabaret room Downstairs @ The Maj.

Chiquitita and Fernando

Chiquitita and Fernando were fabulously funny. Fernando impeccable at the piano and providing backing vocals for the inimitable Chiquitita. He was the perfect foil to her theatrical gestures and absolutely accurate 80’s dance moves.

Chiquitita and Fernando

Thirty-five years after ABBA hung up their white cowboy boots and pink hotpants and retired, their songs are more popular than ever.
Every year about three million ABBA CDs are sold, and the stage musical based on their songs, Mamma Mia!, has been a smash hit worldwide. This year it is returning to Australia for its third run.

Mamma Mia! the musical opened in London’s West End on April 6, 1999 – 25 years to the day after Waterloo had triumphed at Eurovision. It debuted in Australia in June 2001, playing for four years. We saw it in 2003. It was back for the 10th anniversary tour in 2009 and it’s back again later this year through to 2018. Time to see it again. Glitter is little Honey and little Isabelle’s favourite colour 🙂

Sweden’s victors after their success in the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton with “Waterloo”, sung by the two girls in the pop group ABBA – Agnetha Faltskog (Anna), second from left, and Annifrid Lyngstad (Frida).
The other group members, who composed the song, are Bjorn Ulvaeus, left and Benny Andersson, secong right. Centre is Stig Andersson, who wrote the lyric, and on right, in Napoleon costume, is musical director Sven-Olof Walldoff.

It was 1974 when ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest at the Brighton Dome with Waterloo. The song became a huge international hit and was the starting point of their legendary international career. Over 30 years after it won, Waterloo was voted the best Eurovision Song Contest song ever at the 50-year anniversary show Congratulations, in Copenhagen in autumn 2005.

Despite the huge success of Waterloo, ABBA took some time to establish themselves as chart fixtures. Follow-up singles Honey Honey and I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do had little success, but SOS re-established them in the charts in late 1975. By the end of 1976, the band had achieved superstardom with hit singles Fernando, Money Money Money and Dancing Queen.

In 1977, ABBA undertook their second concert tour, in Europe and Australia. Beginning on January 28 in Oslo (Norway) through March 12, 1977 (Perth, Australia), it was the first time the Scandinavian quartet performed their hits to massive audiences outside Europe. The Australian leg was to be the most memorable, with fan-frenzy scenes later immortalized in Lasse Hallström’s ABBA: The Movie, released in 1977.

The band take a bow after their final show in Perth, Australia, in March 1977. Photograh: Polar Music International

Unlike some international acts, ABBA did not bring a stripped-down version of their show to Australia to save on costs. It was the first of the big stadium tours that would follow. They had the latest sound system with them, amazing lighting, an incredible inflatable roof that went over the stage (which helped with the rain during the Sydney concert) and hydraulics on the stage so everything could go up and down. It was the beginning of what concerts have become now. And they had a 100-plus entourage with them.

All this came at a price — $9 per ticket! That apparently was a lot in 1977. Still, $9 in 1977 is about $36 today, and nowhere near the hundreds of dollars we pay for concert tickets these days.

Despite the $9 ticket price!!, tickets were sold out and as the tour dates could not be extended, the band agreed to play two shows in one day in Melbourne and (twice) in Perth!

Part of the 100 plus entourage on the Australian tour was a film crew making ABBA the Movie, featuring live footage, mostly filmed in Perth, the only indoor leg of the tour. Director Lasse Hallström would later admit he wrote the storyline on the plane to Australia, based around a journalist trying to interview the band on the Australian tour. Unfortunately that journalist was played by the now disgraced Robert Hughes, who’d later find fame in Hey Dad and infamy and jail time for sexual offences against children. So the movie will not appear on TV in Australia anymore. ABBA the Movie was enormous in Europe when it was released in late 1977. I remember seeing it at the cinema 🙂

In 1982, ABBA split up, but as it turned out, the music was far from over. ABBA have sold more than 370 million records – mostly after they split up. More than 60 million people worldwide have seen Mamma Mia! the musical which is still going strong in London after 18 years.

ABBA has a major revival in Australia in 1994 thanks to the dramedy Muriel’s Wedding. The writer and director of Muriel’s Wedding, P.J. Hogan, scored major music points when he won the rights to use the Swedish band’s catalog for his 1994 film. Twenty-three years later, one of Muriel’s most memorable scenes remains the whimsically digressive talent show dance sequence, wherein new gal pals and ABBA superfans Muriel (Toni Collette) and Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths) flip the finger to the mean girls who tormented them and perform a delightful choreographed rendition of the group’s Waterloo.

While ABBA had achieved huge commercial success from the late 1970s to the dawn of the 1980s, by the end of 1982 ABBA had essentially dissolved, along with their mainstream cool. Ten years later, P.J. Hogan approached songwriting duo Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus to ask for film rights, thinking it’d be an easy pitch. They said no — and not just because Hogan, armed with absolutely zero budget for music rights, had asked to use the songs for free.

“They said no because they’d had a bad experience with another filmmaker who had promised not to make fun of them or their music,” Hogan recalls, citing a Swedish filmmaker who had been granted permission to use Dancing Queen with the proviso that he would treat the song — their biggest hit — with respect. Then they saw the movie and found out they’d been lied to.

In the fallout, the duo issued a blanket “no” to filmmakers. Hogan was persistent, adamant that Muriel’s Wedding could not be made without their music. His final plan: To fly to Stockholm and smoke them out. “I had their address, so I was going to camp outside their offices until they saw me and make my case in person that I’m not that filmmaker and they would be proud of the movie. It’s a hymn to ABBA! Muriel loves ABBA, and I love ABBA. So my producer, being very smart, bought the ticket but sent a photocopy of it to Benny and Bjorn. And the day before I was going to get on the flight, they said, ‘Stop him, you’ve got the rights.’ …They did not want this crazy person hanging outside their office!”

Hogan laughs about his audacious plan in hindsight, but it worked. “They gave me the rights for nothing. Dancing Queen, Fernando, Mamma Mia!, Waterloo — the entire songs, for nothing! And they gave us original mix tapes, with vocals split off from the instrumentals,” Hogan says. “All they asked for were points in the movie, and because none of us thought we were going to make any money, we were happy to give them. And that ended up being a very smart move.”

The happy ending: ABBA’s 1992 compilation album Gold: Greatest Hits (we have 🙂 ) was gaining traction during Hogan’s pitch, and it would eventually become the band’s highest-selling album. In 1994, the bump from Muriel’s Wedding — along with another Aussie ode to ABBA, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, that same year — would revive interest in the group, particularly in the U.S. where Muriel’s Wedding became a cult hit. Hogan beams about the effect. “I think it helped ABBA, and the film would not be Muriel’s Wedding without them. They now had the respect they deserve, and they’d always had trouble in the U.S. market,” he maintains. “Of course, Mamma Mia! ended all of that.”

In a pre-Mamma Mia! world, Muriel’s Wedding offered one of the best uses of ABBA songs with the Waterloo dance. Muriel and Rhonda’s sequence — choreographed by Aussie legend John “Cha Cha” O’Connell — is a GIF-able burst of fun and fashion, the kind of narrative indulgence that some might say would never make the final cut today. It remains one of Hogan’s, Collette’s and Griffiths’ favorite scenes. “I remember that white jumpsuit!” laughs Collette. “I looked like a little dumpling. It was like all jazz hands and Mardi Gras. It was musical theatre in a dramedy, and it was the most elated Muriel had ever been in her life. It was such a jubilant moment.”

Collette and Griffiths rehearsed the Waterloo dance sequence for weeks and shot it in ten hours, but they still managed to find moments of improvisation. One in particular stands out to both Griffiths and Hogan. “My greatest work in Muriel’s Wedding is when I stand in front of Toni and she moves my hair to find the camera,” jokes Griffiths. Hogan explains, “We hadn’t rehearsed with wigs on, and Toni realized that Rachel’s big curly Frida wig was completely blocking her face, so Toni reaches over, moves the hair, and stares straight into the camera. That just made me laugh out loud on set, and that’s in the film. That happened in the moment, and I’m just thankful Rachel didn’t break up when it was happening.”

Then came Mamma Mia! the film adaptation of the ‘jukebox’ musical based on ABBA’s back catalogue of 22 songs, including Dancing Queen, Take A Chance On Me and The Winner Takes It All.

Benny Andersson, Agnetha Fältskog, Frida Reuss and Björn Ulvaeuwas at the premiere of Mamma Mia! in Stockholm, Sweden
Meryl Streep, Agneta Fältskog, Frida Reuss and Christine Baranski at the premiere of Mamma Mia! in Stockholm, Sweden
Pierce Brosnan and Anni-Frid Lyngstad

With ABBA songs and a star-studded cast, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the film was a hit. Oscar winner Meryl Streep headed the cast playing single mother Donna Sheridan. Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård play the three potential fathers of Donna’s daughter Sophie, played by Amanda Seyfried. Add Julie Walters and Christine Baranski and what more do you need? Certainly not Nicole Kidman who was considered as the lead for the film before Meryl Streep sent a hand-written letter to Björn Ulvaeuwas and Benny Andersson saying how much she had enjoyed Mammia Mia! the musical. They realised that was the age group they should be casting from. And Meryl Streep said yes straight away and that was the ‘open sesame’ for everything.

Mamma Mia! received mixed reviews but made $609.8 million at the box office, from just a $52 million budget. Next year is the tenth year anniversary of the film – can you believe that?!? Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! isn’t just a line from one of ABBA’s hit songs, it’s also going to be the name of the hotly anticipated sequel of the original musical movie.

The sequel, which is already in production, unites many of the first movie’s stars, including Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Dominic Cooper, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters and Stellan Skarsgard. This time around there are also a wealth of names aboard to play various characters’ younger selves. Lily James is Young Donna, while Hugh Skinner is Firth’s Young Harry, Jeremy Irvine is Brosnan’s Young Sam, Jessica Keenan Wynn is Baranski’s Young Tanya, Alexa Davies is Walters’ Young Rosie, and Josh Dylan is Skarsgard’s Young Bill.

And, just like the first movie, original members of ABBA Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus have signed on to provide music and lyrics and oversee everything as executive producers.

So why have Abba’s songs developed a massive afterlife that puts them among pop’s all-time greats? In a nutshell, the chirpy, catchy surface sound draws you in, and once you’re in you feel secure because the iron grip of the song’s structure leads you by the hand.

After ABBA’s initial popularity, the next Swedish mega-hit was Europe’s The Final Countdown, released in 1986.

Another Swedish pop group, Roxette, formed in 1986, and achieved international fame in the late 1980s, when they released their breakthrough album Look Sharp!. Their third album Joyride, which was released in 1991, became just as successful as its predecessor.

Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle – Roxette

Last year, after 30 years, Swedish pop rock duo Roxette have announced the joyride is over, citing the health of singer Marie Fredriksson 😦

Ace of Base released The Sign, the fourth single off their multiplatinum debut album in October 1993. The song has become the band’s most enduring legacy, and it remains compelling evidence that Swedish people are great at writing catchy pop songs.

From ABBA to Icona Pop, from Roxette to Robyn, Sweden’s reputation for pop superiority has spanned decades, and it continues today. But the arrival of Ace of Base helped usher in the Swedish Music Miracle, a period of time from about 1990 to 2003 when Sweden’s musical exports were at their economic peak. A 1999 report from Sweden’s Ministry of Finance found that royalty payments to Sweden from foreign markets were twice the U.S. per capita figure. Today, according to other reports, Sweden is the third-largest music exporter in the world behind the U.S. and the UK. Sweden is the world’s leading exporter of music, in relation to GDP. In 2003, Swedish music exports began to decline, but behind the scenes, the country’s pop talent has remained active. In May of 2012, half of the top 10 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 were written or produced by Swedes.

Interest in music is wide-spread in Sweden. Access to instruments and classes are provided through music schools run by various local municipalities so many children try their hands at different types of instruments to finally find which ones they’re naturally good at.

For those who can carry a tune, many start out in choirs. According to Sveriges Körförbund (the Swedish choir union), roughly 600,000 Swedes sing in choirs, and the union represents about 500 choirs. While these numbers may not seem staggering at first glance, they actually make Sweden the country with the highest number of choirs per capita in the entire world. Sweden’s strong choral tradition comes from a deep-seated culture of singing folk songs, especially around Midsummer and major festivities like Christmas.

Since 1997, the Swedish government has awarded its Music Export Prize in recognition of international musical achievements by Swedes. Past honorees have included Swedish House Mafia, Robyn, members of ABBA, The Hives, The Cardigans, Max Martin and Roxette.

Many Swedish artists take full control of their creative process – from songwriting to owning their own labels and marketing themselves independently – and pop rock sensation Robyn is just one example. She founded Konichiwa Records in 2005 to cover all aspects of her music career such as media management, recording contracts, and her creative process.

Robyn

Sweden’s annual Melodifestivalen is the most watched TV programme in Sweden, with roughly 4 million viewers out of almost 10 million residents unleashing their inner music critic while voting. More importantly, the winner of Melodifestivalen goes on to represent Sweden in the annual Eurovision Song Contest – the world’s most watched non-sporting event. Sweden has won the Eurovision Song contest six times 1974 (Waterloo, ABBA), 1984 (Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley, Herrey’s), 1991 (Fångad av en stormvind, Carola), 1999 (Take Me to Your Heaven, Charlotte Nilsson), 2012 (Euphoria, Loreen) and 2015 (Heroes, Måns Zelmerlöw).

Bra jobbat, Sverige! Well done, Sweden! Sweden has also hosted the Eurovision Song Contest six times.

Richard and Per Herrey of Herreys (1984), Carola Häggkvist (1991), Måns Zelmerlöw (2015), Loreen (2012) and Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA (1974)
© Frankie Fouganthin

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.

Elevenses with Princess Cake

It’s Princess Cake week and we are celebrating Amy’s engagement!

Amy’s engagement ring

Swedes love this cake so much, there is a whole week devoted to it. The fourth week in September is known as the week of the Prinsesstårta. During this week in Sweden, sales of Princess Cakes more than double – and all cakes are decorated with a little crown to celebrate.

Can we have cake too?

You have to wear a tiara!

🙂

Amy loves being a princess 🙂

Yummy!

We’ll go to Vete-Katten in Stockholm, it’s the best place for a Swedish fika experience!

Princess Cake at Vete-Katten, Stockholm