Origins of Chocolate

Chocolate comes from cocoa plants which are found in the tropics. The young cocoa plant needs to be “mothered.” The young plants are grown under shady trees to protect them from the hot sun. The plants are fragile and need to be protected from diseases.

The cocoa plant can grow up to sixty feet but for easier harvesting, the trees are pruned to a more manageable size. The cocoa plant only starts to bear fruit after two years and the flowers bloom continuously after that. The fruits are found at the trunk of the tree and it takes around four to six months for the fruit to ripen.

There are, of course, a few varieties of cocoa trees. For some, the Criollo is considered a finer variety, while the Forastero, the more common . In between, there is the hybrid type. The cocoa fruit or pods are oval in shape and may be green, yellow, orange, brown, and even purple in color. When it ripens, the color becomes dark brown or dark purple.

From there, the pod is sliced open expertly and inside the pod is a sweet pulp. This pulp is white or yellowish in color and can be eaten. After taking away the pulp, the beans of cocoa can be found. The beans are actually the seed of the cocoa plant. It is brown in color but bitter in taste and no one really likes to eat it as it is. The pulp and the beans are subsequently fermented and dried. The cocoa aroma scent becomes strong during this stage. The dried beans are then ready for processing into chocolates.

The Aztecs in South America roasted the beans and then ground them. They offered a mixture of cocoa paste mixed with water, maize and chillies to their warriors and nobles. It was a nutritious drink. They had a name “xocoatl”, pronounced as “shoco-latle” for this drink, which the Spanish later brought back to Europe. Shoco-latle became chocolate. Chocolate became popular after sugar was added into the drink.

As you can see, this is a natural produce. It took a little bit of creativity and ingenuity to take something bitter and turn it into something so deliciously sweet.

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