Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chocolate Class - Fermentation and History

Theo Chocolate

First post on this subject.

CHOC 103 – Chocolate for Nerds
In the third class we learned about the fermentation of chocolate. Like wine and coffee, chocolate is a fermented product – as with a long list of many tasty foods. The fermentation happens as soon as the cacao pod is picked from the tree and sometimes while the pod is still on the tree. Since the process is immediate, fermentation is always done near to where the cacao pods are harvested. During fermentation sugar goes to ethanol and then to lactic acid and then to acetic acid. We looked at one study that measured the smorgsborg of alcohols and acids produced during the process. During fermentation, the temperature can reach as high as 46° C (115° F). Finally, we did a “cut test” where we sliced open some fermented beans and looked at the insides and learned to judge whether the fermentation had not gone long enough (purplish color) or about about right (brown).

For part of the class talked about the three cacao types: criollo, trinitario, forastero. Trinitario (originating from Trinidad) is a cross between criollo and forastero. However, today any sample of a chocolate bean (and we looked at some genetic studies) is are rarely a pure types as hybrids abound. So be careful of bars touting a pure cacao type.

CHOC 201 - History of Chocolate
In the fourth class we traced the history of chocolate from the Olmecs (1400 – 400 BCE) to the Mayans (250 – 900) to the Aztecs (1325 – 1521) and into 17th century England. Chocolate originated in Central America and although it was introduced to Europe by Columbus (1451-1506) it was Cortés (1485-1547) who was responsible for sending back some of the first recipes on how to use it. We sampled a recreation of a Mayan/Aztec chocolate drink - chocolate, honey, corn meal, and spices – specially created for the class.


In 17th England John Chamberlain published a book The Manner of Making of Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate (1685). In this book there are recipes for mixing chocolate with various different ingredients to improve specific ailments and balance out the four humours. We sampled two liquid chocolate concoctions, one with endive water mean to cure bile and melancholy and another with rhubarb water meant to cure obstructions (constipation) and cold liver.

1 comment:

  1. i'm not crazy about theo chcolate, but i do like "seattle chocolate" which i just tried recently and keep buying different flavors. very good chocolate.

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