I have a confession to make. I love chocolate. Its a weakness.
If there is chocolate in the house, there are times when I just can’t resist.
I know I’m not alone in this so if you are a chocoholic too, you have come to the right place, read on.
Instead of writing off chocolate as naughty I decided to learn a bit more and see if I could use it for good. This led to a better understanding about the types of chocolate and I can now cheat with a little less guilt.
Who should we thank for chocolate?
There was a time when chocolate was revered. It was traded as a currency and was worth more than gold.
Chocolate as we know it is derived from the seed of the cacao tree, native to South America.
Various South American cultures and civilisations recognised its importance early on and incorporated it as part of their diet. It was mainly exclusive and used primarily for religious purposes. It was seen to be the food of the gods.
But that’s what modern history tells us. For all we know, the South American civilisations had discovered the health benefits of chocolate long before we did, and consumed it for it’s function rather than exclusivity.
They made chocolate beverages by grinding the cacao bean and combining it with seeds then mixing it with water.
So how did chocolate become a worldwide phenomenon? The Spanish. When the Spanish invaded and conquered the new world they brought back many of it’s delicacies to Europe.
Instead of consuming it as part of their diet like the South Americans, chocolate for the Europeans became a treat (it was rare after all) and reserved for sweets and deserts.
After numerous experimenting and refinement, the chocolate beverage was able to be solidified. Eventually, aided by industrialisation and mass production, it could be produced on a large scale cheaply and could be shared by all.
If we think of chocolate today, most of us will associate that to the milk chocolate bar (thanks Mr. Cadbury).
But really it can be broken down into three main types; white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate.
The chocolate as we know today has developed as a result of centuries of research and development to make it taste better. Function seemed to have been forgotten and in our desire to make chocolate taste better, we have actually lost a lot of it’s benefits.
To get a chocolate bar the cacao has to be processed such that it can be solidified and melt in your hands. Milk and sugar is added to aid in this process and to eliminate the natural bitter taste. Pure cacao is an acquired taste and is actually quite bitter.
So we know that the chocolate we get today is a super processed version of the cacao bean, but is there a difference between white, milk and dark chocolate?
Well when the cacao seed is processed (by the way, when I say cacao I mean cocoa, caco, or however you want to call it. The seed of the cacao tree.), we get cacao liquor.
This liquor can then be further separated into cacao butter and the cacao powder (or you can say chocolate butter and powder or cocoa butter and powder).
The butter is basically the vegetable fats but the powder still maintains the nutrients.
The different chocolate types that we know are essentially different manipulations of this cacao liquor, butter,
Dark chocolate has the highest amount of cacao. There are various types and it is distinguished by a percentage. 100% is basically pure cacao liquor and has no added milk or sugar.It has the strongest and most bitter flavour.
As the percentage lowers more milk and sugar are added.
Milk chocolate has a much smaller quantity of cacao liquor and much more milk and sugar.
I used to love white chocolate when I was younger, but white chocolate isn’t really chocolate. It is a combination of the cacao butter (the fats) with milk and sugar. It has none of the cacao powder (or it’s nutrients).
Why is chocolate good anyway?
Chocolate, in it’s purest form is loaded with minerals, nutrients and good fats. It also has the phytochemicals (naturally occurring chemicals in plants) theobromine, phenylethylamine, and anandamide which increase mental awareness and make you feel happy.
What does this mean for you?
This means that dark chocolate is the best and white chocolate is pretty horrible.
So the next time you get a chocolate craving, grab some dark chocolate, the darker the better. 100% dark chocolate is a bit of an acquired taste but it is so good for you without the added sugar.
Save milk and white chocolate for the rare treat as they really only satisfy your taste-buds (which is a short term benefit!) and provide little function.
Even better, grab some cacao powder or liquor and make your own. I’m working on a recipe section, so watch out for some chocolate recipes when that is up and running!.
If you do grab some cacao powder, take note. Like any foods, the more processing and heating done, the more nutrients are lost. Chocolates that are heavily processed and heated lose a lot of their benefits.
Cacao powder processed using the Dutch method is heated to hi temperatures. Dutch processed cacao powder tastes fantastic, but lose a lot of the nutrients. Go instead for a raw cacao powder which have not been heated very highly in the processing.
Thanks for reading through, and I hope you have enjoyed it. I feel like chocolate now.
Any thoughts and suggestions?