Indulging in sweets and the art of exquisite taste:
"Swap belly for heart!"
Even the famous opera singer Leo Slezak was captivated by the sweet culinary delights. After indulging in excessive sweetness, he sent the following prayer to heaven, as his son Walter once recounted: "Dear God, please give me a second stomach - I'll even give you my belly in return!" With such anecdotes and interesting facts, we aim to entertain you here and hope that you find the topic of chocolate as fascinating as we do.
The Origin of Chocolate:
Chocolate is a cocoa-based food and luxury item. It is enjoyed in its pure form and processed as a semi-finished product. The word derives from the name of the first cocoa-based beverage, called "Xocóatl" or "Xocólatl" in Nahuatl language (meaning 'bitter water' or 'cocoa water') of the Aztecs, which was a mixture of water, cocoa, vanilla, and cayenne pepper.
History of Chocolate:
The cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao) was likely first used around 1500 BC by the Olmecs, who lived in the lowlands of the Mexican Gulf Coast. By 600 AD, cocoa was cultivated by the Maya. The Aztecs named the cocoa drink mixed with cold water "Xocolatl" and whipped it into a frothy consistency using a wooden whisk, known today as "Molinillo." According to Maya tradition, the cocoa tree had divine origins. In honor of the cocoa god, Ek Chuah, a festival was celebrated in April, which included animal sacrifices and gift-giving. Similar celebrations are recorded in Mexico, where cocoa seeds were exclusively prepared as a drink reserved for adult men of noble descent. Cocoa was considered an intoxicating food and, according to the Aztecs, unsuitable for women and children. It was preferred by warriors, priests, or those destined for sacrifice. Both Hernán Cortés and a member of his expedition, Bernal Díaz del Castillo, reported that the Aztec king Montezuma consumed cocoa-based drinks in large quantities. Cocoa beans were also used as currency. Moctezuma II possessed a vast number of cocoa beans used for trade. However, as a means of payment, they were only valuable if they were of perfect shape, uniform color, and came from specific regions of Mexico. The former purchasing power of cocoa beans is illustrated by the following example: One good slave required approximately 100 good cocoa beans as payment. Quality of the cocoa was of utmost importance, and the cocoa from Xoconochco, present-day Chiapas, was particularly prized. From this region, the usual tribute of cocoa of excellent quality was delivered to the ruler. When Columbus discovered America, he did not recognize the significance of the cocoa tree, even though he came into contact with cocoa. It was only in 1528 that cocoa was brought to Europe by the Spanish conquerors led by Hernán Cortés. In 1544, chocolate was first consumed as a drink at the Spanish court. However, the taste of unsweetened chocolate did not appeal to Europeans. It only became popular after the addition of honey and raw sugar. In 1673, the Dutchman Jan Jantz von Huesden publicly offered chocolate in Bremen for the first time. Cocoa beans were traded in Bremen in larger quantities only in the 18th/19th century. Due to their high cost, chocolate was initially affordable only for wealthy nobility. Two factors made cocoa a mass-produced product: firstly, the pressing of cocoa and subsequent grinding into cocoa powder, and secondly, the use of cheaper cocoa from the Amazon region, the Forastero (currently dominant). The invention of pressing and grinding is credited to the Dutchman Coenraad Johannes van Houten. Through pressing, he separated cocoa butter from cocoa, a process still common today.
The Use of Cocoa and Chocolate:
The use of cocoa and chocolate as both food and medicine is well-documented in Latin America and Europe. Chocolate was recommended as generally invigorating, easily digestible, and an aphrodisiac. Even in the 19th century, chocolate was sold in pharmacies as a "tonic."
Manufacturing of Chocolate:
Industrial chocolate production is technically demanding, making it challenging to provide a recipe for producing high-quality chocolate on a small scale. When cocoa mass is turned into chocolate, it is mixed with sugar, possibly cocoa butter, and dairy products (today mainly in dry form, such as milk powder) depending on the desired product. This chocolate mass is then finely ground into a highly pasty substance in roller mills, reducing the size of sugar crystals to an average of 10-20 micrometers, primarily to eliminate the grainy texture of the chocolate mass in the mouth. The invention of the five-roller mill by Heinrich Stollwerck, the son of Franz Stollwerck and a brilliant engineer, received a patent in 1873. This design provided a finer grinding result and processed twice to four times the amount in the same time. In the so-called "Conchen" (Concha in Spanish, the earlier form of the device), the chocolate mass is heated and ground. Originally, this was done in flat, trough-shaped containers with oscillating rollers. Conching used to take up to 90 hours, but modern technology significantly shortens the process. It reduces moisture, opens up the aromas, removes unwanted aroma components (especially acetic acid), and smoothens the mass. White chocolate, however, contains only cocoa butter and no cocoa components.
To influence the viscosity of the mass, soy lecithin is usually added in a maximum quantity of 0.2%. According to EU Directive 2000/36/EC, implemented in Germany through the Cocoa and Chocolate Regulation, non-lauric plant fats other than cocoa butter are allowed to be added, but only up to a maximum of 5%.