|Chocolate, A Sweet Temptation
a sweet temptation
Chocolate's Roots in Ancient Mesoamerica
tend to think of chocolate as a sweet candy created during
modern times. The tasty secret of the cacao (kah KOW)
tree was discovered 2,000 years ago in the tropical rainforests
of the Americas. The chocolate dates back to the ancient
peoples of Mesoamerica who drank chocolate as a bitter
For these people, chocolate wasn't just a favorite food-it
also played an important role in their religious and social
The ancient Maya grew cacao and made it into a beverage.
The Maya and their ancestors in Mesoamerica took the tree
from the rainforest and grew it in their own backyards,
where they harvested, fermented, roasted, and ground the
seeds into a paste.
When mixed with water, chili peppers, cornmeal, and other
ingredients, this paste made a frothy, spicy chocolate
The Aztecs adopted cacao.
By 1400, the Aztec empire dominated a sizeable segment
of Mesoamerica. The Aztecs traded with Maya and other
peoples for cacao and often required that citizens and
conquered peoples pay their tribute in cacao seeds-a form
of Aztec money.
Like the earlier Maya, the Aztecs also consumed their
bitter chocolate drink seasoned with spices-sugar was
an agricultural product unavailable to the ancient Mesoamericans.
Drinking chocolate was an important part of Maya and
Many people in Classic Period Maya society could drink
chocolate at least on occasion, although it was a particularly
favored beverage for royalty. But in Aztec society, primarily
rulers, priests, decorated soldiers, and honored merchants
could partake of this sacred brew.
Chocolate also played a special role in both Maya and
Aztec royal and religious events. Priests presented cacao
seeds as offerings to the gods and served chocolate drinks
during sacred ceremonies.
Later, the Spanish conquistadors brought the seeds back
home to Spain, where new recipes were created. Eventually,
and the drink's popularity spread throughout Europe. Since
then, new technologies and innovations have changed the
texture and taste of chocolate, but it still remains one
of the world's favorite flavors.
Procedure of fabrication:
does the cocoa bean become chocolate? The cacao fruit
are cut from the tree with a machete. They ripen fully
one week and after they are opened. The skin between the
rows of beans is peeled off and the cocoa beans are left
to ferment on the ground covered with banana leaves. Fermentation
takes between 2 and 9 days, depending on the bean. The
fermentation process gives flavor and color.
Before transforming the bean, they must be dried in the
sun for a period of 14 days and are continually turned
over. Mixing different beans will give different characteristics
to a chocolate. After been perfectly cleaned, the beans
are roasted to induce the cocoa aroma. The shell is removed
from the bean. The beans are broken and graded. The beans
will be finely ground and we will obtain the cocoa mass.
When this mass is brought under high pressure, we obtain
cocoa powder in one hand and cocoa butter in another.
The first step to prepare the chocolate is by preparing
the batter. Raw materials, which are mixed to smooth dough
The batter is finely rolled to get to ensure the smooth
and granule free. Afterwards the batter is pressed and
finely crushed. This finely crushes the cocoa particles
and pulverizes the crystals of sugar. The following step,
which is very important, is the conching, the chocolate
kneaded in a kneading machine (conch), lecithin and cocoa
butter are added to the mass. We obtain the chocolate.
The chocolate for me:
I can remember the chocolate since I was a kid, the Easter
eggs, the éclair au chocolat every Sunday, and the chocolate
cake of my mother. I discovered the properties and qualities
of chocolate when I started the hotel school and I understood
that was an unusual product. Most of the people think
that chocolate mousse, one of my favorite and most common
chocolate desserts, is just a mix between chocolate, eggs,
sugar and whipped cream. There is many ways to create
a chocolate mousse and each one requires precise steps,
it is very important to understand them so you can get
a final smoothly and tender chocolate mousse while eating
it. The chocolate requires skills and knowledge, working
with the chocolate as a product gives me a lot of satisfaction
as much as it gives to the guests the pleasure while they
are savoring it. I can consider myself as a chocolate
lover enjoying the combination of chocolate with different
ingredients like spices, fruits, and flowers that give
me impressive results.
Chocolate in Japan:
The Japanese are chocoholics. Travel anywhere in the world
and you will undoubtedly
see Japanese tourists laden with chocolate souvenirs.
Major chocolate-giving times in Japan are on Valentine's
Day and White Day. Come February 14, most Japanese girls
give milk or dark chocolate presents to their husbands,
boyfriends, male superiors, colleagues, or even male friends
and family members.
Chocolate has been placed into categories to help differentiate
the meaning of the gift. Certain chocolate is classified
as "giri choco." This type of gift would be appropriate
for family and co-workers since "giri" translates to duty
or obligation. However, it is also not the type of chocolate
you want to receive from a girl you really like since
it only expresses respect. Even so, it is better than
receiving nothing, since there seems to be anxiety surrounding
the concept that a man is not even worthy of receiving
even "giri choco."
a man is very lucky he will receive "honmei," or true
love chocolate from someone he likes. This type of chocolate
has more to do with the original Western tradition. It
is usually a more expensive chocolate and represents true,
deep feelings of love.
White Day Women hope to get a response from their "honmei"
on March 14th, or White Day. Another confectionery company
that decided that March 14th would be a good day for Japanese
men to reciprocate and buy women gifts created this day.
The first gifts were marshmallows, and the day was called
"Marshmallow Day." However, it eventually evolved into
what is now called "White Day." White Day is an opportunity
for men to show their feelings for women. Gifts commonly
given are white chocolate, cookies, marshmallows and handkerchiefs
but also include regular personal gifts like clothing
Each gift is said to have a different meaning. Some gifts
mean love, others mean respect and some communicate a
sort of "let's be friends." However, the meanings seem
to be different from one area and age group to the next.
Some say that the tradition is that a man should buy something
greater in value than what he received on Valentines Day
for each present
that he was given.
The traditions vary and change somewhat from year to year.
The only element that remains the same is that women give
gifts to men on February 14th and that men give gifts
to women on March 14th and that chocolate is an integral
part of both traditions.
Written By: Alexandre Bourdeaux
A native of Belgium, Alexandre is the Pastry Chef of Four
Seasons Hotel, Tokyo, chocolate is his specialty... He
would like to thank chocolate company Callebaut (www.callebaut.be)
for their help.