Being involved in buying and processing cocoa beans, I have a voracious appetite for any and all cocoa- and chocolate-related information on the net. As a result, I've discovered just how much people don't know about cocoa and chocolate. Anyway, I've come across some humourous examples recently, and couldn't resist sharing ...
This first one comes from Gene at the Nut Factory. He writes:
"There appears to be two distinct types of cocoa butter and the term is confusing to many. In the chocolate manufacturing industry cocoa butter is the fatty part of the coca bean [...] In the other use, cocoa butter is usually found as a coconut oil product."
Read the whole article at: http://www.thenutfactory.com/kitchen/facts/facts-cocoa-butter.html
The next conglomeration of garbled misunderstandings comes from the website of a Sydney chocolate shop called Vanderwee. It's so bad that I wonder if the document hasn't just suffered from a poor translation into English from another language??
First of all, they get off on the wrong foot by inviting me to spend my "ill-gotten gains" (!) on some of their "great chocolate" that's "not cheap". Then, things get really ugly when they try to describe how their chocolate is made:
"cocoa 'nubs' are ground with a little water until they become cocoa mass: the most important ingredient to make good quality chocolate. This process creates two products: cocoa butter and cocoa powder. [...] The longer the conching the better and glossier the end product becomes. However, its glossy shine disappears when you touch it. [...] Once conched, the chocolate is tempered: a complicated process of raising and lowering the chocolate whilst it is being stirred, ensuring a smooth and even consistency."
You can enjoy the whole article at: http://www.vanderwee.com.au/ (click on the link for "What is vintage chocolate?")
And from another Aussie site - http://www.chocolatebox.com.au/faq.shtml :
"Cocoa Trees have grown wild in Central America for over four thousand years. In actual fact, birds and monkeys were the first to taste the flavorsome beans. Through their nibblings, these chocoholics spread seeds all around Central America."
September 30, 2004
August 6, 2006
August 1, 2006
Last year, while having a discussion about chocolate with a friend, I was confronted with a rather ignorant and skewed perspective of cocoa butter. This friend decided to avoid chocolate because it contains "butter," i.e. cocoa butter. She was quite adamant in her belief that cocoa butter came from a cow and was hence unhealthy. I tried to explain that cocoa butter is merely a term applied to the bean's natural fat and to put it into perspective, I explained that cocoa liquor was another loosely applied term, referring to cocoa butter and cocoa particles. It's just a name. But she failed to understand.
Now I suppose that white chocolate comes from white cows, milk chocolate from brown cows, and dark chocolate from black cows, right? That's how they make chocolate milk, isn't it?
August 1, 2006
I just visited the site that discusses vintage chocolate. Wow! I couldn't believe the sheer ignorance and cluster of misinformation that swept my eyes!
To clarify, cacao was first encoutnered by the Olmec (although it's uncertain whether they cultivated or used it wild) and then their descendents, the Izapan, enjoyed cacao and also contributed to much of the Maya culture, such as hieroglyphics, the calendar, monumental carving, mythological cycles, and the elaboration of cacao as a drink. The Maya initially didn't even have access to cacao since the plant only thrives in lowland locales, not the cooler upland regions the Maya used to occupy. It's only when they descended into the lowlands where they were introduced to it. But it was the Aztecs that Cortez encountered, not the Maya. Furthermore, allow me to add that the word "MAYA" is the correct form, whereas "MAYAN" is only used in regards to the language. Never use Mayan unless you're talking about the language.
Cocoa powder a waste product? That's funny. Why on earth would Conrad van Houten invent a process to separate the particles from the butter for the sole purpose of making a more convenient and easier-to-use product? I reiterate: an entire process was created to produce cocoa powder. Enough said.
Okay, my turn: http://www.vchocolates.com/7qu.....stions.php
I particularly like questions #1 and #2.
I've just spent an entertaining half-hour reading some articles in Wikipedia about cocoa and chocolate, specifically:
There were a number of relatively inconsequential generalisations. For example, "the harvested pods are opened with a machete" -- in fact, the better option is to break the pods without a machete, because it's very easy to damage the beans with a machete blade. Unless, of course, you're working on a high-yielding hybrid cocoa with a "leathery rind about 3 cm (1¼ inch) thick".
There was a lack of general chocolate manufacturing knowledge. For example, a conche is described as "a container filled with metal beads, which act as grinders".
And then there were some baffling comments like: "Finally, the beans are trodden and shuffled about (often using bare human feet) and sometimes, during this process, red clay mixed with water is sprinkled over the beans to obtain a finer color, polish, and protection against molds"
Has anybody here ever seen or heard of this "treading and shuffling" stage in cocoa processing?? I assume that the person who wrote the article actually saw this happen somewhere. I'd love to know where.
September 30, 2004
I've read the chocolate wiki and found it to be horribly inaccurate. My wife is a professor of communication, and one of the things she really struggles with is that her students are under the perception that if it's on the web, it's gospel. Dangerous. I've thought about taking the time to correct it, but to be honest, i just don't have the time. And yes, manually moving the bean pile, often via kicking it / walking through it, is practiced in some areas. don't think i've ever seen/heard of someone sprinkling clay; doesn't mean it's not done though. There's no way it'll protect against moulds - in fact, you wouldn't want it to.
November 19, 2004
August 6, 2006
May 8, 2006
Originally posted by Sebastian
I've read the chocolate wiki and found it to be horribly inaccurate.
I think it would be a very good project for someone (or "someones") here to fix it... Wiki is becoming a major resource for a lot of people and it really is as accurate as its users make it. It would be a great way to reach out to people who might not visit such a specialized site as this one. I'd love to do it myself but sadly I don't have the knowledge yet.
Originally posted by oz_choc
Sebastian, what you say about moving the bean pile manually makes sense, except that in the article in question, this "treading" process happens after the beans have already been "dried by spreading them out over a large surface and constantly raking them". Go figure.
Sorry I didn't see this earlier. Actually in Trinidad this process was carried out in the 20th century, though I'm not sure if anyone still does this, but probably so. They poured dried red clay powder on the beans and walked on top of them to mix the earth in well. They call it "dancing the cocoa," and I have some photos of it actually that are pretty interesting. The idea is that because the fermentation in Trinidad is usually so short, a good deal of the pulp has not been liquified and remains on the beans. The earth mixed with the pulp (after fermentation) allows the beans to dry more quickly, thereby reducing the chance of harmful molds from an unusually prolonged drying process(which are apparently different from those that form in smaller numbers during fermentation). These molds apparently have a negative impact on the flavor and increase the risk for internal mold on any beans that end up with even small holes in the hull. You can read about all this in Van Hall's book "Cocoa," Knapp's "Fermentation of Cocoa," and I think that even Wood and Lass in "Cocoa" talk about it. In Venezuela, on the other hand, in areas where cacao is only briefly fermented, they throw the cacao in large sheets, put the red clay on top, and then mix it in by tossing the beans in the sheet until everything is covered and mixed in well, and then dry it. It has the same effect but without the dancing. So if you would prefer your chocolate without the feet, go for Venezuelan cacao (that's just a joke of course).
March 17, 2005
Was absolutely amazed to see tonight on the Chelsea Flower Show reports some footage from Grenada (it was on the carribean gardens, how they suffered after hurracane Ivan), where local woman was "dancing" on what was obviousely thin spread of drying cocoa beans, kicking them about. It was all covered in red dust. There wasn't any comment, and freshly cut cocoa pod was shown previously as a part of island products... Now I see.
Originally posted by oz_choc
Alan and Ellie,
Thanks for the insight - very interesting!
Interestingly enough I just found in "Cocoa" by Wood and Lass, that adding dried clay to the cocoa was outlawed in Trinidad in 1923, and the book that talks most about this phenomenon was published before 1923, so that would explain things. However, old habits must die hard, because they still dance the cacao, but now instead of dried clay they add a bit of water mixed with juice of the Bois Canot (Cecropia peltata or Trumpet tree) p. 495, and dance for up to 30 minutes. Rather than doing this prior to drying, it is now done more towards the end of drying to improve the appearance of the beans.
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