Each piece of chocolate that melts in your mouth is a living history – the art of craftsmanship that has existed for over 4,000 years. From the mysterious Mayans to ferocious Aztecs, the cocoa bean has gone from being worshipped as a gift from God to a delicious treat for many who have a sweet tooth.
One thing for sure is that the Cocoa Bean has long outgrown it’s native Mesoamerica, and has extended it’s influence onto the global market. Ever since chocolate was brought back by Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes, European countries have experimented with different processing methods and recipes to bring out its best flavour.
Learning to extract the cocoa butter was an essential step in the journey to the chocolate we eat today. It has a unique melting point that allows the chocolate to remain in its solid form under room temperature, while melting quickly in your mouth.
“Without the discoveries of Christopher Columbus, we may have never discovered chocolate!” I had a great chocolate lesson, conducted by Marijn Coertjens the chocolatier in The Peninsula Hong Kong.
Cocoa beans were only grown in the Americas, before European explorers from countries such as Spain and Portugal, discovered the plants, and transported them back to Europe to be presented at the royal courts. In fact, Columbus wasn’t very interested in cocoa beans, because he thought that they were almonds!
Only a few hundred years ago, cocoa beans were very rare and expensive. They were so precious, that royal Europeans would be painted carrying big cups of chocolate!
Chocolate started off as a bitter, fermented beverage, and the Europeans were the first to sweeten it with sugar. After many clever inventions, chocolate became the sweet, delicious and decadent product it is today.
The chocolate lesson started with the Cocoa Bean. Marijn Coertjens, the chocolatier at The Peninsula Hong Kong. Coertijens introduced how Cocoa beans would be turned into chocolate mass, beginning with crushing the cocoa beans and mixing them with water.
The mass is then pressed to squeeze the cocoa oil out. White chocolate had the most surprising recipe, as it’s made with only milk powder, sugar and cocoa oil.