In many parts of the world, those celebrating the Easter holiday have made the festivity synonymous with eggs – more specifically, chocolate eggs. Realizing the success of holiday-themed candies, major chocolate brands, such as Hershey’s, Mars, Cadbury, Godiva and others, have chocolatiered holiday renditions of many confectionery classics. In order to produce these morsels we’ve come to desperately crave, Vortex equipment is essential in handling cacao beans, chocolate nibs, and many other dry ingredients, to ensure accurate and consist recipe batching for the making of world renowned chocolates.
The most popular chocolate egg worldwide is the Cadbury Creme Egg, which was confected in 1971. Today, the Cadbury chocolate factory can produce more than 1.5 million Crème Eggs every day, and a total of 500 million eggs annually.
A recent study determined that in Great Britain alone, more than 10 percent of annual spending on chocolate is made during the Easter season. In 2016, it was estimated that the United Kingdom discarded more than 3,000 tonnes of packaging from more than 80 million Easter eggs.
Chocolate has proven to have addictive characteristics on consumer behavior – especially during the holiday. Recent studies warn that the recommended daily chocolate intake be approximately 2,000 calories per day for young boys, and approximately 1,500 calories per day for young girls. During holidays, chocolate intake among children spikes to be more than 10,000 calories per day.
This year, it was reported that Cadbury Crème Eggs – traditionally a seasonal, Easter treat – were on grocery shelves throughout the world before Christmas 2016!
So, what exactly goes into chocolate to fuel our infatuation? And why has the sweet tradition been integrated with holiday cultures, such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Easter? Let’s take a look!
How It’s Made
Is there only one species of cacao bean?
Chocolate is produced using a single type or a blend of three species of cacao beans: Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario.
Criollo is delicate, has a more complex flavor, and is the most difficult to grow. As a result, chocolate made from this bean is quite rare.
Forastero is the most common species of cacao bean. This type of cacao has the strongest flavor and is grown from the largest species of cacao bean tree, producing a much higher yield of beans.
Trinitario is a cross-pollenated hybrid of the Forastero and Criollo cacao bean, creating heightened accessibility to a more unique tasting chocolate. As the name suggests, this plant breed was first germinated in the Caribbean country of Trinidad and Tobago.
How are cacao beans produced?
Due to the plant’s delicate nature, cacao beans can only be grown in moist, shaded, rainforest-like conditions. As such, most of the world’s cacao supply today comes from West Africa – especially Cote d’Ivoire, which alone produces more than one million tonnes of cacao per year. To highlight the delicacy of cacao bean farming, there can be major differences in cacao bean flavor based on where they are grown – even if grown in close proximity – due to the subtle horticultural differences in soil and climate. As a result, some chocolatiers will rely on a single farming source for their cacao beans, or only buy them from a certain region, in hopes to create consistency in chocolate recipes. Others may use a select variety of cacao beans to create a single chocolate blend, creating a scientific concoction. Like many companies operating in the food and beverage industry, chocolate mixtures are huge trade secrets for brands large and small – no two recipes are the same.
Cacao beans are typically grown on small, family-owned farms of less than 10 acres. The beans are not mass produced because each is harvested from the tree by hand due to the delicate nature of the cacao buds. If beans are removed from the tree correctly, additional pods will continue growing from the bud. However, if done incorrectly, the pod will discontinue its growth for future yields.
What color is a cacao bean?
Many of you will be quick to answer “brown!” – you’re wrong. When the beans are growing, their pods are green in color. In their ripened state and at the point of harvest, the pod begins to change color and becomes orange. As the beans ferment, the cacao will become darker in color. But that’s not what determines why our chocolates are different shades of brown!
Why are some chocolates more bitter than others?
In order to create chocolates of differing bitterness, there is a change in technique for the cacao roasting process. Traditionally, manufacturers will roast the whole cacao bean hull. However, some apply steam or infrared radiation to heat the cacao bean just enough to kill the bacteria before cracking the hull and removing the chocolate nibs for roasting. In theory, the latter creates less of a reaction between cacao bean and hull, thus creating a less bitter tasting and more flavorful chocolate.
What gives chocolate its distinctive taste?
As heat is applied in the roasting process, cacao bean acids begin to evaporate, causing the chocolate to get mellower in flavor. The application of heat also allows for the Maillard reaction to occur, further breaking down sugars and amino acids (AKA: “the good stuff”).
What is the difference in high quality and low grade chocolate?
I’ve always wondered the same. How do you rationalize buying 40 USD dollars’ worth of Belgian chocolate when you can buy a mass produced chocolate bar for 2 USD dollars? However, the difference is astounding and has a simple answer – cocoa butter. Based on the quality of chocolate, there is more or less cocoa butter present in the recipe. High quality chocolates are made using almost purely cocoa butter, while low grade chocolates are made using predominately vegetable oil as an active ingredient. The economics behind this production practice is simple: In order to generate profits, apply higher sale prices on chocolates using more luxury ingredients to recuperate the heightened production costs, and charge less for chocolates made from more affordable ingredients.
What gives chocolate its texture?
Like many other candies, chocolate is tempered to give the candy a shiny appearance and solid texture, allowing it to “snap” when bit. The tempering process also preserves chocolate, allowing it to have a longer shelf life. Scientifically, the process involves heating and cooling cocoa butter crystals to become irregular and jagged shaped, creating a stronger chemical bond and thus creating a more sturdy candy structure. This process must be done to perfection – if the chocolate is kept too cool, the proper crystals do not form and the process must be repeated. However, if the chocolate is kept too warm, the recipe will burn and the entire batch must go to waste.
How complicated is the chocolate making process?
The first step in the production process is to run the cacao bean through a drying process, in order to make the bean more reactive to manufacturing processes. Next, the bean is run through a winnowing machine to break the bean away from its hull. Then, the bean is fed through a sweltering tunnel before being placed on a roasting conveyor belt. Once roasted, the bean becomes a chocolate nib and can be grinded using mechanical rollers made from stone and steel. Next, the beans undergo a hydraulic press process to extract the cocoa butter from the chocolate. Then, the chocolate is run through a conch to blend the chocolate into a smooth paste before reintroducing the cocoa butter. At this time, Vortex maintenance gates, orifice gates, roller gates, and seal tite diverters are used to incorporate milk powder, sugar, cocoa powder, and other dry ingredients necessary to create a completed chocolate blend. The smooth concoction is then transferred into rectangular molds and run through a conveyed shaking process, allowing air bubbles and other chemical reactions to remove themselves from the mixture. Finally, the liquid chocolate is conveyed through a cold tunnel to harden before proceeding to packaging machines.
How does that sound? Clear as mud?
Why is chocolate harmful to pets?
The “silent pet killer,” Theobromine is the chemical compound present in chocolate that is toxic to non-human consumers. If consumed in a small quantity, it simply causes diarrhea and vomiting in a pet. However, if chocolate is eaten in large amounts by a pet, the Theobromine can cause fatal heart attacks and internal bleeding for the animal. The reasoning is because pets metabolize Theobromine chemicals much faster than humans, making the reaction much more intense in a pet’s bloodstream.
Why is chocolate considered “unhealthy?”
It really should not be! If consumed in appropriate quantities, the Theobromine and antioxidant levels present in chocolates have been scientifically proven to be beneficial in the treatment of many medical conditions, including the re-expanding of narrowed blood vessels and stimulation of an ailing heart.
Chocolate has also been proven as healthy for more preventative health measures, such as dentistry. Research studies have concluded that cacao extract may be an even better cavity fighting agent than fluoride treatments!
There is also a therapeutic health benefit from chocolate. Science has shown that the scent of chocolate can chemically heighten mood, which has made chocolate a popular, more modern option of aromatherapy. The antioxidants present in chocolate are also believe to reduce the effects of wrinkles and sun damage on the skin.
So, moms across the globe – you were wrong! Chocolate isn’t bad for us!
Is the concept of a “sugar rush” a myth?
Not at all. While Theobromine is not necessarily toxic for human consumption, the chemical’s effect on the human body is quite similar to that of caffeine, causing a tasty burst of energy for many chocolate enthusiasts.
The story behind this chocolatey tradition dates back to the pagan belief that eggs represent fertility and rebirth. By the 1800s, Christians had adopted the egg as symbolic to Easter festivities. An eggcellent chocolate adaptation of the egg was adopted by Great Britain in the 16th century. The idea was forged when Queen Elizabeth I was forbidding the consumption of hot cross buns outside of Easter time, due to their association with Catholicism. Because of the popularity of hot cross buns among poor European countries during the 1800s, chocolatiers wished to create a confection that would capture the hearts of all social classes. A short time later, Germany and France created the first Easter egg made from solid chocolate. The concept of this sweet treat spread quickly throughout Europe, and almost instantaneously, to the rest of the western world. Once chocolate machines were invented, the eggs became much easier and cheaper to produce, as the insides of the eggs could now be made hollow. By the 1960s, the Easter egg was well recognised and had become quite customary.
Enjoy your chocolates and their complementary stomach aches! Happy Easter!