It isn’t just adults who are curious about chocolate. Chocolate facts for kids comes high up on our list of most asked questions, here at Cocoa and Heart. Most children have to be persuaded to taste dark chocolate because it tends to be more bitter – even though it is healthier. So children on the whole go for milk chocolate first and foremost.
Belgium is justly famous for its chocolate. It may be a small country but a whole array of beautifully decorated and immaculately finished chocolate truffles looms large in so many shops, particularly in Brussels and Bruges (Brugge). Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like there’s a chocolate quarter, so much as a whole district in itself, solely devoted to all things chocolate.
And no quarter is given or taken when it comes to perfecting the art of making gorgeous looking and tasting chocolate truffles. So, after a recent visit to the capital of chocolate, we wondered what is Belgium chocolate, why do we call it that and what makes it so special that makes so many of us want to come back for more?
How are cocoa beans harvested? It’s a question we’re often asked, here at Cocoa & Heart by our curious and interested students who naturally want to know more about the origins of the chocolate they’re working with.
Harvesting cocoa beans is a time consuming and largely highly intensive manual labour activity where a large machete like knife plays a starring role. So, let’s cut to the chase.
The pods containing cocoa beans grow right from the trunk of the cocoa tree. This means harvesting requires cutting down the ripe pods from the trees and opening them up to remove the wet, sticky, pulp like, white beans.
By now, I’m sure you have heard about so called ruby chocolate. It’s been widely talked about topic in the chocolate world and chocolatiers around the world are using this chocolate to create amazing chocolate treats. So, what’s so special about this type of chocolate? How was this chocolate discovered?
So, let’s start at the beginning.
Ruby chocolate was created by a leading chocolate brand, Barry Callebaut and introduced to the world in 2017. Ruby chocolate wasn’t just discovered, it was invented and carefully researched by a team of chocolate experts at Barry Callebaut over the last ten years prior to the launch. The ruby chocolate was registered as a patent in 2009. As you would have expected, the actual recipe is a secret, but the flavour and colour of the chocolate comes directly from the special cross bread ruby cocoa beans which were cultivated in the Ivory Coast, Equador and Brazil.
Chocolate is enjoyed throughout the world and the latest figures state that over 4.4 million tonnes of cocoa is produced each year.
However, chocolate itself, is made from cocoa beans which grow on cacao trees. These are only found in a narrow band either side of the Equator and require hot, and rainy humid conditions to bear fruit. Cacao trees were first cultivated in Central America around 1,500 BC, but today, four of the five top cocoa producing nations are in West Africa.
The top ten cocoa producing countries are spread out across four continents, but which nations produce the most cocoa? (Figures from the UN Food and Agriculture).
That’s a question we’re often asked in a spare moment during our chocolate making workshops or when people book our fun chocolate making hen parties. When I got asked for the first time I had to really think, because since I work with 'proper' chocolate I don't even think about alergies. It's just chocolate, you know...nothing else! I never really promoted my chocolate as gluten free, suitable for vegetarians and vegans or that it can be made completely lactose free.
It's just a normal chocolate, right...everybody knows that! Well, it turns out that not everyone does and because 99% of mass produced chocolate products contain all sorts of things, that just shouldn't be there, understandably people ask, whether my chocolate is gluten free or not.
When we’re running our various chocolate making courses we often get asked lots of questions from enthusiastic chocolate makers about every aspect of the chocolate making process. And, of course, it’s a pleasure to share our knowledge with so many keen and eager course attendees and chocolatiers to be. Sometimes the questions are technical and detailed– such as those about the tempering and the chocolate crystallisation process. Others are more general, but equally practical, like when do we get to eat it all?