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Category: Chocolate & Sweets Facts & History

  1. Top 10 cocoa producing countries

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    Top 10 chocolate producing countries

    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).

  2. Is chocolate gluten free?

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    Is chocolate gluten free

    Is chocolate gluten free?

    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.

  3. Is cocoa a fruit?

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    Is cocoa a fruit?

    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?

  4. How much sugar is in chocolate?

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    How much sugar is in chocolate?

     Are you sweet enough?

     “Sugar, Sugar”, sang The Archies, “You are my candy girl, whoa-oh, you got me wantin' you.”

     Well, as it turns out sugar isn’t wanted any more. At least not in the same quantities.

    This week, the media was full of reports that the Swiss food giant, Nestle, announcing that it has made a scientific breakthrough that can sharply cut the sugar in its chocolate. The company, which makes Kitkat and Aero, says its researchers have found a way to structure sugar differently, so that it uses 40% less.

    It claims this can be done without affecting the taste.

    Nestle says it is patenting the findings, and it would start using the new sugar across its range from 2018. Its scientists altered the structure of sugar so that it dissolves more quickly. This fools the taste buds, with the effect of raising the sweetness, claims Nestle.

    But is this no more than a bitter sweet pill to swallow? Are the big manufactures just sugar coating the message? Nestle’s announcement, welcome to most people though it is, just got me thinking about what actually goes into a high street bar of chocolate in the first place? For me, it raised more questions than answers.

  5. Who discovered hot chocolate?

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    When do you drink Hot Chocolate? As a warm, comforting cup on a cold winter’s evening or as an afternoon treat with marshmallows on top, with friends after shopping perhaps? Whenever you drink hot chocolate and for whatever reason, I sure you feel better just from enjoying the rich, hot taste and savouring the relaxing feeling it often brings.

    But do you ever think about who discovered hot chocolate? Or how the drink in your hands and taste in your mouth has changed a lot since it was first discovered?

    The first uses of hot chocolate drink

    It was always thought hot chocolate was first discovered and drank by the Mayan peoples of what is now Central America over 500BC. But recent research in the last year or so now puts the discovery of hot chocolate making back to at least 2,500BC and the Olmecs civilisation in Mexico.

    What we now regard as a hot, smooth and sweet beverage, would then have been much more of a cold, spicy and rougher tasting concoction.

    But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Chocolate itself comes from the seeds or beans inside the pods of the cocoa plant. The beans themselves were often dried and so highly prized that they were stored and used as a form of currency.

  6. The Ultimate List of Chocolate Bars

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    Cocoa & Heart Chocolate Bars

    This week we've decided to challenge ourself to a chocolate bar knowledge quiz. We didn't score badly at all, but the problem is that when you spend your days educating people in eating good quality chocolate, you really don't eat that many mainstream chocolate bars. So, we thought we should really find out more about traditional chocolate bars. Whilst I still prefer my own handmade chocolate bars on most days, there is a time and place when only Twix will do! Each week, we are challenging ourself to find out more about popular chocolate bars, bring you their rich history and describe the taste too. 

    We'll update this blog post with more information, photos and history from the wonderful chocolate world!

    Magdalena & Nick

  7. Is chocolate vegan?

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    Is chocolate vegan?

    Is chocolate vegan?

    It’s a question that we’re increasingly asked, here at Cocoa & Heart. Whether by interested students on one of our chocolate courses wanting to know a little more about the chocolate we’re using or by people wanting to buy some of our high-quality chocolate bars or truffles.

    Chocolate comes from a plant and more specifically the pod of the cocao tree. So, in that sense, it could be said to start off life as vegan friendly. However, in the complex and time-consuming process of taking the raw beans and converting them to something like the chocolate we see on supermarket shelves (see our earlier blogs), a variety of additives are mixed in with the chocolate. These include sugar, milk and milkfats, to name just three.

    At this stage it’s probably worth making the distinction between good quality and lesser quality chocolate in terms of the ingredients that they are likely to contain. This is crucial for determining whether the type of chocolate you’re considering buying will be vegan friendly or not.