Chocolate is the second most popular food flavour in the Western countries. The most popular flavour is vanilla.
Even though chocolate and vanilla are most popular flavours, there is a big difference between them. Fundamentally, Vanilla is a flavouring. Chocolate is not. Chocolate is a food, a medicine, an aphrodisiac and more. The history of chocolate goes back centuries. It was a significant part of the Mayan religious rituals and it was a ritual in itself in Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when affluent Europeans were striving to have hot chocolate on a daily basis.
Chocolate comes from the cacao trees. These trees grow in just a few parts of the world. The size of annual harvest varies significantly and depends in large part on climatic conditions, mostly the rainfalls. Another factor that has an impact on the size of the crops is fungus infection, which has been an issue in South America in the last several decades. The largest supplier of cocoa beans on the planet is Cote D’Ivoire, a country in Africa that has seen a lot of political turmoil, which is why political instability is also a factor that has an impact on chocolate prices worldwide.
However, today pastry chefs and bakers have a wider selection of chocolate and cocoa beans than at any other time of human history. Choosing the right types of chocolate starts with learning about the differences between various cocoa beans and methods of processing.
Cocoa or cacao beans are the seeds of the fruits of cocoa trees. In many regards, they are very similar to other nuts and seeds such as almonds.
Just like almonds, they are covered by a protective shell. They also do contain a lot of valuable nutrients, which is one of the reasons why chocolate has been popular for centuries all over the world.