All About Chocolate
Oh My Bakeshop chocolate cupcake

This chocolate cupcake, baked by locally owned Oh My Bakeshop, uses only the highest quality, organic, fair-trade chocolate and it’s 100% vegan friendly.

We Canadians are a decadent bunch judging by the amount of chocolate we consume each year. It used to be that Valentine’s Day and Halloween were the holidays that precipitated the most chocolate-buying but when you factor in the chocolate used for baking, stocking stuffers and gift-giving, Christmas reigns supreme among Canadian sweet tooths.

Consider that collectively we eat about 100,334,120 kilograms or 221,196,600 pounds of chocolate annually – that’s about 2 billion regular size chocolate bars! World wide, Canada is 7th on the list of countries’ chocolate consumption.

Cacao tree

Each cacao pod holds about 40-50 cacao beans and it takes about 500 beans to make one pound of chocolate.

The first mention of chocolate in the history books occurred around the year 600 when the cacao tree is thought to have been taken to the Yucatan by Mayans from the Amazon basin. It was the Spaniard, Hernando Cortés who brought the cacao beans back to Spain. Though the original Mexican recipe for the chocolate drink called for large quantities of chili powder, Spaniards had just discovered sugar and vanilla which made their version of the chocolate drink more palatable. The Spaniards managed to guard their secret of cacao and chocolate making for a century but by the 1600s other European countries were making their own chocolate and its popularity increased.

sack of cacao beans

After harvesting beans are fermented in special boxes and then sun dried for 1-2 weeks.

The process of chocolate making, as we know it today, originated in 1828 when Coenraad Van Houten developed a hydraulic press that removed about two thirds of the cocoa butter which left a solid cake-like substance known today as cocoa powder. In 1842 John Cadbury made the first “French Eating Chocolate”. These chocolates were made by grinding cacao beans down and mixing them with sugar and vanilla. With the help of Van Houten’s press, Joseph Fry produced the first high quality chocolate bar by adding additional cocoa butter to the recipe.
Plain chocolate was the only type produced until 1875 when a chemist, Henri Nestlé, began searching for alternatives to feed babies who were allergic to mother’s milk. A by-product of this research was condensed milk. A Swiss chocolatier, Daniel Pieter, employed Nestlé to experiment with recipes to make milk chocolate.

One other important discovery in the chocolate making process was discovered by a Swiss, Rudolphe Lindt, who developed the process of “conching” which eliminated the bitterness and grittiness in the chocolate. The rest as they say is history. Though hand-chocolate making is now a lost art and has been replaced by mechanical methods, the basic recipe still remains the same.

bar of chocolate and package

Good chocolate contains very little additives. A little sugar, lecithin, cacao butter and cacao paste. Most chocolate bars contain only about 10% cacao the rest is made up of additives and fillers

Some Chocolate Trivia
Joseph Fry, John Cadbury and Henry Rowntree were all English Quakers. Their chocolate factories were renowned for the care they took of workers. They provided free homes, uniforms and medical care for all employees and their families, an almost unheard of thing during the turn of the century.
Unlike coffee or tea, the cacao bean is nutritious and although it contains about 50% fat is also has 20-25% carbohydrates, 15-20% protein, 1.5% theobromine (nerve stimulant), 5% water and 3.5% vitamins and minerals including calcium, iron, Vitamin A and others.
Chocolate contains a chemical called phenylethylamine which is also found in the human brain. It is true that there is a relationship between chocolate and being in love. People in love tend to feel euphoric when eating chocolate because they are increasing the amount of this amphetamine in their bodies. For those who reach for chocolate when they are depressed or out of love they are only following their body’s natural instinct to replace the missing chemical not generated by their own body.
Vegan chocolate is one of the purest types of chocolate as it uses very little fillers like milk and milk solids.

Sacred Heart College, Sudbury's first post-secondary institution opened in 1913.
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