Hot cocoa, hot chocolate

The first cocoa exporters of today are not the countries in which the Theobroma cacao tree originated - theobroma in Greek meaning food for the gods! However, the cocoa tree is very successful in equatorial regions other than the southern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, such as Ghana, Ivory Coast or Cameroon, among the top 5 producing countries.

Cocoa plantations are part of a dense agroforestry system that hosts several associations of trees -fruit trees (palms and musaceae or including the banana family) that can be invasive but are widely consumed, timber trees, and conservation plantations: most of whose seeds have been chosen by the farmers. Traditional knowledge represents a key experiential asset for both the storage of carbon by vegetation and the maintenance of the quality of harvested cocoa beans.


The historical influence of cocoa and chocolate import-export has led to positioning the final chocolate product as one of the first products based on local and tropical terroirs and resulting from international trade. So how does the production chain work and who are the stakeholders in this process?
* Fermentation of the pulp in which the cocoa beans are immersed - Planters' activity
* Drying of the beans to reach 7% humidity - Planters' activity
* Roasting - Warehouses and manufacturers activity
* Grinding and refining - Activity of chocolate manufacturers and craftsmen
* Powder reduction or refining (conching stage) and moulding - Activity of chocolate manufacturers and craftsmen

Since cocoa butter is fickle, many manufacturers have thrown it out of the business and replaced it with various lauric fats - namely palm and coconut oils - which are not really super compatible with the rest of the solid cocoa. Indeed, only 2 out of 6 molecular forms are stable during the crystallization phase of cocoa butter. This is quite understandable when you have more than 600 volatile molecules to handle and store!
A chocolate with time-developed aromas and whose benefits of cocoa flavonoids are still available, is obtained as a result of the diversity of know-how concatenated by different cultures across several regions of the world. 

The chocolate ganache is a standard to be used in the French desserts. So simple, this chocolaty preparation is the basis of truffles; these small delicacies were historically made at home and they became festive and luxury products from the middle of the 20th century...
A ganache under a microscope, it looks like a kind of continuous syrupy substance made from the water of the cream and the sugar of the chocolate + the fat in suspension made from milk fat globules, droplets of cocoa butter and cocoa solid particles. There are two possibilities of ganache :
* the rather dense ganache - 2 portions of chocolate for 1 portion of cream → more cocoa solids and less water
* the rather silky ganache - the same proportions of chocolate and cream → balance between solid cocoa particles and water




- McGee on Food & Cooking - An encyclopedia of kitchen science, history and culture, McGee Harold, Editions Hodder and Stoughton Ltd, 2004, 884p, ISBN 9780340831496

- Interview cocoa farmer and manufacturer in Cameroon

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