Fun facts about chocolate

Hersey produces more than 80 million Kisses every day. Courtesy photo
Hersey produces more than 80 million Kisses every day.
Courtesy photo

Meg Ast

We try to write the sweeter side of things to mostly educate. This month we will do so while taking a much lighter approach by sharing with you the many fun facts about chocolate from the tree planting to the treat itself.

The cocoa tree must be planted next to a larger tree as it does not like direct light. It can take up to five years to grow a mature tree which then produces about 1,000 cocoa beans. Even though the number seems high the result is only about 2.5 kilos of chocolate. It actually takes 400 cocoa beans to produce a pound of chocolate so the next time you buy a chocolate remember the time it takes to grow the prized cocoa.

What makes one chocolate more expensive than the other? Well, like wine, there are different varieties of chocolate the same way there are different varieties of grapes.

The most expensive and rarest of all is the Criollo. Known for its very high quality, it is aromatic and lacks bitterness, it is used by the luxury chocolate houses although they tend to blend with other beans.

The Trinitario came into existence via the cross fertilization with the native Criollo beans. These are found in the Caribbean as well as Venezuela and Colombia and represent about 12 percent of the world cocoa production.

The. Forastero or stranger in Spanish is the everyday cocoa with strong, earthy flavors. Found in Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, New Guinea, Brazil, Central America, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia. Represents about 85 percent of the world’s cocoa production.

While the making of chocolate has been mechanized, the cocoa harvesting is still done by hand. Planting, irrigating, harvesting, fermenting and drying are the manual steps to produce cocoa beans.

Millions of burlap bags filled with beans find their way to the world’s largest chocolate producer, Barry Callebaut. This company was created in 1996 with the merging of the Belgian chocolate producer Callebaut and the French company Cacao Barry. Their factories process about 1.8 million tons of cocoa beans each year. They produce the raw chocolate block the chocolatiers use to create the multitude of chocolate treats we are accustomed to eating.

Cacao Barry was founded in France in 1842 by Charles Barry. In 1952, Cacao Barry became active from bean to gourmet chocolate. Then in 1923, they undertook many ambitious projects and one you will recognize is the “Baking Sticks” and simultaneously the chocolate croissant. The “Baking Sticks” were developed in 1963.

Callebaut was a Belgian company, founded by Eugenius Callebaut as, believe it or not, a brewery in Wieze, Belgium, in 1850. The brewery began producing chocolate bars in 1911 and eventually switched entirely to chocolate production. They began producing chocolate couverture in 1925. Couverture chocolate is a very high-quality chocolate that contains a higher percentage of cocoa butter (32-39 percent) than baking or eating chocolate. Couverture chocolate is primarily used for dipping and tempering as this is where it usually shines.

Now to wrap up this article with a few fun facts about chocolate…

    • Hershey’s produces over 80 million Kisses every day!
    • In the film Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock used Bosco chocolate syrup for blood in the famous shower scene.
    • In 1879, Swiss Rodolphe Lindt discovered conching, an essential process in refining chocolate. He discovered it by accident when his assistant left a machine running all night.
    • And lastly, the largest cuckoo clock made of chocolate can be found in Germany.