Chocolate is a big part of many cultures worldwide. Holidays, traditions, and celebrations involve chocolate in various ways—may it be a cup of hot cocoa during Christmas, a box of chocolate hearts on Valentine’s Day, a chocolate bunny for Easter, or skull-shaped chocolates for Halloween. Chocolate has been infused into other foods as well, as there is the classic chocolate cake, ice cream, pastries, and even chocolate-coated bacon. Billions of people enjoy this sweet substance worldwide, but few know the source or origin of chocolate.Learn more about it: Cocoa Processing: A Bean to Cup Story
Ancient Origins of Chocolate
This delicious treat originated from ancient South America as one of the most precious crops of the first civilizations there. The Mayans, Aztecs, and Olmecs all treasured the cocoa tree, where the pods which housed cocoa beans grew. They used the beans to create bitter drinks which were served during sacred rituals such as birth, death, and religious ceremonies.
Cocoa was also given as post-battle rewards and was used as currency. When Europeans invaded ancient South America, they were introduced to the bitter drink made out of cocoa. But, they added flavor into the drink by putting cane sugar or honey as sweeteners. This more pleasant version of the cocoa drink was brought back to Europe where it became a very popular beverage.
Europeans enjoyed the said version of the drink for more than one hundred years until Joseph Fry invented the first modern chocolate. He made the sweet discovery when he added melted cocoa butter to powdered cocoa, creating a moldable paste.
When the Industrial Revolution came, a way to mass produce chocolate at a lower cost was also introduced. This popularized the treat even further and eventually, worldwide.
Today’s Sources and Destinations of Chocolate
Currently, majority of cocoa is sourced from Africa, with 30% coming from Ivory Coast alone. Other countries that produce this valuable commodity are Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Indonesia.
An estimate of more than 4.5 million tonnes of cocoa beans are consumed annually. According to data, Switzerland is the country that has the highest per capita consumption, followed by Germany, Ireland, United Kingdom, and Sweden.
Transporting the beans for processing and consumption into these countries, however, can be difficult. In order to retain the high quality that consumers demand, certain sensitivities of the cocoa bean must be taken into consideration.
Dried cocoa beans are sensitive to moisture because they are susceptible to mold growth. Once there is excessive moisture in a container which carries the cocoa beans, moisture re-absorption is a huge possibility due to the fluctuating temperatures inside. Condensation begins and the water that accumulates will almost always certainly damage the beans.
This is a huge risk that cocoa handlers always want to avoid. The mold growth adds to the labor costs because sorting the affected beans from the good ones takes time and money. More importantly, however, handlers want to avoid excessive moisture because of the damage on the quality of the beans in terms of free fatty acid (FFA) content. Handlers want to maintain the lowest possible level of FFA in the beans because an increase affects the taste. As the FFA increases, the pleasant bitterness of chocolate turns into rancid bitterness, putting the effort of growing, harvesting, fermenting, and drying the beans all to waste.
Fortunately, there is a solution to this dilemma. One such solution is the use of hermetic technology. The TranSafeliner (TSL) is an air-tight bag designed to accommodate commodities shipped in a container liner throughout long journeys at sea. It is particularly helpful during the cocoa beans’ voyage from Latin America, Africa, or Asia going to Europe and other parts of the world.
Thus, the protective barrier properties of the TSL keeps moisture away from the cocoa beans while retaining the flavor and taste that people crave. This solution ensures that people will continue to enjoy chocolate, no matter what the occasion may be.
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