What is chocolate?

Chocolate is one of the most popular food products these days. A sweet treat, it is available in a variety of flavours, sizes and brands. Many people will have at least a little chocolate every day, while others keep it as a special treat.

Chocolate is created from the roasted and ground pods of the cacao tree. It can be created into a liquid, solid or a paste, but it is also used as a flavouring in a variety of other foods. It is widely known that cacao has been used in many forms since the 19th century BCE and both the Mayan and the Aztec civilisations were known to have created a chocolate-type drink.

However, the seeds of the cacao tree have a naturally bitter taste and to remove this they have to be fermented. This helps to develop a more palatable flavour. Following the fermentation process the beans will be dried, then cleaned and finally roasted. The shell is removed from the seeds, which leaves behind the cacao nib. The nib is ground down to create a rough but natural form of chocolate. This rough mass is heated and this turns it into a liquid form, creating what is known as chocolate liquor. Once it is cooled, it can be further processed to make cocoa solids and cocoa butter.

Types of chocolate

Baking chocolate is a form of the product that is used in making cakes and other dishes. This is quite a bitter chocolate that will have the solids and the butter, but the quantities will vary according to the brand. Generally it will not have any added sugar either. Baking cocoa comes in powdered form too and will have a higher fibre content.

Sweet chocolate is the most widely consumed form of chocolate today. For this type, the solids and the butter will be combined with vegetable oils and sugar. For milk chocolate powdered milk or condensed milk is used to make it creamier and much lighter in taste than the dark chocolate is.

White chocolate has grown in popularity in recent years and while it does contain cocoa butter, milk and sugar, it does not have any of the cocoa solids that you find in other chocolate products.

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