Not anymore a privilege as it was the case a few centuries ago, chocolate satisfies kids and adults.
Some African and South-American countries are cacao producers and because all my articles are related to Ecuador, I will try to provide you some information about chocolate and Ecuadorian cacao.
Ecuador is divided in 4 main regions which are the Coast, the Highlands, the Amazon and the Galápagos Islands. These regions are subdivided in 24 provinces.
Around 80% of the Ecuadorian cacao is produced in the Coast; in Manabí, Los Rios and Guayas provinces. The Highlands (Cotopaxi, Bolivar and Cañar provinces) along with the Amazon region have a smaller impact with 20% of the national cacao production. Because climatic factors differ from one province to another, cacao seeds will be transformed into chocolates whose flavors are completely different from each other. For example, the Esmeraldas region which is located at the North of the country is humid and doesn’t receive direct light. As a result, the chocolate will have a nutty fragrance and creamy texture. Manabí province is located in a dry, windy region and receives direct sun; the soil had been swept by volcanic ashes. As a consequence, the chocolate from Manabí will have jasmine floral notes.
Cacao tree characteristics:
- From 10 to 15 meters high
- Reach full production after 6-7 years
- Can live until 40 years old
- 1/500 flowers will be turned into a fruit (cacao pods)
- Cacao pods high from 15 to 20 centimeters
- Around 150 cacao pods/tree for 1 year or 6kg cacao/tree for 1 year
- From 25 to 75 cacao seeds/cacao pods
- 6 months are needed before collecting cacao beans
Three main cacao types are found around the world.
“El Criollo” is recognized as the purest, noblest and rarest one. Also characterized by its fine and powerful aromas, this cacao is mainly produced in Ecuador and other South American countries. “El Criollo” is intended for high quality chocolate production, and used by Masters Chocolate makers round the world.This variety production is low, and represents only 5% of the world’s production.
“El Forastero” gathers a few cacao varieties of ordinary quality cacao. Compared to the previous one, it grows easily and the production is bigger. Its taste is more acid and aromas are stronger. Its production is mainly found in Western African countries, and represents 80% of the world production.
“El Trinitario” is a mix of “El Criollo” and “El Forastero” cacaos, making ordinary quality chocolates to high end quality chocolates. 15% of the cacao world production is made by “El Trinitario”.
Before obtaining chocolate bars, a long and delicate process is set up in order to allow cacao beans to liberate its finest aroma. Indeed, after the harvest season, cacao seeds go through the fermentation step. That’s the most important stage, because during this time colors and flavors would be developed. Then, seeds will be dried for at least 1 week to finally be roasted and crushed. This last step can be made in the importing countries; usually we talk about Northern countries such as Japan, the USA and Belgium to name a few. For the final step, the chocolate liquor found inside seeds is mixed with the cacao butter and others ingredients.
- Sorts of chocolate
If you would ask to any producer, or person who have chocolate knowledge they would tell you that the “real” chocolate is dark. Therefore, we can say without any doubts that milk chocolate is the most sold and appreciated by consumers. The white chocolate has also the name of “chocolate” even if it doesn’t contain any cacao but cacao butter.
In order to buy high quality chocolate, you have to check ingredients which constitute it. Be careful that only natural ingredients are found inside and cacao butter is not substituted by others vegetable fats. Some of them can be harmful for your health.
Buying black chocolate would give you health benefits. Scientific researches prove that eating this kind of chocolate would help you reducing cardio-vascular risks, improving your cerebral functions. Moreover, it is source of lots of mineral elements such as potassium, magnesium, iron, sodium, copper, fluorine and calcium.
There are endless possibilities to enjoy chocolate but a truly expert would advise you to taste it close to its natural form, such as dark chocolate bar. Like this you could feel it texture, aroma, flavor and share it with friends, family or colleagues.