Sunday, 4 September 2011

Chocolate Part 1: The Cacao Tree and Chocolate Basics

Chocolate. A magical elixir.

Decadence, pleasure, sensuality; all are associated with the wonderful treat that North Americans love and enjoy. We all have our favourite brands, our favorite flavours - and yet many people don't even know what it really is made from.

This brief video gives you a glimpse of the life of cacao tree - without it, we would never have experienced the wonder of chocolate.

Now, that looks all fine and dandy doesn't it? The tree itself is fascinating, and cacao is not bad for humans. If the majority of the chocolate we eat was made solely from the cacao, we wouldn't have any problems... too bad it's not.

If you look it up, most times you'll find this list of ingredients:

Cacao Liquor (very different from the alcoholic variety.)
Cacao Butter

Sounds positively perfect doesn't it? The only problem is, this list doesn't include a single one of the additives that are present in most chocolate brands. And a lot of the time, when we think we are eating chocolate, we're not. To be allowed to call itself 'Chocolate' a product has to contain at least 10% cacao; what they don't tell you is that a tiny change in name means that companies can put whatever they want into the chocolate bar.

Hershey's Chocolate for example, has switched many of their formulas to include much, much less actual cacao. The cacao butter has been replaced with vegetable oils and other ingredients that are cheaper - they get away with it by making tiny changes on the labels of their chocolates; changes such as calling it a 'chocolate candy' or referring to it as 'chocolatey' or 'made with chocolate'. The packaging is exactly the same other than the wording, and most people will never notice.

Irritating isn't it? That as the consumer you can be lied you and deceived and yet it's perfectly allowable. This is just one of the many reasons why it is good to look deeper into where your foods come from. The promotional material and videos of most companies might look great, but they still are only showing you what you want to see.

Over the next few posts I'll talk more about chocolate ingredients, cacao farming and of course; chocolate that you can feel good about eating.

Photo via Amy Loves Yah


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