Chocolate is made from cocoa beans. These are the seeds of the cacao tree, which is native to South America. The cacao tree grows best in tropical climates.
When European colonizers arrived in Central and South America, they introduced chocolate into the region. This is where it became popular. It was consumed in parts of modern-day Mexico and northern South America.
Cacao has long been used as a medicinal drink. However, after the Spanish colonizers arrived, it was used as a sweet confection. In the 18th century, it was brought to Europe.
Today, the majority of world’s cacao production takes place in West Africa. Cocoa beans are sold as a commodity crop. Although it’s important to remember that many cacao farmers live in poverty.
Several countries have made moves to improve the labor conditions on their cacao farms. One way of doing this is through the Rainforest Alliance. Another is through voluntary third-party certifications.
Many craft-chocolate makers choose not to pursue such certifications. Still, the certification can be an important part of the process.
When you purchase chocolate, be sure to look for any certifications. You should also check the ingredients list. Be careful of added sugar and fat. Look for organic and Fair Trade chocolate.
Most chocolate is available year-round, and does not need to be refrigerated. To keep it fresh, store in a cool, dry place.
Cocoa butter is the smooth, creamy substance in chocolate. It’s used to give it a velvety texture.