World Sensory Bite – Chocolate
When most of us think of chocolate, our bodies react by preparing us for the enjoyment we get from it. And it’s not surprising! Did you know that, just as Prometheus was punished for bringing fire into the world, the feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl also lost his home for bringing us cocoa? And since then, ways of consuming chocolate to suit all tastes have been invented all over the world.
Ways of consuming chocolate: colour therapy?
The Aztecs may well have discovered chocolate and the Spaniards introduced it to the rest of the world, but it is the Swiss who take first prize when it comes to production and innovation. On 5 September 2017, a new type of chocolate – the latest to date – was presented in Shanghai.
Before we give you the name, just think about what chocolate does for you. Right! It raises dopamine levels and makes you feel happier. Put simply, that means seeing life through rose-coloured glasses. Well, it’s now safe to say that you can see life through chocolate-coloured glasses. Rose-coloured – pink– chocolate does exist. Eighty-one years after Nestlé invented white chocolate, Barry Callebaut has invented Ruby, a variety of pink chocolate. We have, then, another way of consuming chocolate: now we can eat life directly.
And no, it’s not about adding colorants and, of course, the recipe is far more of a secret than the Coca Cola formula. Even so, we know that the creator of Ruby has selected cocoa from three different countries, Ivory Coast, Ecuador and Brazil, and that the seeds are specially processed to extract the powder that gives Ruby the desired final colour. Natural pink for the newest way of consuming chocolate.
Ways of consuming chocolate in its country of origin: Mexico
Pink chocolate is the latest innovation made to this ancestral product, but it is Mexico that not only gives us one of the most popular ways of consuming chocolate but also the original name of the cocoa plant: xocolatl. The Mayans and Aztecs used to drink it with hot spices, like the actress Juliette Binoche in the movie Chocolat. Then, when the conquistadors came, the locals gave them cocoa as a present, but the Spanish preferred it sweet and added sugar and milk.
Spain: where the chocolate’s thick
One of the favourite ways of consuming chocolate in Spain is to melt it and then drink it. The thicker, the better. The best way of doing this is by melting cocoa bars already prepared in milk. Although new formats have been imported over the years from other countries, hot chocolate never contains cream in Spain. It is drunk dark and thick. It is also served with sponge cake and, in particular, with the long-fluted fritters known as churros.
Swiss drinking chocolate
In reality, the only difference between Swiss drinking chocolate and Spanish drinking chocolate is that in Switzerland they add a layer of whipped or light cream. The biggest fans of these ways of drinking chocolate also add chocolate sprinkles as a final topping. But what matters most is how to achieve that smooth and thick – or not so thick – hot chocolate which is such a comfort in winter. Don’t worry, here’s a simple, effective recipe.
Japan and chocolate
Japan is not noted for its ways of consuming chocolate. Nonetheless, there are two days a year when the Japanese archipelago is overrun by chocolate: Valentine’s Day and the White Day.
On 14 February, Valentine’s Day, it is almost obligatory – but only for women – to give away chocolates or figures made out of chocolate. There are three different varieties and each one has its function.
- Giri-choko or obligation chocolate. This is ordinary low-priced chocolate given as a reward for dedication at school or at work. A deeply-rooted custom in Japan, where formalities regulate most of social life.
- Tomo-choko or chocolate for friends, which people brought together by true friendship give to each other.
- Honmei-choko or love chocolate. This is a present to loved ones, a boyfriend or husband. It is usually homemade, which gives it added value. It is also wrapped carefully. When people buy it in a shop, they choose an expensive brand.
On White Day the roles are swapped. Now it’s the men’s turn. It is 14 March and all those who received chocolate from a girl are expected to give her white chocolate in return. This way of consuming chocolate, or giving it away, is not quite as romantic as it seems because, in reality, it was invented by the Japanese Confectionery Industry Association.
The Cuban chocolate tradition is not as old as in the countries on the American mainland. However, in the region of Baracoa where chocolate is still produced, the cocoa powder is mixed with flour to make pellets as big as tennis balls. These balls are grated and the resulting powder is mixed with coconut or cow’s milk. The amount of cocoa powder used depends on personal taste. The drink is usually taken hot and mixed with spices such as cinnamon or cloves.
Undoubtedly, it is one of the ways of consuming chocolate most imitated on an industrial basis. Doesn’t this remind you of the cocoa powder used at breakfast? However, Baracoa balls are more like large bath bombs – which sometimes also smell of chocolate! In this way the chocolate is presented to appeal to the eye and the taste and the stimuli received from a single food are multiplied.
Medicinal chocolate: cocoa infusions
One of the most attractive ways of consuming chocolate – and this applies to anything enjoyable associated with a sense of guilt – is to multiply its beneficial effects on the body. Make no mistake: chocolate, pleasure and guilt form a trio. Well, here’s the way to get rid of the guilt:
Cocoa husk tea
It is high in magnesium so it makes an ideal nutritional supplement. Especially since most of the world population is low in this element. It also functions like an energy bar, but without the added calories. Last but not least, it is useful for treating diarrhoea.
In Indian Ayurvedic medicine cocoa husks are mixed with cinnamon, liquorice and ginger. This is a way of taking chocolate specially indicated for people who are very sensitive to stimulants, since cocoa doesn’t contain any theine or caffeine.
And here we end our journey around the world: from Japan to Mexico, to Cuba, to Spain and Switzerland. And all this without ever abandoning the comforting taste of that quintessential delicacy, chocolate.
Qualcosa da dire?