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The true food of the gods

29 March 2022

Bitter or sweet? Hazelnut or citrus? White or dark? Thechocolate, in its infinite facets, is one of the world's most beloved desserts for its unique taste and health benefits. Today you will discover the deepest secrets ofchocolate, a precious ingredient that has won the palates of entire generations, becoming a true symbol of pleasure and well-being around the world.

Are you ready to dive into this sweet adventure? Then all you have to do is read on!


Chocolate is one of the world's best-known sweets, but few people know that its origins go back thousands of years. It was the ancientMaya and Aztecs who first discovered the magical and aphrodisiac properties ofcocoa beans, so they began to use them as currency and to prepare a bitter, spicy drink calledxocolatl,destined for sacred rituals.

For centuries,cacao remained a secret jealously guarded by the Mesoamerican peoples until the Spanish brought it to Europe in the 16th century, making it an exclusive possession of Spain's finest courts. In the 1600s,cacao was introduced to Italy as well, creating a veritable craze! Italians became so passionate about this food that emporiums sprang up in major cities such as Rome and Florence where this precious beverage could be enjoyed.

However,chocolate as we know it today, sweet and creamy, was invented much later, in the 19th century, thanks toDutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten. In 1828, van Houten patented an inexpensive method of separatingcocoa butter from the mass ofroasted cocoa, resulting in a powder that could be mixed with liquids to create the famous beverage.This process, known asDutch processing, made chocolate much easier to produce and consume. Van Houten was also credited with the invention of a hydraulic press that reduced thecocoa butter content of the roasted mass, creating a "cake" that could be pulverized intococoa powder: this paved the way for theproduction of chocolate and new products related to it, such as thefirst chocolate bar made by the Fry family in 1847.

Thanks to van Houten's inventions,chocolate became much more accessible and popular, marking the beginning of a new era for this world-loved food.


Thechocolate, particularly thefondente kind, has for centuries been considered a powerful natural aphrodisiac: according to one legend, the Aztec emperor Montezuma drank 50 cups a day ofxocoatl, the ancestor ofchocolate, to keep his sexual reputation alive. But is this really the case? Let's see what science says:

  1. Thechocolate contains phenylethylamine (FEA), a chemical that is released in the brain when a person falls in love. FEA stimulates the formation of endorphins, thehappiness molecules responsible for the state of euphoria and pleasure.
  2. Cocoa increases levels of serotonin, the feel-good hormone, which also promotes sexual arousal and desire.
  3. Thechocolate promotes themental chemistry of love, acting on the mechanisms of satisfaction and pleasure thanks to anandamide, themolecule of bliss, present only incocoa.
  4. Thecocoa improves vasodilation thanks to nitric oxide, increasing blood and oxygen flow to all organs, just like Viagra!

So, while not a true aphrodisiac,dark chocolate can help improve mood, circulation, and brain chemistry related to sexual pleasure and arousal. However, to avoid side effects, especially for those already suffering from conditions such as diabetes, it is bestto limit consumption to small amounts.

Butdark chocolate, when consumed in moderation, can also provide several health benefits due to the presence of substances such as flavonoids, polyphenols, theobromine and tryptophan:

  1. Benefits for the heart and cardiovascular system.Reduces insulin resistance, improves endothelial function, reduces blood pressure, helps arteries remain flexible and healthy due to antioxidants, and finally contains theobromine, which has a cardiostimulant effect useful in preventing heart attack
  2. Positive effects on mood and immune system. It contributes to the production of serotonin, the feel-good hormone, has a natural antidepressant effect due to phenethylamine, positively modulates the immune system, and has anti-inflammatory properties.
  3. Controls body fat levels. It protects against hepatic steatosis (fatty liver), improves insulin resistance in overweight individuals, is rich in antioxidants that reduce the effects of free radicals, and contains minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.

However,dark chocolate remains a calorie-rich food, so its consumption should be limited to small amounts following a balanced diet. In addition, the tannins present may cause stains on teeth, so it is important to brush your teeth after consuming it!


Chocolate is not all the same, there are3 types of cocoa each with different properties:

  • Representing only 0.001% of world production,Criollo is considered the finest and highest quality cacao: it has a light color, a floral aroma, and a taste characterized by notes of honey and red fruits. TheCriollo cacao is a variety native to the Venezuelan Andes and cultivated since ancient times by pre-Columbian civilizations such as the Maya and Aztecs, however, the plant is very delicate and susceptible to pest attacks, making its cultivation a great risk for producers who require very specific environmental conditions.

  • TheForastero cocoa accounts for about 85 percent of global cocoa production, ranking as the world's most widespread variety. Native to the Brazilian Amazon, theForastero is distinguished by its very dark color and particularly bitter and astringent taste.It is mainly used for cocoa powder, bulk chocolate, and other baked goods. Although it contains fewer aromatic substances and more bitter substances such as theobromine, theForasterocacao still retains health-beneficial properties due to the flavonoids and polyphenols present in cacao.

  • TheTrinitario cocoa is a hybrid of the fine varieties ofCriollo and the more common varieties ofForastero, and accounts for about 10 percent of the world's cocoa production. Considered a fine and aromatic variety, theTrinitario has a darker color than Criollo and a less bitter taste than Forastero. It is grown in different regions of the world such as Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Tanzania, Madagascar and Venezuela.


Thecacao plants manage to give one or two harvests a year: the fruits, calledcabossis orcabossa, are shaped like elongated nuts and contain beans inside. But how is cocoa obtained from these large beans? Let's find out together!

  1. Cocoa bean harvesting and fermentation.The beans are harvested from the pods and fermented for 5 to 7 days to develop aroma and flavor, and then dried in the sun.
  2. Roasting. The beans are roasted at temperatures between 100°C and 130°C for 1 to 2 hours, so as to allow them to further develop aroma and flavor.
  3. Shelling and grinding.The roasted beans are shelled, so as to remove the hard husk, and then ground in a roller machine that reduces them into a liquid paste called thecocoa mass or liquor.
  4. Spremixture. The resulting cocoa mass is pressed to extract thecocoa butter: this will result in a solid cake that is pulverized into cocoa powder.
  5. Refining and conching. Thecocoa liquor is refined and conched for 12 to 72 hours in a machine that mixes and heats the mass, this step is useful to further develop aroma and texture.
  6. Tempering. Thetempering is a crucial step in the processing ofchocolate, which involves heating, cooling, and reheating thecocoa mass to achieve a stable crystallization of the cocoa butter.This process is essential to give thechocolate a glossy surface, a firm texture, and a consistency that does not flake or crumble. Thechocolate is first heated to between 45°C and 50°C to melt all the cocoa butter crystals present. Next, it is cooled to a temperature of about 27°C, so that stable cocoa butter crystals can form. Finally, it is heated again to a temperature of 31°C-32°C, to melt the unstable crystals and obtain a homogeneous, glossy mass. This delicate procedure requiresskill and experience on the part of the chocolatier, as temperatures and cooling times must be perfectly calibrated to achieve the desired result. Only well-tempered chocolate can ensure avelvety texture and along shelf life, without risking becoming opaque or whitish.
  7. Forming and cooling. Thetempered chocolate is poured into molds and allowed to cool to obtain the desired shapes, such ascups or pralines.

Thechocolate, described as a precious gift from the gods, has spanned centuries of history, evolving and adapting to the tastes of every era, until it has become one of the world's most loved and consumed sweets. Now you just have to start tasting, experimenting and being enchanted by this extraordinary food, which encompasses the history of entire civilizations.

Thechocolate, in all its forms, is much more than just a sweet: it is a unique sensory experience, a journey into taste, a moment of pure well-being for body and soul.

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