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A Source Of Never Ending Amazement

A Source Of Never Ending Amazement



Hello and good day!

It never gets old, and it never feels normal.

Every day it blows my mind.

A seed in a pod hanging from a tree in the jungle is the base ingredient for chocolate. To make the whole thing even more wonderful and mysterious, the seed in its natural state doesn't even taste like chocolate.

Nor does the white gel that surrounds the seed inside the pod.

No part of the plant would make you think of chocolate if you didn't know any better.

The seed itself is bitter and inedible in its natural state.

The only thing you can really do with a raw seed is suck off the gel and spit the seed on the ground.

Thus, we come to understand how cacao populations spread far and wide throughout its homeland in the Amazon jungle.

Animals sucked off the gel and spit out the seeds.

Humans did too.

From seed to chocolate is an utterly unintuitive process.

First you have to ferment the cacao in its sugary mucilage.

During this process, chocolate aromas develop, but any odor that could be considered somehow pleasurable is extremely faint.

Fermenting cacao can only give you the idea of chocolate if you already know how chocolate is supposed to smell.

If chocolate didn't already exist, it would be challenging to tease out the concept that something akin to chocolate might be possible.

For the most part, fermenting cacao smells like uber acidic vinegar.

Once the fermentation is complete, you have to dry cacao under the sun and then roast it.

The idea of drying cacao under the sun or roasting it in fire are both easily conceivable.

If people and animals are walking around spitting out cacao, the seeds would always be drying in the sun, all over the jungle floor.

And if a person is sitting around a fire with a cacao pod in their hand, sucking on seeds and taking a load off, they might very well spit a bunch of seeds into the campfire.

Also, it doesn't stretch the imagination to assume that human beings probably put anything and everything into a fire at some point, just to see what would happen.

But without fermentation first to release the chocolate aroma, drying and roasting wouldn't produce anything particularly appetizing.

Somehow and someway, somebody in the past put it altogether that a vinegary pile of cacao seeds should be thrown in a fire after the seeds had dried.

Once you are in possession of fermented, dried, and roasted cacao seeds you need to grind them into a liquid.

This is easy enough to comprehend on a rudimentary level.

A stone mortar or a simple hand mill can get the job done.

Cacao is half vegetable fat. The fat is called cocoa butter.

It isn't too hard to grind cacao into a paste that can be mixed into water to make hot chocolate.

This is what people drank all throughout South America, Central America, and Mexico back before Europeans showed up and named the entire land mass after the Italian banker Amerigo Vespucci.

It is pretty funny to think that everybody who says that they are proud to be an American actually means that they are proud to be an Amerigo Vespuccian, etymologically speaking that is.

But I digress.

In order to make chocolate bars as we know them, you need a relatively powerful and complex electrical machine.

The machine needs enough power to break down the molecules until the cacao and the fat emulsify and the mass becomes completely liquified.

Those machines came into existence first in Europe.

Therefore, somebody had to take fermented and dried cacao from its homeland in South America back to Europe to grind on machines.

The transportation required boats and navigation and all kinds of hardship, like scurvy and getting lost at sea and shipwrecks.

As an aside, it is a pretty cool historical continuity that the best way to transport cacao from South America to Europe, or the United States, is still on a boat across the ocean.

Once cacao has been grinded into a liquid you need to keep it heated to maintain the liquid state while you mix in sweeteners and other ingredients, like milk to make milk chocolate.

If you let it cool, the fat will congeal, and the mixture will harden into a blob.

Also, like metals, chocolate must be tempered to maintain a hard form.

You have to heat chocolate, cool it, and then heat it back up again to within a specific temperature range.

Otherwise, the chocolate will melt on your fingers and have a crumbly texture.

All of this required electrically powered heating elements.

If you are working with electrical machines and heating elements lined up in a production line, it is a factory.

Indeed, to make it possible for regular folks all over the world to eat and enjoy chocolate, a system of factories and distribution networks had to exist.

The distribution networks had to be international, and this required a multitude of trade agreements and diplomacy between various nations.

When we forayed into the chocolate business back in 2008, we didn't have to figure out any of this for ourselves.

Our task was to improve upon existing systems, not recreate everything from scratch.

That was a huge blessing.

If none of this was understood when we saw cacao for the first time, we have had to try to make sense of those peculiar looking trees out in the jungle, starting from zero.

We received a shipment of chocolate today from Switzerland.

All things considered it was a very smooth and easy transaction.

We were able to save some money by bringing the shipment in through the port of New York rather than the port of Houston.

This allowed us to avoid paying for refrigerated shipping.

It showed up at our warehouse and we unloaded it from the freight truck.

It was bitter seeds on a tree in the jungle eight months ago.

A week of fermentation.

A week of drying.

A week of shipping from the jungle to the coast.

6 weeks to Switzerland from Peru.

2 months in Switzerland.

5 weeks from Switzerland to the United States.

A week in customs.

5 days from New York.

And now we have it, delicious, spectacular chocolate to work with and enjoy.

It blows my mind every single time.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!


Click here for wonderful chocolate made with pure Nacional cacao.

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