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*** Star Lanka Online TV Channel,..................

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Romance of chocolate

A PIECE OF SWEET HISTORY

The Romance of chocolate - From "Lakbima News"

BY ANDREW SCOTT





If we care to walk into any shop, wayside boutique or supermarket in any part of the world today we can see chocolates of varying shapes and sizes wrapped neatly in very attractive wrappers which entice the taste-buds of both young and old, the strong and the infirm and the rich and the poor. In the modern world the art and science of the production of chocolates has become a massive global industry and there is great competition especially among the western countries in the production of chocolates.
Even though all of us cherish the taste of and aroma of this much sought after item of food, yet, specially in our country only a few care to delve into the romance of chocolates which has become a part and parcel of the toddlers as well as the toothless adults.
The story of chocolates dates back to several centuries when it was first used and experimented with. Its use as a beverage was known to the early inhabitants of South and Central America long before white men stepped on their shores. The basic ingredient of chocolate is the cocoa bean from which so many tasty and nourishing products are prepared in the world today.

Cocoa Beans




It is said that Columbus on his return home had brought cocoa beans which later played a very dominant role in the economy of his country. In 1519 the Spaniard Cortes who visited Mexico and discovered the ancient Aztec civilization found that their emperor ‘took no other beverage than the chocolate’. It is interesting to note that coca beans were also used as a form of currency and cocoa and gold were two of the cherished treasures of the ancient Aztecs.
The chocolate drink was considered the royal drink of the early Aztecs and golden goblets were considered the most suitable vessels in which to serve the royal drink. The natives of ancient Mexico discovered that by grinding the cocoa beans in the heat of the sun a paste could be obtained. This paste made into small rolls and set in a cool place formed the original but primitive drinking chocolate. This was a very expensive and exclusive drink which only the affluent classes were able to afford.
After the Aztecs, the Spaniards and the Europeans improved on the chocolate beverage and served it hot with sugar added and they kept this recipe a closely guarded secret for many years, but the Spanish monks, some of whom were addicted to this beverage, introduced it to Germany and France. In 1660 Maria Theresa of Spain married Louis XIV and from that time drinking chocolate became the most fashionable beverage in the court of France and even their renowned physicians recommended it as a certain cure for various ills. Gradually drinking chocolate spread across to England and by and about 1657 it became a very popular beverage in the elite society. Before long great literary figures, politicians and wits took to chocolate drinking as a fashionable social activity. By about 1700 gourmets discovered that milk is a very palatable addition to chocolate but only the very prosperous sections of the community were able to afford it and for the poor this drink was a luxury.

Caloric value



Today people throughout the world know that chocolate has a caloric value, an appetizing taste and an appeal to all of us irrespective of age and social status. The people of the ancient world attributed wondrous virtues to the cocoa pods and the famous Botanist Linnaeus called it ‘the food of the Gods’ and gave the Botanical name Teobrama Cacao.

Although the exact date when eating chocolate in the form of slabs was begun is not known Henri Nestle pioneered in the manufacture of eating chocolates in the modern form.

Thus the story of chocolate is very interesting but we must also remember to give credit to the humble cocoa tree whose pods provide the most important ingredient for the manufacture of chocolates.

During the early period of Sri Lanka’s planting history cocoa plantations too had a unique place in the agricultural sector but today little attention at all is paid to this lovable plant which is found utterly neglected and scattered in many of Sri Lanka’s home gardens.

1 comment:

s.j.simon said...

lol. did you know that chocolate was banned in switzerland for many years. read this

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