is a favourite
all over the
THINK OF CHOCOLATE and you think of… what? Do you immed-iately think of the softly melting flavour of Cadbury's? Comfort eating where any old bar will do? Or are your tastes more refined?
Associated with romance, chocolate is one of the best selling treats and it is often given as a token of affection. It was discovered by the Mesoamerican civilisation and used in a variety of drinks and sauces by the ancient Mayans and Aztecs the drink was very bitter, unlike the chocolate drinks we know today. Chocolate is made from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao, a tree revered by the Aztecs, to whom the beans were currency. The word 'Theobroma' is Greek, and means 'Food of the Gods'. We'd go along with that.
In the Sixteenth Century, chocolate was brought back to Europe by explorers and, once sweetened, became a fashionable luxury. The first chocolate factory was established in Spain, in 1580. Columbus had come back from the West Indies with chocolate, but it was the conqueror of Mexico, Fernando Cortez, who first brought the secret of cocoa and chocolate to Europe earlier in the 16th Century. It was a closely guarded secret at the Spanish Court for almost one hundred years, but eventually it arrived in France and then appeared in England. By the 17th Century, chocolate houses where you could also get tea and coffee were thriving in London for dedicated followers of fashion.
The first chocolate bars were available by the 1800s and Coenrad van Houten, a Dutchman, had perfected the extraction of cocoa butter from the bean by the early 1820s. Towards the end of the 1800s, the Swiss Rudolphe Lindt was adding extra cocoa butter to his chocolate recipe, which made it much smoother and more palatable. A few years earlier, fellow Swiss Daniel Peter had used a new product Nestle's condensed milk to perfect milk chocolate. The industrial revolution and mechanical age was to lead to the larger scale manufacture of chocolate.
Drinking chocolate was still popular during the early part of the 19th Century, by which time Van Houten's method had almost eclipsed the then traditional method. Here at MotorBar we prefer drinking cocoa
to hot chocolate as we can regulate the sweetness. We highly recommend the intense flavour of Van Houten cocoa powder scrumptiously yummy!
In 1824, John Cadbury opened a shop selling tea, coffee, drinking chocolate and cocoa in Birmingham, in the UK. He went on to manufacture drinking chocolate and cocoa and went into partnership with his brother, Benjamin. Thirty years later, Cadbury's received a Royal Warrant as purveyors of chocolate to Queen Victoria and John's sons, Richard and George, took over the business in 1861 when their father retired.
After some lean years, the brothers acquired the Bournbrook Estate
in 1878 (soon to be renamed Bournville) and they completed their first factory on the site the following year. Cadbury's is now the best-
loved chocolate in the UK and tours of the Bournville factory are available go to Cadbury's websites at www.cadburyworld.co.uk or www.cadbury.co.uk and you will find a taster of what's in store for you there.
By the Second World War, the quality of chocolate had improved and prices were coming down to match demand. Chocolate was becoming popular with the masses, but rationing during the war meant it wasn't readily available. When the Americans arrived, it was a case of over paid, oversexed, over here and hand over the chocolate!
Today, in the 21st Century, we have so many chocolate products to choose from. But what fun we have trying them! Although Cadbury's Whole Nut has always been a firm favourite of mine, if I'm feeling extravagant I dip into the fabulous zChocolat (www.zChocolat.com). Created by acclaimed chocolatiers, these luxury French chocolates
are of the finest quality, with less fat and sugar content. They are available to order online with a selection of fillings encased in milk, white and plain chocolate to suit all tastes. They really are exquisite and you can choose your favourites as gifts for special occasions such as Christmas and birthdays. Their cocoa-dusted almonds are second
Thorntons also have a good quality choice in their own shops we recommend Alpini. Their bars are also available in some supermarkets and you can buy online at www.thorntons.co.uk. If you want to
earn a few Chocolate Brownie points, Divine fair trade chocolate is widely available. Go to www.divinechocolate.com.
Chocolate fountains are proving popular in a number of restaurants
and you can buy them to use at home with pieces of fruit, biscuits or cake. John Lewis at www.johnlewis.com has a choice of three:
Prima Chocolate Fondue Fountain at £49.95; Sephra Chocolate Fondue Fountain at £89.95 and Sephra Classic Chocolate Fondue Fountain at £119. Or go to www.firebox.com where there is a choice of two models, standard and deluxe, at £29.95 and £49.95 respectively.
No self-respecting chocoholic could be satisfied until they had visited The Chocolate Society at www.chocolate.co.uk. Established in 1991, The Chocolate Society was founded 'to promote the consumption and pure enjoyment of the finest quality chocolates'. The site is easy to navigate and gives you the background history of the society, opportunities for home shopping, recipes and details about their shops. The shop at Elizabeth Street, London, SW1, serves good quality tea and coffee and superb hot chocolate with '40g of pure chocolate per cup'.
There is also a 'Did You Know' section with chocolate facts, including that fine chocolate can actually help lower your cholesterol. It also contains a useful tip: Chocolate contains phenyl ethylamine, an amino acid which has aphrodisiac properties and is also good for helping to ease a hangover.
Search the internet for 'chocolate' and you could spend all week indulging yourself! Fortnum & Mason come highly recommended especially by a friend who insisted he didn't mind which chocolate
he ate. He was lured by a small plain chocolate praline bar from
the famous London store and admitted they were really rather
good! Visit the store at 181 Piccadilly, London W1 or go to www. fortnumandmason.com where you will be able to purchase a
limited selection from their range.
We found www.HotelChocolate.co.uk but although we have ear-marked it as an interesting site we have yet to sample the chocolates available. We can, however, give you a few pointers if
it's chocolate recipes you're looking for. There are many widely available on the net and at most of the chocolate sites. Go to www. epicucious.com and check out their recipe for double chocolate cake using Callebaut chocolate. Talking of the superior baking chocolate Callebaut, we have included some sample recipes here courtesy of www.barry-callebaut.com. The company was formed when Belgian couverture Callebaut and French Cacao Barry joined forces in 1996
and the union has proved successful.
If you want to try more of their recipes, visit the site and go to Chocophilia, then to Recipes, where as well as the recipes below you will find an interesting selection of both well-known and unusual ideas, including Bass in Coarse Sea Salt with Bitter Chocolate.
Chocolate Crown with Nuts
Chocolate Mousse à l'ancienne
Chocolate Sauces in under a minute!
Hot-Cold Passion and Ivory