Chocolate: A Stimulating Food
Chocolate contains Theobromine, a chemical that comes from the same variety of methylxanthine alkaloids as caffeine. Although a milder stimulant than caffeine, Theobromine lasts longer and has a mood improving affect. The chemical formula of Theobromine (pictured left) is C7H8N4O2, which makes more sense if you're eating chocolate while you look at it.
Cocoa vs. Cacao
The unique and distinct flavor of chocolate is derived from the seeds of a tropical evergreen tree known as the cacao (pronounced Ka-KOW). Some say that the word cacao was either unintentionally mispronounced in early Spanish-to-English translations or was anglicized (or made easy to say in English) years ago.
Many chocolate artisans want the industry to readopt the term cacao and require chocolate products to label the percentage of pure cacao solids contained in a product. You may have already noticed the growth in labeling of cacao percentages. For example, many artisanal chocolate bars have the cacao percentage on the label. Generally, the higher the cacao percentage, the less sugar in the product - which means more chocolately and less sweet, or "darker."
Tasting the goodness
Once you've found a good bar of chocolate, the key to enjoying it is in how you taste it. Take a look at it first. A good chocolate should be shiny and uniform in color, free from blemishes or any greying. We recommend tasting chocolate at room temperature for optimal flavor (unless you're enjoying a warm fondue - Yum!). Rub the chocolate with one finger - it should begin to melt and give off a distinctly chocolate aroma. Next, break off a piece. It should snap like it's brittle, not bend or stretch. Make sure your palate is clear of any other flavors - it's worth waiting a while after eating if you want to get the full experience. Now eat! Just a little bite should do. The chocolate should begin to melt immediately and take on a smooth, velvety texture. Close your eyes and try to articulate what it is you're tasting. Is it nutty? Does the flavor linger? What about an aftertaste? Are you having fun yet?
We don't mean to suggest too much. Part of the fun is describing it on your own terms. So, invite a friend and have a little chocolate tasting. We hope you have as much fun tasting chocolate as we do.