Cooking With Chocolate

That chocolate charmed the ladies of Mexico in the seventeenth century (even as it charms the ladies of England to-day) is shown by a story which Gage relates in his New Survey of the West Indias (1648). He tells us that at Chiapa, southward from Mexico, the women used to interrupt both sermon and mass by having their maids bring them a cup of hot chocolate; and when the Bishop, after fair warning, excommunicated them for this presumption, they changed their church. The Bishop, he adds, was poisoned for his pains.

History of Chocolate - Introduction of Cocoa Powder - Cultivation and Growing of Chocolate

The Cacao Plantation - Harvesting and Preparing for Market - Cooking With Chocolate Recipes


Cocoa and Chocolate

The corner of the earth where the cacao tree originally grew, and still grows wild to-day, is the country watered by the mighty Amazon and the Orinoco. This is the very region in which Orellano, the Spanish adventurer, said that he had truly seen El Dorado, which he described as a City of Gold, roofed with gold, and standing by a lake with golden sands. In reality, El Dorado was nothing but a vision, a vision that for a hundred years fascinated all manner of dreamers and adventurers from Sir Walter Raleigh downwards, so that many braved great hardships in search of it, groped through the forests where the cacao tree grew, and returned to Europe feeling they had failed. To our eyes they were not entirely unsuccessful, for whilst they failed to find a city of gold, they discovered the home of the golden pod.


(From Traitez Nouveaux et Curieux du Café, du Thé, et du Chocolate. Dufour, 1693).

When Columbus discovered the New World he brought back with him to Europe many new and curious things, one of which was cacao. Some years later, in 1519, the Spanish conquistador, Cortes, landed in Mexico, marched into the interior and discovered to his surprise, not the huts of savages, but a beautiful city, with palaces and museums. This city was the capital of the Aztecs, a remarkable people, notable alike for their ancient civilisation and their wealth. Their national drink was chocolate, and Montezuma, their Emperor, who lived in a state of luxurious magnificence, "took no other beverage than the chocolatl, a potation of chocolate, flavoured with vanilla and other spices, and so prepared as to be reduced to a froth of the consistency of honey, which gradually dissolved in the mouth and was taken cold. This beverage if so it could be called, was served in golden goblets, with spoons of the same metal or tortoise-shell finely wrought. The Emperor was exceedingly fond of it, to judge from the quantity—no less than fifty jars or pitchers being prepared for his own daily consumption: two thousand more were allowed for that of his household."[1] It is curious that Montezuma took no other beverage than chocolate, especially if it be true that the Aztecs also invented that fascinating drink, the cocktail (xoc-tl). How long this ancient people, students of the mysteries of culinary science, had known the art of preparing a drink from cacao, is not known, but it is evident that the cultivation of cacao received great attention in these parts, for if we read down the list of the tributes paid by different cities to the Lords of Mexico, we find "20 chests of ground chocolate, 20 bags of gold dust," again "80 loads of red chocolate, 20 lip-jewels of clear amber," and yet again "200 loads of chocolate."

Another people that share with the Aztecs the honour of being the first great cultivators of cacao are the Incas of Peru, that wonderful nation that knew not poverty.


The Spanish discoverers of the New World brought home to Spain quantities of cacao, which the curious tasted. We may conclude that they drank the preparation cold, as Montezuma did, hot chocolate being a later invention. The new drink, eagerly sought by some, did not meet with universal approval, and, as was natural, the most diverse opinions existed as to the pleasantness and wholesomeness of the beverage when it was first known. Thus Joseph Acosta (1604) wrote: "The chief use of this cocoa is in a drincke which they call Chocholaté, whereof they make great account, foolishly and without reason; for it is loathsome to such as are not acquainted with it, having a skumme or frothe that is very unpleasant to taste, if they be not well conceited thereof. Yet it is a drincke very much esteemed among the Indians, whereof they feast noble men as they passe through their country. The Spaniards, both men and women, that are accustomed to the country are very greedy of this chocholaté." It is not impossible that the English, with the defeat of the Armada fresh in memory, were at first contemptuous of this "Spanish" drink. Certain it is, that when British sea-rovers like Drake and Frobisher, captured Spanish galleons on the high seas, and on searching their holds for treasure, found bags of cacao, they flung them overboard in scorn. In considering this scorn of cacao, shown alike by British buccaneers and Dutch corsairs, together with the critical air of Joseph Acosta, we should remember that the original chocolatl of the Mexicans consisted of a mixture of maize and cacao with hot spices like chillies, and contained no sugar. In this condition few inhabitants of the temperate zone could relish it. It however only needed one thing, the addition of sugar, and the introduction of this marked the beginning of its European popularity. The Spaniards were the first to manufacture and drink chocolate in any quantity. To this day they serve it in the old style—thick as porridge and pungent with spices. They endeavoured to keep secret the method of preparation, and, without success, to retain the manufacture as a monopoly. Chocolate was introduced into Italy by Carletti, who praised it and spread the method of its manufacture abroad. The new drink was introduced by monks from Spain into Germany and France, and when in 1660 Maria Theresa, Infanta of Spain, married Louis XIV, she made chocolate well known at the Court of France. She it was of whom a French historian wrote that Maria Theresa had only two passions—the king and chocolate.

Chocolate was advocated by the learned physicians of those times as a cure for many diseases, and it was stated that Cardinal Richelieu had been cured of general atrophy by its use.

From France the use of chocolate spread into England, where it began to be drunk as a luxury by the aristocracy about the time of the Commonwealth. It must have made some progress in public favour by 1673, for in that year "a Lover of his Country" wrote in the Harleian Miscellany demanding its prohibition (along with brandy, rum, and tea) on the ground that this imported article did no good and hindered the consumption of English-grown barley and wheat. New things appeal to the imaginative, and the absence of authentic knowledge concerning them allows free play to the imagination—so it happened that in the early days, whilst many writers vied with one another in writing glowing panegyrics on cacao, a few thought it an evil thing. Thus, whilst it was praised by many for its "wonderful faculty of quenching thirst, allaying hectic heats, of nourishing and fattening the body," it was seriously condemned by others as an inflamer of the passions!

Introduction of Cocoa Powder.

The drink "cocoa" as we know it to-day was not introduced until 1828. Before this time the ground bean, mixed with sugar, was sold in cakes. The beverage prepared from these chocolate cakes was very rich in butter, and whilst the British Navy has always consumed it in this condition (the sailors generally remove with a spoon the excess of butter which floats to the top) it is a little heavy for less hardy digestions. Van Houten (of the well-known Dutch house of that name) in 1828 invented a method of pressing out part of the butter, and thus obtained a lighter, more appetising, and more easily assimilated preparation. As the butter is useful in chocolate manufacture, this process enabled the manufacturer to produce a less costly cocoa powder, and thus the circle of consumers was widened. Messrs. Cadbury Bros., of Birmingham, first sold their "cocoa essence" in 1866, and Messrs


O tree, upraised in far-off Mexico!

"Ode to the Chocolate Tree," 1664.

How seldom do we think, when we drink a cup of cocoa or eat some morsels of chocolate, that our liking for these delicacies has set minds and bodies at work all the world over! Many types of humanity have contributed to their production. Picture in the mind's eye the graceful coolie in the sun-saturated tropics, moving in the shade, cutting the pods from the cacao tree; the deep-chested sailor helping to load from lighters or surf-boats the precious bags of cacao into the hold of the ocean liner; the skilful workman roasting the beans until they fill the room with a fine aroma; and the girl with dexterous fingers packing the cocoa or fashioning the chocolate in curious, and delicate forms. To the black and brown races, the negroes and the East Indians, we owe a debt for their work on tropical plantations, for the harder manual work would be too arduous for Europeans unused to the heat of those regions.

Climate Necessary.

Cacao can only grow at tropical temperatures, and when shielded from the wind and unimpaired by drought. Enthusiasts, as a hobby, have grown the tree under glass in England; it requires a warmer temperature than either tea or coffee, and only after infinite care can one succeed in getting the tree to flower and bear fruit. The mean temperature in the countries in which it thrives is about 80 degrees F. in the shade, and the average of the maximum temperatures is seldom more than 90 degrees F., or the average of the minimum temperatures less than 70 degrees F. The rainfall can be as low as 45 inches per annum, as in the Gold Coast, or as high as 150 inches, as in Java, provided the fall is uniformly distributed. The ideal spot is the secluded vale, and whilst in Venezuela there are plantations up to 2000 feet above sea level, cacao cannot generally be profitably cultivated above 1000 feet.

Factors of Geographical Distribution.

Climate, soil, and manures determine the possible region of cultivation—the extent to which the area is utilised depends on the enterprise of man. The original home of cacao was the rich tropical region, far-famed in Elizabethan days, that lies between the Amazon and the Orinoco, and but for the enterprise of man it is doubtful if it would have ever spread from this region. Monkeys often carry the beans many miles—man, the master-monkey, has carried them round the world. First the Indians spread cacao over the tropical belt of the American continent and cultivated it as far North as Mexico. Then came the Spanish explorers of the New World, who carried it from the mainland to the adjacent West Indian islands. Cacao was planted by them in Trinidad as early as 1525. Since that date it has been successfully introduced into many a tropical island. It was an important day in the history of Ceylon when Sir R. Horton, in 1834, had cacao plants brought to that island from Trinidad. The carefully packed plants survived the ordeal of a voyage of ten thousand miles. The most recent introduction is, however, the most striking. About 1880 a native of the Gold Coast obtained some beans, probably from Fernando Po. In 1891, the first bag of cacao was exported; it weighed 80 pounds. In 1915, 24 years later, the export from the Gold Coast was 120 million pounds.


Tropical vegetation appears so bizarre to the visitor from temperate climes that in such surroundings the cacao tree seems almost commonplace. It is in appearance as moderate and unpretentious as an apple tree, though somewhat taller, being, when full grown, about twenty feet high. It begins to bear in its fourth or fifth year. Smooth in its early youth, as it gets older it becomes covered with little bosses (cushions) from which many flowers spring. I saw one fellow, very tall and gnarled, and with many pods on it; turning to the planter I enquired "How old is that tree?" He replied, almost reverentially: "It's a good deal older than I am; must be at least fifty years old." "It's one of the tallest cacao trees I've seen. I wonder—." The planter perceived my thought, and said: "I'll have it measured for you." It was forty feet high. That was a tall one; usually they are not more than half that height. The bark is reddish-grey, and may be partly hidden by brown, grey and green patches of lichen. The bark is both beautiful and quaint, but in the main the tree owes its beauty to its luxuriance of prosperous leaves, and its quaintness to its pods.

The fruit, which hangs on a short thick stalk, may be anything in shape from a melon to a stumpy, irregular cucumber, according to the botanic variety. The intermediate shape is like a lemon, with furrows from end to end. There are pods, called Calabacillo, smooth and ovate like a calabash, and there are others, more rare, so "nobbly" that they are well-named "Alligator." The pods vary in length from five to eleven inches, "with here and there the great pod of all, the blood-red sangre-tora." The colours of the pods are as brilliant as they are various. They are rich and strong, and resemble those of the rind of the pomegranate. One pod shows many shades of dull crimson, another grades from gold to the yellow of leather, and yet another is all lack-lustre pea-green. They may be likened to Chinese lanterns hanging in the woods. One does not conclude from the appearance of the pod that the contents are edible, any more than one would surmise that tea-leaves could be used to produce a refreshing drink. I say as much to the planter, who smiles. With one deft cut with his machete or cutlass, which hangs in a leather scabbard by his side, the planter severs the pod from the tree, and with another slash cuts the thick, almost woody rind and breaks open the pod. There is disclosed a mass of some thirty or forty beans, covered with juicy pulp. The inside of the rind and the mass of beans are gleaming white, like melting snow. Sometimes the mass is pale amethyst in colour. I

The Cacao Plantation.

Coconut plantations and sugar estates make a strong appeal to the imagination, but for peaceful beauty they cannot compare with the cacao plantation. True, coconut plantations are very lovely—the palms are so graceful, the leaves against the sky so like a fine etching—but "the slender coco's drooping crown of plumes" is altogether foreign to English eyes. Sugar estates are generally marred by the prosaic factory in the background. They are dead level plains, and the giant grass affords no shade from the relentless sun. Whereas the leaves of the cacao tree are large and numerous, so that even in the heat of the day, it is comparatively cool and pleasant under the cacao.

Cacao plantations present in different countries every variety of appearance—from that of a wild forest in which the greater portion of the trees are cacao, to the tidy and orderly plantation. In some of the Trinidad plantations the trees are planted in parallel lines twelve feet apart, with a tree every twelve feet along the line; and as you push your way through the plantation the apparently irregularly scattered trees are seen to flash momentarily into long lines. In other parts of the world, for example, in Grenada and Surinam, the ground may be kept so tidy and free from weeds that they have the appearance of gardens.

Clearing the Land.

When the planter has chosen a suitable site, an exercise requiring skill, the forest has to be cleared. The felling of great trees and the clearing of the wild tangle of undergrowth is arduous work. It is well to leave the trees on the ridges for about sixty feet on either side, and thus form a belt of trees to act as wind screen. Cacao trees are as sensitive to a draught as some human beings, and these "wind breaks" are often deliberately grown—Balata, Poui, Mango (Trinidad), Galba (Grenada), Wild Pois Doux (Martinique), and other leafy trees being suitable for this purpose.

Suitable Soil.

It was for many years believed that if a tree were analysed the best soil for its growth could at once be inferred and described, as it was assumed that the best soil would be one containing the same elements in similar proportions. This simple theory ignored the characteristic powers of assimilation of the tree in question and the "digestibility" of the soil constituents. However, it is agreed that soils rich in potash and lime (e.g., those obtained by the decomposition of certain volcanic rocks) are good for cacao. An open sandy or loamy alluvial soil is considered ideal. The physical condition of the soil is equally important: heavy clays or water-logged soils are bad. The depth of soil required depends on its nature. A stiff soil discourages the growth of the "tap" root, which in good porous soils is generally seven or eight feet long.


In the past insufficient care has been taken in the selection of seed. The planter should choose the large plump beans with a pale interior, or he should choose the nearest kind to this that is sufficiently hardy to thrive in the particular environment. He can plant (1) direct from seeds, or (2) from seedlings—plants raised in nurseries in bamboo pots, or (3) by grafting or budding. It is usual to plant two or three seeds in each hole, and destroy the weaker plants when about a foot high. The seeds are planted from twelve to fifteen feet apart. The distance chosen depends chiefly on the richness of the soil; the richer the soil, the more ample room is allowed for the trees to spread without choking each other. Interesting results have been obtained by Hart and others by grafting the fine but tender criollo on to the hardy forastero, but until yesterday the practice had not been tried on a large scale. Experiments were begun in 1913 by Mr. W.G. Freeman in Trinidad which promise interesting results. By 1919 the Department of Agriculture had seven acres in grafted and budded cacao. In a few years it should be possible to say whether it pays to form an estate of budded cacao in preference to using seedlings.


The picking, gathering, and breaking of the cacao are the easiest jobs on the plantation.

Gathering and Heaping.

A sharp machete or cutlass is used to cut off the pods which grow on the lower part of the trunk. As the tree is not often strong enough to bear a man, climbing is out of the question, and a knife on a pole is used for cutting off the pods on the upper branches. Various shaped knives are used by different planters, a common and efficient kind (see drawing), resembles a hand of steel, with the thumb as a hook, so that the pod-stalk can be cut either by a push or a pull. A good deal of ingenuity has been expended in devising a "foolproof" picker which shall render easy the cutting of the pod-stalk and yet not cut or damage the bark of the tree. A good example is the Agostini picker, which was approved by Hart.


The gathering of the fruits of one's labour is a pleasant task, which occurs generally only at rare intervals. Cacao is gathered the whole year round. There is, however, in most districts one principal harvest period, and a subsidiary harvest.

The Yield of the Cacao Tree.

The average yield of cacao has in the past generally been over-stated. Whether this is because the planter is an optimist or because he wishes others to think his efforts are crowned with exceptional success, or because he takes a simple pride in his district, is hard to tell. Probably the tendency has been to take the finer estates and put their results down as the average.

Of the thousands of flowers that bloom on one tree during the year, on an average only about twenty develop into mature pods, and each pod yields about 1-1/3 ounces of dry cured cacao. Taking the healthy trees with the neglected, the average yield is from 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of commercial cacao per tree. This seems very small, and those who hear it for the first time often make a rapid mental calculation of the amazing number of trees that must be needed to produce the world's supply, at least 250 million trees. Or again, taking the average yield per acre as 400 lbs., we find that there must be well over a million acres under cacao cultivation. At the Government station at Aburi (Gold Coast) three plots of cacao gave in 1914 an average yield of over 8 pounds of cacao per tree, and in 1918 some 468 trees (Amelonado) gave as an average 7.8 pounds per tree. This suggests what might be done by thorough cultivation. It suggests a great opportunity for the planters—that, without planting one more tree, they might quadruple the world's production.

The work which has been started by the Agricultural Department in Trinidad of recording the yield of individual trees has shown that great differences occur. Further, it has generally been observed that the heavy bearing trees of the first year have continued to be heavy bearers, and the poor-yielding trees have remained poor during subsequent years. The report rightly concludes that: "The question of detecting the poor-bearing trees on an estate and having them replaced by trees raised from selected stock, or budded or grafted trees, of known prolific and other good qualities is deserving of the most serious consideration by planters."


The following directions as well as the recipes that follow were taken from "Chocolate and Cocoa Recipes " By Miss Parloa and Home Made Candy Recipes By Mrs. Janet McKenzie Hill written in the early 1900's.

These are reproduced as written in their book, ingredients may have changed over the years so substitution may be required.

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