Chocolate is the most popular treat in the world. According to the World Cocoa Foundation, more than 3 million tons of cocoa beans are consumed worldwide every year. Not only does chocolate make you feel good, it’s also excellent for your health.
A little bit of history: chocolate is made from the fruit of the cacao tree, which is native of Central and South America. From each fruit you get pods which contain about 40 beans. The beans are dried and roasted to create cocoa beans. It is unclear where chocolate actually came about, but it is believed it started with a ceremonial drink made by the Olmecs around 1500 BC. The Olmecs then passed their knowledge to the Mayans, who not only consumed the chocolate drink, they also revered it. It was a very important part of their celebrations. Then the Aztecs took their admiration of chocolate to another level, they used it as a currency. To them, cacao beans were more important than gold. In the late 1500’s chocolate was introduce to Spain (there are many versions of whom actually brought it there). Soon after its introduction it was considered an indulgence all over Europe. In the mid 1600’s it was brought to Florida and became a huge American colony import. For centuries it was enjoyed as a beverage, it was only in the late 1800’s that it started being made into a chocolate bar by likes of Henri Nestle and Rudolf Lindt.
Health benefits: it’s good for your heart, brain, and mood. Dark chocolate, more specifically of 70% cacao or higher, is rich in antioxidants and nutrients due to a higher content of flavanol, a form of flavanoids. According to many reputable studies, dark chocolate may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, lowers blood pressure, blood sugar levels, inflammation and bad cholesterol, prevents memory loss as it increases brain function, fights free radicals and may play a role in cancer prevention, it’s good for your gut, as it may help with weight loss, it’s beneficial to your skin, and best of all … it puts you in a good mood! I have one bite of dark chocolate every day after lunch. Remember that moderation is the key, so it’s important to have about 1oz per day. Also consuming organic chocolate is always best.
Ethics in chocolate production: modern-day chocolate production comes at a cost. Many cocoa farmers struggle to make ends meet, so they turn to low-wage labor, sometimes even slave and/or child labor. Many chocolate producers have reconsider where they get their cocoa beans from. It is important to support those companies that use fair trade chocolate, which is created in an ethical and sustainable way.
Tasting/Pairing: chocolate falls into three categories; dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate. There are a few places that I love to get locally-made chocolate in Miami. However, for this particular chocolate and spirits pairing, I choose only one (stay tuned for future articles, as when things get better, I will go around the city and show you my favorite places). Cao Chocolates is the first small-batch artisan bean to bar business in South Florida. They use single origin cacao from small, fair-trade farms; most of them have the organic certification. You can purchase through their website, Instagram, Amazon, and at Milam’s Market (where I got these cute mini bars).
To make this pairing simple I choose to stick with the three categories of chocolate and searched online for the best spirits combinations beforehand. We paired as follows: White Chocolate with Gin and with Tequila, Milk Chocolate with Rum and Bourbon, Dark Chocolate with Bourbon and Japanese Whisky. The three of us had different favorites for all pairings, LOL … so we ended up trying all chocolate with all spirits, and added the XO Tequila to the mix as well. At this point we were even more confused! Even-though we had our favorites, we decided that the Japanese Whisky paired well with all chocolate types. At the end of the day, I believe that, unless you are a chocolate and spirits connoisseur, pairings are a very personal taste. Some of us love one type of chocolate over another, and the same goes for spirits. I’m not a rum person, so the rum for me didn’t go with any chocolate, however it may not be the same case for someone who loves rum. I could have salted extra dark chocolate all day with whisky or an anejo tequila, but the same may not work for people that can’t even think about having a bite of dark chocolate. This was a very fun afternoon with friends; you can also try it on date night … remember chocolate is an aphrodisiac. 😉
We did this tasting/pairing for fun, however if you would like to hear from actual professionals, Cao Chocolates is offering a virtual chocolate tasting. Learn everything about craft chocolate, how to properly taste it, best pairings, and more while having fun with Master Chocolate maker Ricardo “Cao” Trillos. Click on link or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org