Chocolate: From the Cocoa Tree to Me
by Robyn Klobusiak of The Ugly Duck Out
Besides dipping yummy bits into chocolate there was the opportunity to discuss the communities that grow the crops, what goes with the cocoa beans to create the chocolate treat, the history and refinement of sugar, costing and labelling. Reading labels can reveal a lot about the impact of a product on the environment and on our health.
What does Fairtrade mean? Many of the commodities in the market place today are produced with no indication on the product’s labels of where and how the ingredients were grown or harvested. Often this means that with goods like coffee, tea and of course chocolate, the growers are underpaid for their produce. Obviously this is not fair.
Ensuring that producers earn enough money from the product that they grow, enables them to invest in education, health, their environment and make choices about their futures. Fair Trade is about giving power back to the growers. With informed purchasing we can make a difference – we can improve our own health and the wellbeing of other communities.
Sweet, Dark and Messy at The Ugly Duck Out
Students who visited the kitchen dipped ginger, licorice and coconut into dark and milk chocolate. These treats are organic/Fairtrade and gluten free… and taste really yum! We learned that cocoa trees grow to between 12-15 metres high (that’s big!) and produce blossoms which, when pollinated, turn into cocoa pods. Each pod contains about 40 seeds which become cocoa beans. It takes one tree’s whole crop for the year to make three big bars of chocolate.
To harvest the cocoa, the pods must be cut from the trees, split open and the slimy pulp containing the beans scraped out. The bitter cocoa bean is then wrapped in plantain leaves to develop (ferment) and then dried under the sun. Pheew, this is hard work! The beans are then usually shipped to Europe where they are roasted, crushed, and ground into a rich cocoa butter. The cocoa butter is combined in varying proportions with sugar and milk and stirred continuously over several days, then cooled and molded into the delicious chocolate bars we enjoy. So chocolate is cocoa+fat+milk+sugar.
Sugar is one of the highest sprayed crops so by ensuring the sugar is Fairtrade/organic you will also avoid any harmful chemicals used in its production.
Compound v Couverture Chocolate
Basically there are 2 types of chocolate – compound or couverture. ‘Compound’ is cheaper because the cocoa butter is replaced with another refined fat that is often not specified on label. So check out the labels – it is often interesting reading. ‘Couverture’ is superior chocolate. Because it has high proportion of cocoa butter it melts at lower temperatures. Like on our tongues! It requires more skillful handling though – a process called tempering. Tempering involves even heating of the chocolate to 48-50 degrees and then working and cooling to seed the cocoa butter. This will ensure a lasting gloss and a crisp snap on breaking.
After discussion about the importance of food hygiene we washed our hands and started tempering!:
- Evenly warm to about 49 deg Celsius
- Pour out half into ceramic bowl. Work with palette knife until it starts to set – about 26 deg Celsius.
- Add cooled chocolate to warmed chocolate and work until about 30 degrees (milk) and 32 degrees (dark) Celsius. Work to achieve smooth mass without incorporating air.
- Do the Dip thing.
In the near future, the students will produce labels, with the assistance of Diane Bricknell, and the bags of high quality chocolates will be available for sale at the Swansea Markets. Funds raised will support a project chosen by the students.
The Swansea Primary School students showed a great deal of skill in the preparation of the chocolates. I would like to thank them all for their professional manner within my kitchen and their care and enthusiasm. Elise Wells, our school Chaplain, and the visiting student teacher did a sensational job of dipping and discussion.
The Ethical Chocolate Workshops run each year for visiting interstate and regional East Coast schools and is part of a community project to highlight the advantages of organic, Fairtrade. By reading labels and informed purchasing the consumer can create better outcomes for their own health and for other communities. It is possible to reduce poverty through everyday shopping.
For more information about the chocolate classes and the restaurant, visit The Ugly Duck Out website. You can also follow The Ugly Duck Out on Facebook, email Robyn Klobusiak or phone (03) 6257 8850 for bookings. You’ll find the restaurant at 2 Franklin Street in Swansea on the east coast of Tasmania.
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