A Cocoa Expert Highlights 3 Chocolate Trends

Kristy Leissle wrote . . . . . . . . .

‘Tis the season to eat chocolate. And for the chocolate industry, there’s nothing sweeter, since this is the time of year when it enjoys a spike in sales and, at least for some, rising profits.

Globally, chocolate and its source, cocoa, are in a moment of dynamism and change. In some cases it’s for the worse, as the industry faces the realities of climate change. Other changes, however, are for the better, as cocoa producers, chocolate makers, researchers and even retailers offer creative new ways to interact with this beloved food and the people who bring it to us.

I’ve been researching and writing about all things chocolate for 15 years, from its politics and geography to its history and culture. Here are three fascinating trends I’ve been following that are reshaping the industry.

Craft chocolate explodes

One of the biggest changes has been the rise of craft chocolate.

For most of the 20th century, a few major brands like Hershey, Mars and Nestlé dominated the market. That began to change in 1997, when Scharffen Berger opened its doors in Berkeley, California, and became the first new bean-to-bar maker in decades.

To see how much things have changed, look no further than the Northwest Chocolate Festival, held every autumn in Seattle, which recently celebrated its 10th year. When I became education director for the festival in 2010, I knew maybe a dozen craft chocolate makers to invite. In 2013, the last year I held the role, I surveyed the market and was able to locate 37 bean-to-bar makers operating commercially in the U.S.

Today, there are more than 200.

The rise of craft chocolate has meant a true renaissance. These makers often take an artisanal approach, getting to know their materials well – in this case, cocoa and sugar – and shaping them carefully from bean to finished product. The results are lovingly crafted bars, many of them single origin that showcase cocoa’s natural flavor range.

Stories and labels

With this artisanal market shift has come rising consumer demand for education about chocolate.

My own analysis of the craft market shows that consumers now want more than just a piece of chocolate. They expect makers to also share a story, from who grew the beans to the flavor profile of the finished product.

But this surge in craft chocolate makers and stories can also create confusion at the grocery store.

A visit to a typical sweets section these days reveals dozens of new and attractive chocolate bars stretching down the aisle, bearing a dizzying array of labels: Fairtrade, direct trade, Rainforest Alliance, IMO Fair for Life, bean to bar, raw, handmade, craft and artisan – to name just a few.

Is there any real difference among these claims, or are they all simply marketing hype? And what does it really mean to be artisanal?

By and large, labels do one of two things: say something about a chocolate maker’s ethics or its process.

Fairtrade, for example, sets a price floor for cocoa. In a market where cocoa’s price can fluctuate dramatically, this introduces some budget stability for certified producer organizations, because they know in advance the minimum price they will receive. Fairtrade certified organizations also receive what is called the social premium – an amount paid over and above the price for the cocoa, which is reinvested into community development projects or, in some cases, distributed as cash payments to growers.

Direct trade, which Taza pioneered for chocolate, approaches things a bit differently, focusing on maintaining close and mutually supportive relationships with producers over the long term.

As for process, and consumer understandings of it, I examined how new chocolate makers use the term “artisan.” An artisan once was a person who spent long years as apprentice to a master, training in a craft, and “graduated” only when that master said the trainee was ready.

Opportunities for apprenticeship vanished in the U.S. because the few chocolate companies that dominated the 20th century guarded their manufacturing secrets so closely. But once Scharffen Berger began marketing its chocolate as artisanal, the number of makers calling themselves “artisan” grew at an astonishing rate.

In consumer surveys I conducted for this research, I found that people associated the term “artisan” with passion for chocolate making, rather than formal training in the craft. Furthermore, my findings suggested that consumers translate passion into good flavor. So the word “artisan” seems to sell a delicious chocolate eating experience, which may or may not be true.

I also concluded that terms like artisan are meant to do more than sell a product. The term, and the storytelling that accompanies it, is intended to educate consumers about what makes this chocolate different from mass-produced candies.

For consumers eager to get a story with their chocolate, these labels provide plenty of information. My advice is not to try to learn every story but to follow the ones that you find compelling. The more we learn about the people who bring us chocolate, the more mindfully we can enjoy it.

Melting in our mouths

One of the main reasons chocolate is so enjoyable and compelling to the human palate is because cocoa butter, the natural fat of the bean, melts at just below our body temperature, at around 93 degrees Fahrenheit. This gives it its distinctive mouth-feel, covering our taste buds thickly and evenly.

But it’s also a major headache for chocolate makers and retailers because it means their wares are susceptible to melting into mush in hotter regions and during the summer. And so the industry has been hard at work for decades on creating chocolate that doesn’t collapse in the heat.

The effort began in 1937, when Hershey developed a heat-resistant bar for the U.S. Army, which resulted in over 3 billion Field Ration D units being distributed to solders during World War II.

More recently, in 2015, researchers at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences announced their discovery of the gene that determines cocoa butter’s melting point. If this gene can be manipulated, it may mean another route to heat-resistant chocolate.

Today, Barry Callebaut, the world’s largest chocolate maker, reportedly makes a bar that remains stable at up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Nestlé, Hershey and Mondelēz also have heat-resistant projects that aim to conquer the melt problem while maintaining the mouth-feel.

For the company that solves this challenge, and still keeps chocolate feeling silky smooth, the prize will be enormous: vast new potential markets throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

And for consumers, the result may one day be a planet covered in chocolate – sharp and square, in its most pleasing form, and ready to melt where it ought: in our mouths.

Source: The Conversation


Chinese Duck Parcels in Rice Paper


1-3/4 lb boneless duck breasts
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
5 large cloves garlic
20 peppercorns, lightly crushed
sea salt
15 rice paper rounds
3/4 English (hothouse) cucumber, halved and cut into julienne 1-1/2 inches long by 1/4 inch thick
2 large shallots, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
1/3 cup Hoisin sauce


  1. To make the filling, in a heavy non-aluminum pan, combine the duck breasts, wine, stock, garlic, peppercorns, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, cover, adjust the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer, and cook until the duck is tender, about 1-1/2 hours.
  2. By the end of cooking, most of the duck fat will have been rendered and the duck will be simmering in its own fat. Transfer the duck to a platter lined with paper towels and let cool slightly. Remove and discard the skin and cut the duck meat into strips about 1-1/2 inches long by 1/2 inch thick.
  3. Have ready on a work surface a large, shallow bowl filled with water and a damp kitchen towel. Immerse a round of rice paper in the water for about 2 seconds, then remove it and spread it on the towel. It will become pliable within a few seconds.
  4. Place a few strips of duck, a few cucumber juliennes, and a few slices of shallot in a line across the center of the rice paper, leaving a 2-inch border on either side. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon of the Hoisin sauce over the ingredients. Roll the nearest edge up to cover the filling, compacting it gently. Fold in both sides and continue rolling up gently but firmly to the end. Place seam side down on a large platter. Repeat with the remaining ingredients until you have made about 15 rolls. Cover the rolls with the damp towel and set aside until serving time (not more than 2 hours).
  5. Before serving, using a sharp knife, cut each roll in half on the diagonal. Arrange on a serving platter and serve.

Makes 30 room-temperature bites.

Source: Hors Doeuvre

Older Adults Lower Body Flexibility Test

Note: Perform the test after doing some warm-up exercises. Do not over stretch as you may hurt yourself

Read more at Tpend Sports . . . . .

Cholesterol Production in Your Body

Enlarge image . . . . .

Julie Corliss wrote . . . . . . . . .

Cholesterol has a bad reputation, thanks to its well-known role in promoting heart disease. Excess cholesterol in the bloodstream is a key contributor to artery-clogging plaque, which can accumulate and set the stage for a heart attack.

But to fully explain cholesterol, you need to realize that it’s also vital to your health and well-being. Although we measure cholesterol production in the blood, it’s found in every cell in the body. The Harvard Special Health Report Managing Your Cholesterol explains cholesterol as a waxy, whitish-yellow fat and a crucial building block in cell membranes. It’s also used to make vitamin D, hormones (including testosterone and estrogen), and fat-dissolving bile acids. In fact, cholesterol production is so important that your liver and intestines make about 80% of the cholesterol you need to stay healthy. Only about 20% comes from the foods you eat. (See illustration.)

If you eat only 200 to 300 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol a day (one egg yolk has about 200 mg), your liver will produce an additional 800 milligrams per day from raw materials such as fat, sugars, and proteins.

Since cholesterol is a fat, it can’t travel alone in the bloodstream. It would end up as useless globs (imagine bacon fat floating in a pot of water). To get around this problem, the body packages cholesterol and other lipids into minuscule protein-covered particles that mix easily with blood. These tiny particles, called lipoproteins (lipid plus protein), move cholesterol and other fats throughout the body.

Cholesterol and other lipids circulate in the bloodstream in several different forms. Of these, the one that gets the most attention is low-density lipoprotein— better known as LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. But lipoproteins come in a range of shapes and sizes, and each type has its own tasks. They also morph from one form into another. These are the five main types:

  • Chylomicrons are very large particles that mainly carry triglycerides (fatty acids from your food). They are made in the digestive system and so are influenced by what you eat.
  • Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) particles also carry triglycerides to tissues. But they are made by the liver. As the body’s cells extract fatty acids from VLDLs, the particles turn into intermediate density lipoproteins, and, with further extraction, into LDL particles.
  • Intermediate-density lipoprotein (IDL) particles form as VLDLs give up their fatty acids. Some are removed rapidly by the liver, and some are changed into low-density lipoproteins.
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles are even richer in pure cholesterol, since most of the triglycerides they carried are gone. LDL is known as “bad” cholesterol because it delivers cholesterol to tissues and is strongly associated with the buildup of artery-clogging plaque.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) particles are called “good” cholesterol because they remove cholesterol from circulation and from artery walls and return it to the liver for excretion.

Source : Harvard University

Foot Care a Must for Diabetic

Good foot care is essential for people with diabetes, a foot surgeon says.

Diabetes can cause nerve damage that leads to a loss of sensation in the feet, making it difficult to feel any sores, blisters or injuries, explained Dr. John Giurini. He is chief of podiatric surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Diabetes can also reduce blood supply to the feet, making it difficult for injuries to heal.

People with diabetes should regularly inspect their feet, Giurini said. The best time is immediately after a shower while drying your feet or at the end of the day when removing socks and shoes.

If you notice a blister, apply a clean dressing with an antiseptic, stay off the foot, and contact your podiatrist or physician, Giurini said in a medical center news release.

Inspect the insides of your shoes before putting them on, for things such as rocks, pebbles and other debris that can cause irritation of the foot. Due to a lack of sensation in your feet, you may not be able to feel these objects, he explained.

High-risk patients should be seen by a foot care specialist every three months, Giurini said. High-risk patients include those with abnormal sensation or circulation, or those with foot deformities.

Source: HealthDay

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