The cacao bean, “the brown gold”, grows in an ever-green tree of a particular shape living in the shade of tall trees. Its small pink flowers resembling to orchids and cucumber-shaped fruits grow directly from the trunk and thicker branches. The fruits grow to even 25 cm long. They glitter in green, and when ripe in golden yellow or purple-red colours: 30-40 cacao beans sit in them within 5 cells embedded into a slightly sour pulp.
Jorge Amado Brazilian writer writes about the harvest of cacao beans in his novel entitled “The Land of Golden Fruits”: “The sabre flits, the cacao-nuts fall from the trees, the children pick them up from the ground and pile them in the clearing. On the cacao fields women are precious, esteemed commodities. They chop up the ripe cacao. They hold the nuts in their left hands and cut them with one hit with the big grafting knife in their right hands.”
After the harvest the seeds are ripened between banana leaves for a few days (fermentation). The characteristic flavour of the cacao bean develops at that time. Then the grains are dried in the sun for one or two weeks, after that sawn into jute sacks they are sent off to across the globe, to the chocolate factories.
Tradition of chocolate production
In Mexico the dried cacao beans were roasted in crockery, shucked, then on a rectangular stone standing on three legs with a concave surface (metate) and heated from below they levigated them with a long-shaped piece of stone, moulded them into a soft dough. They beat up the cacao mass with cold water to be foamy, enriched it with corn flour and spiced it. They put cinnamon, vanilla, clove and even chili. The chocolate dough (paste) was shaped into cylindrical tiny sausages or discs or bars and dried and put into the pantry for later use. The ancient art of chocolate production flying from generation to generation is not very different today from the “technology” of the ancestors.
In the beginning in Europe it was the occupation of chemists and the specialised chocolate makers, mainly of Italian origin. Venice was even called the chocolate drinkers’ paradise. Chocolate was sold in the pharmacies as a strengthening and refreshing drug, they made the sour medicine more bearable with it. In France, Jewish chocolate makers hounded out of Spain grounded the new industry. In England the Fry Company of Bristol established the first chocolate factory in 1728. The inhabitants of monastic houses also made chocolate enthusiastically and eased the strictness of fasting with the drink made of it.
According to a myth the French prince Plessis-Praslin’s cook-confectioner favoured the participants of the Imperial Diet of Regensburg with the first bonbon in the 17th century. He dipped sugared almond into chocolate. He named the new candy Praline after his master.
The bonbon word appeared in the French child’s language by pronouncing the “bon” word meaning “good” twice. In the beginning they meant candy by it, later it got the adjective “chocolate”. From the beginning of the 20th century definitely the small immersed, filled or layered sweets made of chocolate are called so. The secret of the success of the handmade bonbon is still the creative fantasy, the charm of uniqueness and the harmony of flavours.