Posted in Kafevend Blog
Hello, and welcome back to the Kafevend blog! If your friends and family were particularly generous this Easter, and/or if you are proficient at eking out your treats, you may well still have Easter eggs lounging around. With this in mind, we thought it might be interesting to learn how exactly these delicious goodies are crafted into such a delicate shape- read on to find out!
Before chocolate bars were glinting in the eyes of chocoholics, cocoa beans were used to make drinks. This first happened in South and Central America where the theobroma cacao tree hails from. Civilizations such as the Olmec, Maya and Aztec all enjoyed a cup of cocoa. The first Europeans to try it were the Spanish who embarked on the conquest of these lands in the middle of the second millenium. They managed to keep it secret for around a century after bringing it back to Spain, but apparently chatty monks who became involved in production back at home let word get out. Before long, the rest of Western Europe was revelling in this delicious drink.
The chocolate bar has the work of a Dutch father and son team to thank for its existence, as each hit upon a crucial development with the bean. The first in 1815 was discovered by Casparus van Houten, who invented the cocoa press. This machine squeezed ground cocoa beans and separated them into cocoa solids and cocoa butter. His son Coenraad found that by adding alkaline salts to the mix, the bitterness of cocoa was reduced- this had been an issue the Spanish had with the drink when they first encountered it.
We have a native Brit to thank for what is considered the first chocolate bar- Joseph Fry. Like many of his contemporary Quakers, he got involved in industries looking to provide alternative- and more salubrious- foodstuffs and drinks for the population. He decided to go into confectionery and in particular, chocolate. Experimenting with ratios of cocoa solids and cocoa butter, he discovered that by adding extra cocoa butter to the mix, it was possible to make a moldable chocolate- thus the chocolate bar was born.
The first Easter eggs would have been made with this proto chocolate. It was a laborious process, involving painting the melted chocolate by hand on to the sides of a mold in order to keep a hollow centre, and not a solid block- although no doubt some folks would have enjoyed that! Two halves would then be joined together, creating the hollow chocolate Easter egg we know today. Methods for producing this form have evolved over the years. Along with the general march of industry and machinery, hollow eggs can be created in their thousands by machines which handle every stage of the process, from the molds to packing them up for shipment. The molds themselves are quite interesting- one way of doing it involves inserting melted chocolate into the mold, and then in order to form a shell it is rotated every which way by a mechanical arm, spreading the chocolate around evenly as it cools and sets.
We hope you found this an interesting read as you polish off your Easter eggs!