World Chocolate Day 2021: about the day, the treat and top spots to enjoy some in the Highlands and Moray
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July 7 marks one of the most delicious recurrences of the year as the world celebrates all things chocolate.
World Chocolate Day was first celebrated in 2009 and, although it is unclear who came up with the idea first, its date calls back to July 7 of 1550, which is believed to be the date of its arrival in Europe.
So, this is a great excuse to indulge (responsibly) in a scrumptious tasting, organise a watch party with mouthwatering cult movies such as Chocolat or Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, and learn more about one of the world’s most beloved treats.
The journey to chocolate
From bean to bar: when it comes to chocolate, this is an expression that we come across more and more often, now that the market’s attention is focussing on small-scale, sustainably sourced ingredients. For chocolate, this means that many producers are looking over the production process from its very start, which is farming cacao trees.
The plant, whose scientific name is Theobroma ('Food of the gods' in Greek) cacao, is native to Central and South America. Cocoa and cacao beans were very important in the cultures of ancient civilisations of the area, such as the Mayas and the Aztecs, who used cacao-based drinks (with chilli, cinnamon and other spices) in religious ceremonies and also used cocoa beans as currency. The plant was likely brought back by Spanish merchants in the 16th century, and eventually spread across Europe during the following centuries.
Cacao trees grow (peculiarly on the trunk rather than from the branches) oval-shaped pods containing just under 50 cacao beans. These pods, once they are ripe and ready, are harvested twice a year and cut open. The pulp is then taken out and left to ferment and
after five to seven days, the beans are separated from the pulp and dried, which can be done by leaving them outside or with the help of open wood fires in more humid countries.
The beans are usually then transferred from the farm to the chocolate maker who will roast them and break the beans down to separate the shell from cocoa nibs (s process known as winnowing).
After this the beans are ground at high speed and this process creates a thick paste called cocoa mass. This mass is made of roughly half cocoa powder and half cocoa butter, which means there is already a fatty component to it, however some producers will add extra cocoa butter to change the texture and make it smoother (or in case of bigger manufacturers cheaper vegetable fats). It’s at this stage that extra milk or sugar are added.
Chocolate is then tempered by playing with the temperatures in order to create the right type of particles and give chocolate its characteristic texture. Finally, chocolate is moulded into the desired shape before being wrapped up ready to be enjoyed!
If consumed in moderate quantities as part of a healthy diet and favouring quality over quantity, cocoa or dark chocolate consumption can be also good for your health: it's a great source of anti-oxydants, can improve your cardiovascular circulation and improve on some risk factors for heart disease, protect the skin from sun damage, improve brain functions and, of course, is a great mood booster!
Top spots to enjoy chocolate in the Highlands and Moray
World Chocolate Day is also a fantastic opportunity to discover your local chocolate producers, shops and cafes, and there are many delicious spots across the Highlands and Moray to browse around.
Here are some suggestions for a great tasting!
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If it’s a hot choc with a view that you are craving, look no further than this remote chocolate producer on the NC500. Set on the magnificent Balnakeil Bay, Cocoa Mountain opened in 2006 and offers a variety of products - with dairy free options as well. They also have a branch in Dornoch, which is a lovely pairing if you are around for a visit to the historic burgh.
Truffles, whisky chocolates, hot chocolate mix….what’ not to love? If you are based in the Highland capital, or find them at an artisan market, this small-batch handcrafted chocolate is a lovely (dairy-free) treat.
With a focus on ingredients from The Highlands and Scotland, Chocolates of Glenshiel was founded by Finlay Macdonald at the tender age of 16! This is a stunning location to visit, not far from Eilean Donan Castle and on the way to the Isle of Skye, and you can pair a fantastic tasting experience to the beautiful scenery.
Between scrumptious brownies and mouth-watering hot chocolates, this lovely specialist chocolate shop and cafe in Ellon is the perfect treat destination.
A chocolate producer focussing on sustainably-sourced beans and local ingredients, they have a wide choice of chocolate products for all tastes - and also offer a monthly treat box.
If you like your drams, Ross-shire based Chocisky produces quality chocolate specifically to go along with whisky to make your pairings even more delicious.
Among the walls of candy and treats which cover the walls in this Speybridge shop you'll find fresh luxury chocolate and a wide selection of assorted boxes.