This year is chock-full of sweet new events, and they’re all happening at your St. Louis Public Library. Late February, Central Library is expecting a visit from gardening experts to talk about everyone’s favorite chocolate, erm...plants! Master gardener, Betsy Alexander, will be joining us from Missouri Botanical Gardens to dig into ways to bring some extra sweetness to your home. Meeting on the second-floor training room experts will be discussing everything from books to flowerbeds.
You’d think after being around for over a thousand years that there wouldn’t be much more to know about cocoa. As it turns out, there’s “cocoa”, and then there’s “cacao”. Two distinctly different plants with very different properties. Growing inside large pods from the theobroma cacao tree, chocolate comes from one of two parts. Cacao refers to a paste made from grinding up the beans (which are seeds) together with the sweet and tangy pulp inside the pod. Cocoa is what’s left after all the fat has been removed from the ground up contents. After any fermenting and roasting of the beans, it is the percentage of cacao grain powder that determines the actual flavor and kind of chocolate produced. You can learn more about this in the Studio at Central Library, and find there is “Nothing Like Chocolate”.
It was believed for the longest time that there were only three major kinds of chocolate: milk, dark, and white. Milk and dark chocolate are true chocolates as they contain a blend of cacao and milk for varying levels of creaminess. Milk chocolate usually contains around 15-30%, while dark chocolate fans are used to as much as 50-80%. YUM! Many will argue that white chocolate is not true chocolate, as it contains little to no cacao at all. It does, however, contain cocoa butter that has not gone through additional processing. Since cacao is what gives chocolate more of that natural bitterness, leaving it out produces sweeter results.
What has shocked chocolate lovers since 2017, is the debut of ruby chocolate. Closer to white chocolate, it contains lower measures of cacao. Makers have mostly kept their processes hidden, but you can see the difference. It’s PINK! While some online marketing would have you believe there’s been a new discovery of cocoa plants, more research is finding that not to be the case. Some speculate that makers of ruby chocolate are changing the fermentation process. Cocoa pods naturally grow to develop a red-violet hue, and this color changes when the cocoa is fermented.
“The Chocolate Farmer” talks all about how this sweet treat makes its way from plantation to pantry. In this film, you’ll see how the chocolate industry plays a major role in deciding how and where consumers' chocolate comes from. The industry may also be why many Americans haven’t yet heard of ruby chocolate. Hershey remains king in the United States and has not yet released its own response to what boasts to be the fourth kind of chocolate. Although Hershey’s has an agreement to sell Nestle products in America, they have not yet imported Nestle’s Ruby Kit-Kat bars.
Nestle is currently the leading international brand to commercially distribute ruby chocolate. This is also in support of their “Cocoa Plan”. There is a bitter side to all this sweetness. Since theobroma cacao trees typically grow in some of the world’s poorer countries, child labor and deforestation have made chocolate a sticky business. In addition to meeting world demand, Nestle is working to provide educational resources to mothers and improve farming practices among their growers. You can learn more about what’s being done to help the farming of cocoa around the world in “The Dark Side of Chocolate”. Find out the truth behind chocolate's journey from the remote labor farms of Cote d'Ivoire to the confectionery collective of Switzerland. Thankfully the industry has made important changes over the past decade, but things haven't always been so sweet.
We hope you will join us for our upcoming event “Chocolate!” on February 25th. Please make a reservation, as we are expecting a big turnout. Call now! (314) 539-0390