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What is the difference between chocolate and cocoa?

Cocoa comes from the cacao bean, the fruit of the cacao tree, and was one of the treasures Columbus took back to Spain from the New World. The cacao tree originated in the Amazon rain forest and had spread as far as Peru and Mexico in Columbus's time. However, it was Hernando Cortez, while conquering Mexico for Spain, who realized that cocoa was special after he saw it transformed into a chocolate liquid, served in golden goblets, at the court of Emperor Montezuma.

Back in Spain, the cacao bean drink was sweetened and flavored with vanilla and cinnamon, then heated, and hot chocolate became very fashionable. Special chocolate houses were created for patrons to enjoy socializing while sipping hot chocolate. These spread throughout western Europe to Britain.

During the Industrial Revolution, methods were developed to make the liquid chocolate finer and smoother. In the 1800s, the Swiss added milk to the liquid chocolate and developed the formula for making a solid block of chocolate. Today, the harvested cacao pods are split open and the wet beans are removed and fermented to develop the rich flavor, then dried. The beans are transported to the cocoa processing factories, where they are cleaned and shelled and the nib is kibbled, roasted and ground to produce cocoa mass. The mass is pressed to extract cocoa fat (called cocoa butter), resulting in a solid block of cocoa, which is ground into powder.

Solid chocolate is produced from cocoa mass, cocoa butter and sugar for dark chocolate; milk solids and milk fat are added to the mixture to make milk chocolate. Chocolate made in Switzerland is still one of the finest in the world today.

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