The Chocolate Life

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This is a forum thread to post news items that really don't deserve their own blog post or forum thread. To add your own news item(s) - and you are encouraged to post articles about you - please add your reply to this entry rather than replying to a news item (which you can, of course, do if you have a comment to make on it).

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Robbers in Israel Steal Chocolate Spread
Feb 27 - Dateline: Jerusalem

Israeli police are on the lookout for thieves with a super-sized chocolate craving. The robbers broke into a factory in the northern Israeli city of Haifa late Monday and walked away with nearly 100 tons of chocolate spread.
Chocolate Beer Can Be A Treat
Feb 28 - Dateline: Hartford, CT

When the Boston Beer Co. introduced Chocolate Bock several years ago, it was well received but invoked primal grunts of disapproval from some aficionados and guzzlers of light lager alike. Chocolate beer may appear trendy, but the "trend" goes back 3,000 years.

Chemical analysis of drinking vessels found in digs in what is now Honduras have revealed that man used cacao as early as 1,100 B.C. The early inhabitants of the Ulia Valley did not, however, produce the precursors of the Hershey bar or hot chocolate. Rather, they fermented a prize beer from cacao pulp.

The frothy, bitter brew was often seasoned with chilies, spices and honey. Thus, the entire chocolate industry is likely an unintended off-shoot of early Mesoamericans' desire for an alcoholic beverage to accompany a feast, or a human sacrifice.
Indian chocolate demand fuels domestic cocoa increases
Feb 25 - Dateline: India

In response to rising demand in the chocolate industry and reduce dependency on imports, Indian cocoa producers have said they will increase domestic cocoa production by 60 per cent in the next four years.

Chocolate consumption is gaining popularity in the country due to increasing prosperity coupled with a shift in food habits, pushing up the country's cocoa imports. Firms across the country have announced plans to step-up domestic production from 10,000 tonnes to 16,000 tonnes, according to Reuters. The country's annual cocoa demand is thought to be around 18,000 tonnes.
Cocoa Climbs To Fresh Highs On Weather, US Dollar
Feb 28 - Dateline: NYC

U.S. pit-traded cocoa futures continued their uptrend, vaulting to their highest point since January 1984 as ongoing unfavorable growing weather and a weaker U.S. dollar buttressed gains, analysts said. Most-active May futures settled $101 higher at $2,733 a metric ton and the nearby March contract settled up $95 at $2,717.

"The ongoing moisture shortfall being suffered by the West African cocoa belt could substantially reduce the April-September midcrop," said Dan Vaught, analyst at A.G. Edwards in St. Louis. A lack of rain and dry seasonal winds are straining crop development in African cocoa growing regions, meteorologists reported. Chances for a few isolated showers and thunderstorms in the area are possible, but there are no forecasts for significant precipitation, according to DTN Meteorlogix.

All-time lows in the U.S. dollar against the euro also boosted cocoa prices, analysts said. "Barring a strong (U.S.) dollar, $2,800 looks like the next test" likely by the end of the week, Cordier said. Profit taking in cocoa could occur if the dollar and euro prices correct, he noted.
French chocolate mousse murderer gets 20-year jail term
Feb 26 - Dateline: Paris

A 45-year-old French farmer was Tuesday sentenced to 20 years in prison for murdering his parents by lacing their chocolate mousse with a highly-toxic insecticide.

Beaumont, who lived with his parents in the town of Chalmaison east of Paris, allegedly mixed bug repellent recommended for use on vines or beets in the mousse that was served at dinner. During questioning, he admitted to having murdered his parents, saying he wanted to get rid of his mother who was authoritative and disapproved of his girlfriend.

Since the earliest days of the Spanish conquest of Central America, chocolate has been used to disguise the taste of poisons - which are often bitter.
Barry Callebaut to open Chocolate Academy in Chicago

by Renee Enna, February 2, 2008, Chicago Tribune

Chicago's reign as "Candy Capital of the World" has taken some hits as confectioners have gone out of business or moved away over the years. But Chicago's sweet reputation will get a bit of a lift with the news, reported in Crain's Chicago Business' ChicagoRealEstateDaily, that the international chocolate company Barry Callebaut A.G. is opening a Chocolate Academy here.

Crain's reports that the Swiss company plans to open the culinary school for professionals in June. It will be its first in North America (there are nine Chocolate Academies worldwide) and located in the firm's corporate headquarters at the Montgomery Ward building, 600 W. Chicago Ave.
This box of chocolates is not quite the bomb

Woman robs bank branch in Olathe

by Joyce Tsai, Feb. 12, 2008, KansasCity.com

A woman holding flowers and a candy box that she claimed was a bomb robbed a bank and caused the evacuation of a SuperTarget in Olathe on Tuesday night.

The robbery occurred at 6:35 p.m. at the Capitol Federal Savings Bank branch in the SuperTarget at 119th Street and Strang Line Road, FBI spokesman Jeff Lanza said. The woman walked into the store holding the flowers and a candy box, said Officer Vickie Smith of the Olathe Police Department.

The box had protruding wires and she handed it to the teller, warning her not to put it down or it would explode.

The woman demanded money and took cash from the teller’s cash drawers and left the store in an unknown direction.

Authorities were called, and they evacuated the store. An entire retail center, which includes other stores near the SuperTarget, was cordoned off by authorities for several hours until shortly before 10 p.m., Smith said. The bomb squad used its robot to pull the package outside of the store so it could be investigated.

Authorities discovered that the package was an empty chocolate box with a voltage meter and wires sticking out of it, Lanza said.

The suspect is described as a white female, 30 to 40 years old, 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 6 inches tall with chin-length to shoulder-length dark hair. She was wearing a tan or dark overcoat with a dark blouse, leather gloves and black fur hat, and was carrying a light-colored shoulder bag.

There was no description of the vehicle the woman used.
Eat abandoned chocolate at your own risk!

'Enjoy your trip' takes on a new meaning
August 17, 2006, The Mercury

The Hague - Police at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport on Thursday released a warning for hallucinogenic dark chocolate bars after a homeless man ate one and confused their uniforms with wedding dresses.

"He ate some and we found him hallucinating", mixing up police uniforms with wedding dresses, police spokesperson Rob Stenacker said.

"Several days later he brought us another bar that he had just found and we passed it on to the forensic institute" of the Netherlands, he said.

Tests showed the 72 percent cocoa dark chocolate contained psilocine, a mind-altering substance found in hallucinogenic mushrooms and considered to be a hard drug.

Police later found more chocolate bars on the ground and in airport dustbins.

"They were very likely bought in the Netherlands and abandoned at the airport by travellers who didn't dare to take them on board (the plane)," Stenacker said.

Police warned the public to be careful if they found any abandoned dark chocolate: "Don't eat it, you don't know what's in it. Imagine what would happen if a child ate it."

The sale of hallucinogenic mushrooms is tolerated in the Netherlands in so-called "smartshops" but it is forbidden to turn them into other food products.
DeVries Chocolate #7 on Saveur magazine's annual top 100 list

The 2008 SAVEUR 100

Our tenth annual 100 list offers a vivid snapshot of the wide—very, very wide—world of food, zipping from the Ramadan markets of Kuala Lumpur to the kitchens of Montreal's vanguard chefs and a rustic Galician tavern that serves some of the finest octopus we've ever tasted. And yet, this year's 100 is also about celebrating the fresh and wild bounty—edible weeds, anyone?—found right in our own backyards. So, join us. The feast is about to begin. –The Editors
Top Ten Scientific Reasons why Chocolate is the World’s Most Perfec...
Feb 14 - Dateline: The Internet

A humorous take on this important topic. 'nuff said.
Gourmet demand revives Central America cocoa farms
Mar 9 - Dateline: Panama

Indigenous people grew cocoa here more than 2,000 years ago. Now, their descendants are reviving the crop to meet world demand for high-quality chocolate. Throughout Central America, farmers are planting cocoa, taking advantage of high world cocoa prices and the premium their cocoa commands.

In the 1990s [many farmers in Panama] abandoned the crop when the trees were hit by fungus and world prices were low. Now gourmet chocolate companies are turning to growers in Central America to supply cocoa that can be labeled organic and "fair trade," under which companies pledge to pay third-world farmers more for their crops.

A cocoa expert at the Costa Rica-based tropical research center CATIE stimates Central America's cocoa output rose 40 percent over the last three years to between 4,000 and 5,000 tonnes in the 2006/2007 harvest. Planted area reached 21,000 hectares (52,000 acres), and another 2,000 hectares are expected to be planted this year.

"Cocoa is one of the few cash crop alternatives in poor, indigenous areas," the researcher said.
The 20 best chocolate Easter eggs (in the UK)
Dateline: London

Whether you are scouring the aisles for sugary, shiny treats for your kids or browsing the local deli for an organic, 70 per cent cocoa indulgence for yourself there has never been more choice for chocolate lovers at Easter.

In all price ranges and across all tastes it is now possible to buy good quality chocolate eggs with a high cocoa content. Even better, garish packaging is being replaced by the likes of hand-painted wooden eggs, and pleasingly kitsch boxes with more than a nod to Victoriana. Of course, the sugar highs of the trashier end of the Easter egg market traditionally beloved of the Brits are still readily available (and this list includes a few of the yummiest) but in the post-Green & Blacks era, it is just as easy to find the dark, organic, fairtrade and handmade kind. So, here are 20 of the best arranged in price order and now it's over to you for the hard bit - choosing.

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