The Chocolate Life

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A lot gets written about chocolate every day.

Some of it is very good, a lot of it is pretty good, some of it is so-so, and every once in while you run across something that is so badly researched and written that it just takes your breath away. It's probably the Worst "Article" on Chocolate Ever Written.

It's hard to know where to start pointing out what's wrong with this article, written by Mike Adams, the self-proclaimed Health Ranger and editor of NaturalNews.com. He may be an expert on what makes news natural, but he is no authority on chocolate. And, actually, it's not really an article - it's a very long-winded sell sheet for Pacari chocolate.

Here's just one of the howlers the author tries to pass off on his readers, "virtually all the chocolate used in candy bars, chocolate chips, chocolate cakes, breads and so on is derived from the hybridized plant called CCN-51 -- a pale shadow of the heirloom "Arribe Nacional" cacao it was supposed to replace." Huh? Ecuador is responsible for only a small percentage (3-5% depending on source cited) of the world harvest of cacao so how can virtually all of the chocolate used in virtually everything made with chocolate be derived of the demonized CCN-51?

It can't of course. But, Mr Adams is less concerned with facts than fear-mongering. Just for fun, have a look to see if you can spot where else Mike goes wrong (spoiler - the first inaccuracy is in the second sentence), and share your thoughts with the rest of us.

And, while you're at it ... if you have other nominations for really bad (as in inaccurate, and/or misleading) writing about chocolate - please share it with the rest of us and when there are enough responses I'll create a "Top 10 Worst ..."

[ Why would I want to do this? Almost every day someone asks me a question about chocolate where I wonder - where did they ever get the idea to ask that question? The answer is articles like the one cited above. By identifying the sources we can hope to bring the light of truth(ful research and writing) to bear. ]

:: Clay

PS. I've met Santiago of Pacari (whose chocolate is being promoted in this "article") and spoken with him at length - at the Salon du Chocolat last year, and at Fancy Food Shows and various events over the past several years. I don't think that much, if any, of what's in this article is actually attributable to Santiago.

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Clay, I have to agree. A colleague had posted a link to this article on our FB page. After I had read it, I thought I might just go in and add a few comments to explain the inaccuracies - a teachable moment about cacao origin and bean variety, if you will. But, I quickly came to realize that making any reference to the aricle would only cause confusion - it was too far off the mark. We simple deleted the link to this article. To try to re-educate would have just caused more confusion.

I'm sure there is no direct connection with Pacari since they are a high quality outfit making great chocolate while continuing their social mission.

I've seen some real bad articles out there that basically state that "raw" chocolate is the ONLY form of chocolate that has any health benefits and that once you hit some magic temperature, ALL of the nutrients disappear. I will try to hunt this one down.
Wow, the intro is a doozy, I hate to imagine what it read like before the "extensive research and revision"!!
:o) I like this piece
Looks like they changed the article.
I made a screenshot of the updated article for all to see. Even heavily JPGd it's almost a meg.

If the article continues to be updated, let me know and I'll track its progress.
My feeling is that this "article" finds its voice in the parlance of the infomercial: First, find something that is popular. Then, find a way to use just a hint of truth to state that ALL forms of the thing (whatever it is) have been made vulgar, artificial, fake, and so on. It's especially good if you use hifalutin talk like: "a genetically divergent cacao plant that lacks the true phytochemical potency that gives real chocolate its many beneficial properties." (Really? Sure is a lot of research on theobromine, (-) epicatechin, effect on endothelial function, etc. on a product that lacks "phytochemical potency.") Next, with great PASSION for all that is GOOD, claim that what you are selling is ALL NATURAL and PURE and THE ONLY ONE OF ITS KIND! Finally, make sure that this wonderful and precious new version is VERY RARE and VERY HARD TO OBTAIN and painstaking to produce.

This "article" seems little more than advertising that follows the typical pattern mastered by Ron Popeil, then brought to its current fear-mongering status by Kevin Trudeau: Set the problem as undisputed fact; establish that YOU THE CUSTOMER have this problem and "THEY" have DUPED you; reveal the SECRET solution that THEY don't want you to know about; and then offer it for sale, ideally in LIMITED AMOUNTS or FOR A LIMITED time.

In related news, I just heard that to protest that there is NO MORE REAL CHOCOLATE, some preacher with 12 parishioners is going to burn a stack of Dagoba bars.

PS: By the way, I am not in any way impugning the product itself. I'm just commenting on the method of using an "article" to sell a product.
I tried to write a response over on the Natural News site, but the software won't allow me write a post longer than a certain length. I posted the intro on Natural News with a link back to this comment.

Following is my entire response:
===================================================================

Over on my web site, TheChocolateLife.com, I called the original version of this article The Worst Article on Chocolate Ever Written. I suppose, in response to a private message I sent to Mr Adams, he felt compelled to make some changes that took hours of additional research and discussions with cacao experts. I would like to know which "experts" Mr Adams spoke with - and if any of them were NOT identified with the raw foods community. He certainly did not consult me, or acknowledge my message to him.

My bona fides. I have been researching cacao and chocolate since 1994 and I've been writing about chocolate professionally since 2001. My critically acclaimed book, Discover Chocolate, was published in 2007. I have been to Ecuador twice (and also visited cacao plantations Bolivia, Venezuela, Mexico, and Belize among other places). I am a friend of Santiago, the founder of Pacari, and have many friends and acquaintances in the raw chocolate world. None of what follows is to in any way be perceived as casting any aspersions on the quality of the products Pacari produces. Santiago is a very nice guy and I believe he is highly ethical and to be believed in his claims for his products.

That said, the updated version of the article is no better and in some ways worse than the original

The following quote is breathtakingly wrong: "... virtually all the chocolate used in candy bars, chocolate chips, chocolate cakes, breads and so on is derived from a new, genetically divergent plant called CCN-51 -- a pale shadow of the original cacao tree it was supposed to replace." The world annual harvest of cacao beans is roughly 3 million metric tonnes. Ecuador's contribution to that harvest is approximately 3-5% and only a portion of that is CCN-51, which is not grown widely in many other countries. So there is simply no way that "virtually all of the chocolate used ... is from a new, genetically divergent plant called CCN-51."

What is "genetically divergent" supposed to mean? Genetically modified? In fact CCN-51 was created through conventional cross breeding techniques and was not genetically engineered in a lab. Like many cross-breeding programs in cacao, the purpose of this program was to create a variety with improved yield and disease resistance, with no attempt to select for flavor characteristics. There is no laboratory evidence (that I am aware of) that suggests, let alone proves, that CCN-51 is nutritionally inferior to Nacional in any way - assuming that the two varieties were grown and processed the same way. One might taste better, but better taste does not infer better nutrition.

Nacional is the preferred name for the variety among professionals. Arriba is a colloquial term that means "upriver" because cacao traders needed to go upriver (the Guayas) from the port of Guayaquil to get the beans. In more than 15 years, I have never heard the beans referred to as "Arriba Nacional complex by trinitari." The name Arriba came to be associated over time with the flavor of Nacional, which Mr Adams refers to as lychee but has been historically more commonly described as a combination of orange blossom and jasmine.

Another claim: "Once you eat the fruit, you're left with cacao seed pods." Actually, you don't eat the fruit. If you are lucky enough to open a fresh cacao pod, you get the great pleasure of being able to eat the pulp that surrounds the seeds. You do need to leave some of the pulp behind, because it is the fermentation of the pulp that is responsible for developing flavor compounds in the seeds. Once the seeds have been fermented they are dried and it is the dried cacao seeds (now called cocoa beans) that are turned into chocolate.

The seed pods are not, as Mr Adams writes, "dried and fermented." Only the seeds (the pods are normally composted in the cacao orchard), and it is necessary to ferment before drying. It is physically impossible to ferment a dried cacao seed.

In a conventional chocolate, the cocoa beans are roasted to develop flavor and to make it easier to remove the shell. Obviously, the beans used to make raw chocolate are not roasted. The "meat" of a cocoa bean (roasted or unroasted) is called nib. Nib is ground into a thick paste (most commonly called cocoa liquor (which is not alcoholic). Cocoa liquor can either be pressed to separate the fat (cocoa butter) from the non-fat solids. If the separation is done in a hydraulic press (the most common method), the non-fat solids form a compressed cake (called press cake) that is kibbled (broken into bits) and then ground into cocoa powder, contrary to Mr Adams assertion that, "The resulting fine powder is a cacao 'cake.'"

It is also important to note that the name, theobroma cacao, is Latin. It was given to cacao by Europeans. There is no evidence - anywhere in South America - that cacao seeds were ever consumed until after cacao was domesticated by the Olmecs and Toltecs in Central America. In Ecuador specifically there is no cultural iconography of cacao. You will find corn and many other plants depicted in art and textiles, but not cacao. It is the Aztecs, thousands of miles away in what is now Mexico, who believed that cacao was a gift from the gods.

Finally, Mr Adams writes, "When you get some of this, consider it a treasure. I recommend not feeding it to anyone who isn't enlightened enough to appreciate what they are consuming. Most children, in particular, are expecting sweet "junk" chocolate and will likely not appreciate "Arriba" cacao."

In fact, virtually all raw chocolate, and unsweetened chocolate in any form, is an acquired taste. Unsweetened raw chocolate is doubly so, irrespective of the type of bean it's made from - they wouldn't appreciate chocolate made from raw Arriba cacao or raw Porcelana cacao, or any other varietal. One of the main reasons that children will not like unsweetened chocolate in any form (junk or no) is that they do not possess receptors on their tongues to process bitter flavors (most young children don't like anything bitter, not just chocolate), we grow into our ability to enjoy bitter flavors.
Clay, this is such a thoughtful, articulate response -- bravo! Thank you for keeping the record straight.
Good Comment Clay. Thank you for setting the record straight.

Pierrick Chouard
Vintage Plantations Chocolates.

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