Tag Archives: chocolate traditions

The Great Wall of Chocolate: Barriers Against Chocolate in China

As the gates of the Chinese market began to open in 1978 through Deng Xiaoping’s Four Modernization Policy, western industries began scrambling to access the 1 billion prospective customers within China’s borders. The chocolate industry in particular made a noticeable effort in trying to alter the Chinese diet so that it could include the massive quantities of the sweet treat that western societies have grown so fond of. However, despite their efforts throughout these years, the average person in modern day China only consumes about “1.8 ounces of chocolate annually”. In comparison, Switzerland consumes “22 pounds per person” and the U.S. consumes “11.7 pounds per person” annually (Allen, 28). But what factors in China have contributed to this stark difference? This blog will address how cultural barriers and distrust in dairy products have deterred the spread of chocolate within China’s rapidly growing populace.

The disparate cultural layout of China’s provinces has proven to be difficult for chocolate companies to maneuver. For starters, although the Chinese ethnic diversity is mainly homogenous with “92 percent” of the population being Han Chinese, the culinary traditions are not. For example, the north prefers “salty” foods, while the south favors “sweet and fresh”; “spicy” is the ideal flavor in the east, as opposed to the west, which adheres to “sour” flavors (Allen, 23). This amalgamation of preferences has made it difficult for chocolate companies to create products that would satisfy the majority of the population and make lasting impressions on anyone that is willing to go out of their comfort zone to purchase the exotic confectionaries.

Furthermore, older generations of Chinese were accustomed to a “limited range of foods” due to the tough economic times of the 40’s and 50’s. This caused monotony in the citizens’ diets, as their palates became accustomed to eating the same salty foods well beyond the moment China’s borders opened to foreign lands. As a result, the introduction of chocolate into the Chinese diet in the ‘80’s was not well received because “the sweetness of chocolate [was] too foreign and too extreme” (Allen, 27). This deterred people from consuming it in their daily lives due to how abnormal it was when compared to the average Chinese foods at the time; thus, it was considered a luxury to eat chocolate, which could be equated to how westerners view fine wine. This also proved that traditional marketing methods that worked on average westerners would not function with the Chinese populace. To account for this, the exotic and sweet treat was introduced as something one would give as a gift during a special occasion rather than for self-consumption. The following Chinese Dove Commercial is a perfect example of this practice. During the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, chocolate as a gift accounted for “over half” of the sales in China, but so long as chocolate continued to be viewed as a gift, it would never reach the heights that we see in the west. Younger generations of Chinese citizens, who have grown up eating the popular dessert, have been known to be more likely to purchase it for self-consumption. According to a study by the New York Times, modern Chinese chocolate consumers mostly consist of young people ages fifteen to twenty-four, which shows that there is still hope for chocolate as a commodity in China’s future.

 

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Gifts like the one in this picture would often be given along with chocolates and red envelopes, traditional Chinese gifts that usually contain money. This exemplifies the combination of western consumerism with Chinese traditionalism.

 

One other reason why Chinese people have avoided chocolate and other dairy-based products has been because of a general distrust in the quality of Chinese milk. One incident, in particular, caused Chinese trust in milk products to dwindle. According to a Harvard Business School case study, in 2008, Sanlu, a milk provider, started adding increased amounts of melamine in their products in order to maintain protein content standards. These increased chemical levels killed six infants and made 300,000 other people sick. This article by Forbes gives more details on how this incident has effected the Chinese dairy industry. After this incident, many other milk brands were found to have this exact same problem with their products, thus, causing widespread skepticism towards Chinese dairy. Chocolate in China, which contains at least 15% milk powder, took a major hit within this scene. One article from Reuters recalls how on September 29, 2008 Cadbury had to shutdown eleven of its Chinese chocolate products due to the suspicion that they were contaminated by melamine. Eventually, the company was forced to close three of its chocolate factories within China. Below, you can find a chart to visualize how much of the Chinese chocolate market the top companies had during the year of 2008. As expected, Cadbury was not doing so well after the milk scandal.

chocolate charts

As a result of this scandal, the confectionary industry has since slowed down, but the Chinese government has imposed tighter regulations on the milk industry in order to regain customer loyalty and trust. For instance, in 2009, the government passed a series of legislation that mandated dairy product producers to raise industry standards, bolster the barriers of entry, and promote the development of large-scale dairy farms, which tended to have higher quality products than their smaller counterparts. These tight regulations allowed for our favorite confectionary treat to make a comeback in the country years later. In 2012, CNN declared that chocolate sales in China grew about 19%, which accounted for $1.9 billion in sales, so we can see that chocolate is here to stay in the long run and is slowly making its way into the Chinese hearts and stomachs.

 

Works Cited

Allen, Lawrence L. Chocolate Fortunes. American Management Association, 2010.

Burke, Samuel. “Who Consumes the Most Chocolate?” CNN, Cable News Network, 17 Jan. 2012, thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/17/who-consumes-the-most-chocolate/.

Jones, David, and Tan Ee Lyn. “Cadbury Withdraws China Chocolate on Melamine Concern.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 29 Sept. 2008, uk.reuters.com/article/uk-cadbury/cadbury-withdraws-china-chocolate-on-melamine-concern-idUKTRE48S2B520080929.

Kirby, William and Dai, Nancy Hua. (2016) Yili Group: Building a Global Dairy Company. 9-317-003. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School.

Shen, Samuel. “Chocolate Makers Try to Satisfy a Picky Chinese Palate.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 July 2008, www.nytimes.com/2008/07/03/business/worldbusiness/03iht-choco.1.14202940.html.

 

 

 

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Cacao From Hands to the Machine

The sourcing and production of chocolate had a direct effect on its place in the social hierarchy in different societies and cultures across time. It is possible to see this by going in depth into three chronological time periods in different places in the world where the allure of cacao had spread. By an early exploration of Mayan chocolate production to Venezuelan plantations ending at the discovery of the Cocoa press in the Netherlands.

Mayan Chocolate Making 

Mayans revered chocolate, it played an essential role in their stories of origin and cosmology. It was used in burial rites and great ceremonies. Cacao was grown agriculturally by the Mayans 1.

Maya Vase

One of the only direct evidence discovered about how Mayans made their chocolate is found in this vessel on the right-hand side which shows a lady pouring chocolate drink from a height into another cup. This was to create the foam that was extremely prized in the Mayan culture; it was thought to be the breath of the Gods.

Maya Princeton Vase

This Maya Princeton Vase is evidence for the heavy usage and importance of cacao in the Mayan culture. It has engraved hieroglyphics for the word cacao coupled with cosmological depictions.

The Maya had many ways of using Cacao to make food.

Chacau haa – This is hot chocolate drink.

Tzune – This is a mix of cacao, maize and sapote seeds.

Saca– A gruel made from cooked maize, water, and cacao.

The flavoring that was commonly used was vanilla and ‘ear flower’2. These different ways of cooking show a creative and vibrant diversity in the usage of the cacao pod. It is highly developed and adaptable. It shows cacao to be an essential part of the Mayan culture and diet.

The remnants of traditional Mayan way of making chocolate drink are still alive today in certain parts of Mexico among the Mayan communities. This video highlights and explains the traditional ways women make the chocolate drink in these Mayan communities.

This video shows us how labor intensive and time consuming it was to make chocolate drink in the Mayan style. The cacao beans have to shelled, roasted, dried in the sun, ground and after this long process mixed with water ready to be consumed.

Venezuelan Cacao Boom

The high-quality strain of Criollo cacao is native to Venezuela. It started being produced agriculturally at the turn of the seventeenth century. The first recorded shipment is in 1607 from La Guaira to Spain 3. This was under the influence of Hispanic colonization, those working on these plantations were slaves and laborers 4.

Here the cacao was so abundantly grown it was consumed on a regular basis by everybody, from slaves to lords. There were three different styles in consuming the cacao 5.

Cerrero– ( rough and ready, bitter ) This was just plain cacao dissolved in water with no added flavorings or sweeteners. It was widely drunk by people in the interiors.

Chorote– Made by creating solid chocolate balls which are dissolved in water, added to this is muscovado sugar. The chocolate balls were created by boiling ground cacao to separate the fats and solids. This was drunk by people in the cities as well as given to slaves and laborers for lunch and dinner.

Chocolate– Made by mixing balls of ground chocolate mixed with sugar or honey, toasted corn, seasonings such as cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. This was consumed by the Spanish elite at morning and noon meals.

The mass production led to cacao being available for everybody to consume. However what marks the social classes is by what process they made their cacao and what was added to it. Also the number of cacao beans used in the food and the time and effort of making it.

Development of industrial techniques of cacao processing

Conrad Johanes Van Houten discovered, along with his father the Cocoa press and Dutch process chocolate 6.
.

Conrad Johanes Van Houten

This created a fast and easy chocolate producing technique. It was adopted by big industries to use in their ways of chocolate production. This created a speedy and cheaper way of making good tasting chocolate.

Another process invented was the conching of chocolate. This was invented by Rudolfhe Lindt in Switzerland 7.
. It created smoother chocolate and covered the origins and original flavors and textures of the cacao bean, hence a bean sourced from anywhere of any strain could be used. The image below portrays the process of creating smoother chocolate.

Image from page 148 of "Cocoa and chocolate : their history from plantation to consumer" (1920)

These invented process allowed for the anonymity of cacao in the chocolate drink and bar. It became possible to mass produce chocolate without knowing of the origins and sourcing of the cacao bean that went into the chocolate. This created a lot of distance between the agriculture of growing cacao, strains and qualities of the pod and the consumer of the chocolate.

 

Mass Chocolate Production Today

This kind of mechanized industrialized mass production allows for a lot of chocolate to be produced. When chocolate production moved to such a mechanized way of being made, it became widely available for the average consumer. In today’s world chocolate is a regular household good with a large gap between knowledge of the sourcing and production of chocolate and the regular consumers of chocolate. The intensive agricultural development of cacao with the support of slave exploitation and the inventions of chocolate processing in Europe led to chocolate as is known today.

Footnotes

1- Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The true history of chocolate. Thames & Hudson, 2013.

2- Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The true history of chocolate. Thames & Hudson, 2013.

3- Presilla, Maricel E. The new taste of chocolate: a cultural and natural history of cacao with recipes. Random House Digital, Inc., 2009.

4- Romero, Simon. “In Venezuela, plantations of cocoa stir bitterness.” The New York Times (2009): A04.

5- Presilla, Maricel E. The new taste of chocolate: a cultural and natural history of cacao with recipes. Random House Digital, Inc., 2009.

6-  Presilla, Maricel E. The new taste of chocolate: a cultural and natural history of cacao with recipes. Random House Digital, Inc., 2009.

7-  Presilla, Maricel E. The new taste of chocolate: a cultural and natural history of cacao with recipes. Random House Digital, Inc., 2009.

The Enlightenment’s Influence on Chocolate Traditions

In Europe and the America’s during the Enlightenment Period of 1685-1815 chocolate traditions expanded dramatically.  The Enlightenment was a period in time when traditional authority such as the Roman Catholic Church was questioned and scientific process and free thinking were introduced and encouraged.  This shift in attitude and thinking also influenced chocolate traditions in Europe and the Americas.

During the beginning of the Enlightenment period (1685-1730) chocolate was consumed mostly by the elite. The chocolate drink would be prepared in silver chocolatiers complete with  molonillos to create the beloved foam so that a person could consume the beverage upon waking as well as throughout the day for enjoyment and nourishment.(Coe, 222)

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Aquatint by Noel Le Mire ( 1724-1830) La Crainte (‘Fear’) The young woman gestures toward a silver chocolatiere, complete with moulinet, (Coe, 222)
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The Four Temperments (image , hearthsidehealing.com)

 

During this period, chocolate was still used for medicinal  purposes as part of the Galenic Theory of Humors. Common medical uses for chocolate were to soothe the stomach or increase a person’s sexual appetite. The tradition of drinking chocolate daily to improve ones health became a casualty of the scientific method  introduced during the Enlightenment. Many scientists disproving the medical benefits of drinking chocolate daily as lauded by the Galenic Humoral theory. (Coe, 203)

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chocolate as medicine, image from google images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the Enlightenment period progressed so did chocolate traditions.  Once, sipping on a hot chocolate drink was enjoyed only in the comfort of private homes of the elite upper class until public Chocolate and Coffee houses sprang up around London. These houses offered coffee, tea, chocolate and cider drinks to more than the elite upper class. Anyone who could afford the cost of chocolate or other drinks was welcome to drink whilst discussing politics and gossip. (Coe,167)

 

interior_of_a_london_coffee-house_17th_century-detail
Chocolate /Coffee Houses were popular gathering spots for elite and upper middle classes.(image from googleimages.com)
The Bedford Coffee House, Covent Garden, in the middle of the eighteenth century
political discussion while drinking chocolate was encouraged during the enlightenment (googleimages.com)

 

 

During this period the tradition of drinking chocolate at home or with others in a small group in an intimate setting transformed to enjoying drinking chocolate socially in large groups.

 

 

 

The Enlightenment Era was a time of free thinking and experimentation to create new traditions or improve upon the existing traditions. This included the use of chocolate in food. It was during the Enlightenment Era that chocolate consumption increased and went from being mainly consumed as a drink to being “ eaten in the form of bars, pastilles, as ices, and included in recipes for desserts, main dishes, and even pastas and soups.” (Coe, 203)

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ground cacao (stock photo google images)

The  culinary and other  experimentation of chocolate became so  widespread during this period that the Poet Francesco Arisi , an apparent cacao purist , upset at the level of cacao misuse wrote a poem listing his complaints including “ those who put an egg and yolk into it as well as he who “dirties his nose” by taking snuff with it. ” (Coe, 214.)

 

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cacao beans ( stock photo google images)

In the North of Italy the cooks were very adventurous with their use of chocolate in their recipes and included it in their pasta and meat dishes.

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Chocolate Cookbook (image from googleimages.com)

One particular recipe for lasagna mentioned in  the 1786 manuscipt frm Macerata includes a “sauce made of almonds, anchovies, walnuts and chocolate.”  ( Coe, 215)  As  a big fan of pasta sauce, lasagna and chocolate,  I must admit the thought of chocolate and anchovies  in the sauce on my lasagna does not appeal to me.  Thankfully, the tradition of using  chocolate in main dishes that include meat and fish did not last. However,  the tradition of chocolate as an ingredient in desserts with flour , sugar, fruits and nuts has continued to be popular in Europe and the Americas.

We can thank the J.S. Fry & Sons for the tradition of eating solid chocolate as bars. It was in 1847 that the Fry firm discovered how to “mix cocoa powder, sugar and melted cocoa butter into a mold to create a solid bar of chocolate. (Coe, 241).  The solid bars  could be manufactured in large quantities and therefore be available to a larger audience of people. Fry , Cadbury, Hersey and Mars took the bar chocolate to the next level by  adding ingredients to the chocolate bars including peanuts, peanut butter,  caramel and cream filling. ( Martin, class lecture, March 9,2016)

fry2527s2b1
A new tradition- candy bars ( image from google images.com)

Many of the chocolate traditions of the Enlightenment era continue today including chocolate confections, baked goods and drinks.
We still enjoy chocolate as a hot drink, although today we drink it from ceramic mugs and do not usually use a molonillo to whip up a froth.

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hot chocolate  ( image from google images.com)

 

 

 

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silver chocolatier (image from google images.com)

 

 

 

Desserts and chocolate continue to be a perfect combination and includes such delicious treats as chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, chocolate bars , nuts covered in chocolate and chocolate biscuits to name a few.

whiskeycake-superjumbo
classic chocolate cake ( photo from cookingnewyorktimes.com)

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. The True History of Chocolate. Third Edition. Thames & Hudson. Print