Everything about chocolate

The cacao-tree

The cacao bean, "the brown gold", grows in an ever-green tree of a particular shape living in the shade of tall trees. Its small pink flowers resembling to orchids and cucumber-shaped fruits grow directly from the trunk and thicker branches. The fruits grow to even 25 cm long. They glitter in green, and when ripe in golden yellow or purple-red colours: 30-40 cacao beans sit in them within 5 cells embedded into a slightly sour pulp.


Cacao harvest

Jorge Amado Brazilian writer writes about the harvest of cacao beans in his novel entitled "The Land of Golden Fruits": "The sabre flits, the cacao-nuts fall from the trees, the children pick them up from the ground and pile them in the clearing. On the cacao fields women are precious, esteemed commodities. They chop up the ripe cacao. They hold the nuts in their left hands and cut them with one hit with the big grafting knife in their right hands. They have to work faster and faster. Sometimes the right hand flips tiredly, the knife flits through the nut and a few female fingers or hands also fall among the golden yellow pulp."

After the harvest the seeds are ripened between banana leaves for a few days (fermentation). The characteristic flavour of the cacao bean develops at that time. Then the grains are dried in the sun for one or two weeks, after that sawn into jute sacks they are sent off to across the globe, to the chocolate factories.


Tradition of chocolate production

In Mexico the dried cacao beans were roasted in crockery, shucked, then on a rectangular stone standing on three legs with a concave surface (metate) and heated from below they levigated them with a long-shaped piece of stone, moulded them into a soft dough. They beat up the cacao mass with cold water to be foamy, enriched it with corn flour and spiced it. They put cinnamon, vanilla, clove and even chili. The chocolate dough (paste) was shaped into cylindrical tiny sausages or discs or bars and dried and put into the pantry for later use. The ancient art of chocolate production flying from generation to generation is not very different today from the "technology" of the ancestors.

In the beginning in Europe it was the occupation of chemists and the specialised chocolate makers, mainly of Italian origin. Venice was even called the chocolate drinkers' paradise. Chocolate was sold in the pharmacies as a strengthening and refreshing drug, they made the sour medicine more bearable with it. In France, Jewish chocolate makers hounded out of Spain grounded the new industry. In England the Fry Company of Bristol established the first chocolate factory in 1728. The inhabitants of monastic houses also made chocolate enthusiastically and eased the strictness of fasting with the drink made of it.


Bonbon


According to a myth the French prince Plessis-Praslin's cook-confectioner favoured the participants of the Imperial Diet of Regensburg with the first bonbon in the 17th century. He dipped sugared almond into chocolate. He named the new candy Praline after his master.

The bonbon word appeared in the French child's language by pronouncing the "bon" word meaning "good" twice. In the beginning they meant candy by it, later it got the adjective "chocolate". From the beginning of the 20th century definitely the small immersed, filled or layered sweets made of chocolate are called so. The secret of the success of the handmade bonbon is still the creative fantasy, the charm of uniqueness and the harmony of flavours.


The appearance of chocolate in Hungary

The first reference of chocolate in Hungary is from 1704, written by Palocsay György hussar captain. Its manufacturers were chemists and chocolate producers immigrated from Italy in the 18th century. The authorities registered them in the handicraft trade as "chemical product" producers. The biggest users of chocolate were the so-called sugar-moulders, later confectioners. (Our Hungarian word for confectioner 'cukrász' was first written down by earl Széchenyi István in 1830). At that time they did not deal with pastry: they prepared candies, crystallized fruit, fruit jellies, canned fruit, syrups, liqueurs, marzipan, artistic statues and compositions used as table decoration, chocolate figures, bonbons and ice-cream. They started the production of the Christmas fondant in the second half of the 19th century. Their only pastry was the biscuit (sponge cake biscuit). They sold their products in their shops and fairs. They could make chocolate from the cacao bean for their own use until 1859 not for sale.

After the domestic unsuccessful attempts (Dremmel, Heindrich chocolate factories) two confectioners Stühmer Frigyes (1868) and Gerbeaud Emil (1886) could establish a durable enterprise in Budapest facing the competition with the foreigners. Their contemporaries considered them to be the pioneers of the Hungarian industry. The general development of the industry produced its fruit in this area, as well: at the turn of the 19-20th century chocolate was produced in about 60 factories. The most significant ones were in Budapest the Stühmer, the Gerbeaud, the Hunnia and the Wikus, in the country the Schmidl (Győr), the Weiss (Sopron), the Fischer (Nagyszombat), the Wieder (Zsolna) and the Chocolate Factory of Fiume. The German Stollwerck Brothers in 1896 in Pozsony, the Schmidt Viktor and Son company with its headquarters in Vienna established a branch in Budapest in 1906.


Chocolate in the saloons of confectioneries

Confectionery revived around the end of the 19th century. Their assortment was widened with pastry, factories gradually took over the production of canned fruit and candies, the sugar statues were replaced by china. Creamy pastry from Paris became fashionable, the 'Dobos' cake (layered chocolate cake with hard caramel top), and the 'Zserbó' Gerbeaud cake (made with layers of preserve and ground nuts coated with chocolate) was born, the old 'Kugler' has transformed into 'Mignon' Peti Four, and the 'Indiáner' (spherical sponge cake) was also popular. In the afternoon teatime hot chocolate (coffee, tea) and liqueurs were served with the pastry. The sometime confectioner's shops were extended with saloons, snack tea rooms suitable consumption at the place. The type of the social confectionery known today established. Its offer determined its circle of guests: elegant ladies and sweet -toothed gentlemen met there.

In the most elegant confectionery of the capital city the Gerbeaud, which was established by Kugler Henrik in 1858 French taste and atmosphere of Paris prevailed. Their comfortable tea-snack rooms were furnished professionally and lavishly with furniture of fine workmanship value. The press referred to it as the "meeting place of the elegant world". Liszt Ferenc, Deák Ferenc and even Empress Elisabeth herself visited it with pleasure. The Auguszt confectionery fascinated its guests with sophisticated taste, Venetian mirrors and China. They wrapped their bonbons into pretty Herend porcelain bonbonnaires or at Easter into china eggs on demand.

In each confectionery there was a bonbon counter. After the delicious snack on leaving the guest did not miss purchasing from the own-produced bonbons of the confectionery. Besides the Gerbeaud and the Auguszt bonbons, the special chocolate sweets of the Lukács and Hauer in Pest, the Ruszwurm confectionery in Buda, the Salis (today Százéves) in Gyula, the Suhajda in Szeged town, the Daubner in Orosháza, or the Főző confectionery in Szombathely.

Despite that the bonbons made in the chocolate factories, whose number multiplied after the First World War, were cheaper the more delicious handmade products still possessed great demand. The confectioner's bonbons contained more and higher quality chocolate; they tempted the ladies and gentlemen to consumption with their aesthetic appearance, special flavour and uniqueness.