Chocolate is not just any food.
The cultivation of cacao dates back to 3000 years ago in Mesoamerica, where Olmecs and Mayas called it “the food of the Gods”. Since then, the popularity of chocolate expanded to Europe and worldwide, creating a market worth $100 billion in sales.
In the search for high-quality chocolate, consumers are getting curious about this fascinating food. They want to learn more about it, so they attend tours, tastings and spend more money on specialty brands. Like it happened for coffee and wine, also chocolate is on its way to be appreciated as a fine food.
As chocolate lovers soon discover, there is never enough to learn about cacao and chocolate. From the history to the processing methods to the places of origin, any topic on this sweet food can be extensively researched.
And since we are approaching a season when we are more relaxed and have more time on our hands, here are 15 books you can read this summer to expand your knowledge on everything cacao and chocolate.
(Book descriptions are taken from Amazon.com and are not my personal opinions.)
1. THE NEW TASTE OF CHOCOLATE by Maricel Presilla
Maricel Presilla, culinary historian, author, chef and renowned chocolate expert, takes us on a journey beginning with Maya and Aztect chocolate rituals, followed by exploring the significance of cacao through ages, up through groundbreaking contemporary genetic discoveries. This definitive illustrated reference has been revised and expanded to immerse chocolate lovers in the rich history and science of the cacao bean.
2. THE CHOCOLATE CONNOISSEUR by Chloé Doutre-Roussel
An expert and irresistible book for everyone who loves chocolate. Few people know as much about chocolate as Chloé Doutre-Roussel. In this unique book she shares her knowledge and her passion with chocolate lovers who will learn to differentiate between good and bad chocolate, discover wonderful new brands to savor and enjoy, find out how to select brands to reflect mood and time of day, and finally learn how to taste chocolate like a connoisseur.
3. THE TRUE HISTORY OF CHOCOLATE by Sophie and Michael D. Coe
Told with flair and wit, this history of cacoa looks at its ancient Mexican roots, questioning how it became the food of the gods, its ritual significance, and how it was used as a currency in trade among the Olmec. Piecing together a range of archaeological, documentary and pictorial evidence, Sophie and Michael Coe discuss the Theobroma cacoa tree, the chemical properties of cacao and its early domestication and use. The story of chocolate continues under the Aztecs and their first encounters with the Europeans.
4. RAISING THE BAR by Pam Williams and Jim Eber
Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate tells the story of what that next movement in the fine flavor chocolate symphony might hold. Told in four lively parts covering everything from before the bean to after the bar genetics, farming, manufacturing, and bonbons. the book features interviews with dozens of international stakeholders across the fine flavor industry to consider the promises and pitfalls ahead.
5. THE CHOCOLATE TREE by Allen M. Young
The Chocolate Tree chronicles the natural and cultural history of Theobroma cacao and explores its ecological niche. Tracing cacao’s journey out of the rain forest, into pre-Colombian gardens, and then onto plantations adjacent to rain forests, Young describes the production of this essential crop, the environmental price of Europeanized cultivation, and ways that current reclamation efforts for New World rain forests can improve the natural ecology of the cacao tree.
6. A BITTERSWEET SAGA OF DARK AND LIGHT by Mort Rosenblum
In this scintillating narrative, acclaimed foodie Mort Rosenblum delves into the complex world of chocolate. From the mole poblano (chile-laced chicken with chocolate) of ancient Mexico to the contemporary French chocolatiers who produce the palets d’or (bite-sized, gold-flecked bricks of dark chocolate) to the vast empires of Hershey, Godiva, and Valrhona, Rosenblum follows the chocolate trail the world over.
7. DISCOVER CHOCOLATE by Clay Gordon
In Discover Chocolate, Gordon opens a world that extends far beyond cookbooks and coffee-table books that feature assorted gooey shots. His primer is packed with more than a hundred gorgeous photographs of chocolate and truffles, but this is a guide that also includes a handy rating system, a field guide for discerning among different types and styles of chocolates, an overview of how cacao becomes chocolate (including maps of where cacao is grown), advice for pairing chocolate and wine, and where to shop for the best chocolate in the world.
8. HEALTHFOOD OF THE GODS by Phillip Minton
Books, magazine articles, and television guest appearances by experts on chocolate science have steadily convinced us that chocolate can be healthy. This book details the lore, legend, and medical truths now known to science, as seen from the perspective of a physician, revealing how and why pure chocolate is wholesome and healthy. It reviews the many and often surprising health benefits of eating chocolate. It augments the facts with references to the scientific research for each major topic.
9. CHOCOLATE WARS by Deborah Cadbury
Featuring a cast of savvy entrepreneurs, brilliant eccentrics, and resourceful visionaries, Chocolate Wars is a delicious history of the fierce, 150-year business rivalry for one of the world’s most coveted markets. Chocolate was always a global business, and in the global competitors, especially the Swiss and the Americans Hershey and Mars, the Quaker capitalists met their match. The ensuing chocolate wars would culminate in a multi-billion-dollar showdown pitting Quaker tradition against the cutthroat tactics of a corporate behemoth.
10. BREAD, WINE, CHOCOLATE by Simran Sethi
Award-winning journalist Simran Sethi explores the history and cultural importance of our most beloved tastes, paying homage to the ingredients that give us daily pleasure. She travels to Ethiopian coffee forests, British yeast culture labs, and Ecuadoran cocoa plantations collecting fascinating stories that will inspire readers to eat more consciously and purposefully, better understand familiar and new foods, and learn what it takes to save the tastes that connect us with the world around us.
11. CHOCOLATE NATIONS by Orla Ryan
From the thousands of children who work on plantations to the smallholders who harvest the beans, Chocolate Nations reveals the hard economic realities of our favourite sweet. This vivid and gripping exploration of the reasons behind farmer poverty includes the human stories of the producers and traders at the heart of the West African industry. Orla Ryan shows that only a tiny fraction of the cash we pay for a chocolate bar actually makes it back to the farmers.
12. CHOCOLATE by Dom Ramsey
Find out how to identify quality when buying, taste like a pro, or make your own chocolate at home and experiment with different flavor combinations. Take the leap from chocoholic to chocolatier with the help of more than 20 step-by-step recipes for truffles, fondant, cake, ice cream, and more. Eight step-by-step techniques provide mini master classes for tempering, flavoring, and even making your own bean-to-bar chocolate.
13. THE SCIENCE OF CHOCOLATE by Stephen T. Beckett
The Science of Chocolate takes the reader on the journey of chocolate, to discover how confectionery is made and the way in which basic science plays a vital role. The second edition contains new chapters, covering topics which include nutrition – why chocolate is good for you – how to stop it melting in hot countries and possible methods of putting bubble inside a chocolate bar. This book will appeal to those with a fascination for chocolate and will be of specialist interest to those studying food sciences and working in the confectionery industry.
14. BEAN TO BAR CHOCOLATE by Megan Giller
Author Megan Giller invites fellow chocoholics on a fascinating journey through America’s craft chocolate revolution. Learn what to look for in a chocolate bar and how to successfully pair chocolate with coffee, beer, spirits, cheese, and bread. This comprehensive celebration of chocolate busts some popular myths (like “white chocolate isn’t chocolate”) and introduces you to more than a dozen of the hottest artisanal chocolate makers in the US today.
15. DEEP TASTING by R. M. Peluso
Research provides compelling evidence that both meditation and chocolate offer physical and mental health benefits: decreased stress, lower blood pressure, reduced weight, enhanced memory and slower aging of the brain. Deep Tasting introduces Dr. Peluso’s delicious breakthrough technique that doesn’t require sitting still for long periods of time or uncomfortable yoga postures. You don’t have to take on another religion or a new set of beliefs. If you like chocolate, all you need is five minutes or less—the time it takes for a piece of chocolate to melt in your mouth—to see how easy it can be to learn to meditate.
Which books on chocolate have YOU read and would recommend?
I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service.