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February 06, 2007|by ELIZABETH KRAMER

Dictionary.com defines chocolate as "a preparation of the seeds of cacao, roasted, husked, and ground, often sweetened and flavored."

Most teenagers define chocolate as a Hershey's bar or a bag of M&M's.

How wrong we were to think that something so delicious could be that simple.

Last Tuesday, the Pulse teen writing team had the pleasure of meeting Randy Olmstead, chef and owner of The Perfect Truffle, a chocolate company in Frederick, Md. Good chocolate, as we have now learned, is not something that can typically be picked up at the grocery store.

Hershey's would like you to think that every Hershey's chocolate bar tastes the same. But Olmstead said the taste of chocolate is complex. High-quality chocolate-makers such as Valrhona and Scharffen Berger, sell chocolates made to high standards.

For dark chocolate, there are five basic standards, one of which (acidity) is important mainly to chefs like Olmstead. The standards are:

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· Cocoa - how chocolaty the chocolate is.

· Fruitiness - the specific taste of the chocolate (except, of course, the chocolate taste).

· Sweetness - how sweet the chocolate is.

· Acidity - used only by chefs.

· Bitterness - how bitter the chocolate is.

Milk chocolate has a sixth flavor aspect: dairy - how creamy the chocolate is.

This, of course, is the most basic kind of chocolate. It does not in any way, shape or form take into account the art form of truffle making, differing standards, or standards of other types of chocolate.

After an afternoon of delicious chocolate tasting, I am having second thoughts about going back to the standard bag of chocolate.




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Chocolate is made from the seeds of the cacao tree, which grows in a small area of the world 15 degrees above to 15 degrees below the equator. This includes Central Africa, Indonesia and northern South America. After the cacao pods are picked, the seeds are fermented, dried, roasted and then ground into pieces called nibs. The nibs are then put into large cylinders that squeeze the nibs together, creating heat and pressure. This causes the two main components of chocolate, chocolate liquor and cocoa butter, to separate. These parts are then mixed with dairy products, milk and sugar, and then recombined.

This greatly simplified elaborate process does not in any way take into account the quality of the chocolate, the percentage of chocolate liquor in the chocolate, or the taste of the chocolate, which is of course the most important thing.

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