Knowing where chocolate comes from is important; in making sure that the cocoa beans are ethically-sourced, environmentally-sound, and as high quality as the seller claims. After all, not all cocoa beans are created equal, which is why we have legendary, world-famous chocolate from places like Belgium, Africa, and Central America, widely believed to be the original home of chocolate.
Misidentifying cocoa beans make it difficult, if not impossible, to make sure that the cocoa is ethically grown, as cocoa thrives in shadowy jungle clearings. The environment and the cocoa exist in a perfect symmetry, but shady cocoa farmers will slash and burn the forests, to grow more cocoa beans, faster.
Canny researchers from the Université de Strasbourg, France have figured out a way to isolate the origins of cocoa beans, with an innovative, high-tech process that analyzes chocolate’s polyphenols using the rather imposingly-titled high-performance liquid chromatography–diode array detection–mass spectrometry (HPLC–DAD–MS).
Polyphenols exist in great abundance, in cocoa, which accounts for much of chocolate’s distinctive flavor and mouthwatering scent. Polyphenols can also be linked to specific geographic regions, and to certain cocoa beans. They also can be used to tell what kind of processing the chocolate has undergone. The University de Strasbourg researchers developed a simple, but highly effective, method to authenticate where cocoa beans come from, separating the polyphenols and then analyzing them using HPLC-DAD-MS. The polyphenols are also separated from other common ingredients in chocolate – sugars, proteins, lipids, and alkaloids, to get as precise a reading as possible.
Even though the polyphenols undergo severe damage in processing, the high levels of polyphenols in chocolate still are more than ample enough to determine where your chocolate is coming from.
Now, you’ll be able to make sure your Belgian chocolate is as delicious as it’s supposed to be, also helping you to rest easy, knowing your chocolate addiction isn’t burning down rainforests.