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Columbus planted magic beans in the hearts of royalty – and Mom

May, 2010

Columbus knew a good thing when he brought cocoa beans back to King Ferdinand of Spain in 1492, but the Spanish didn’t know how to process them.

Finally, explorer Hernando Cortez spent some time among the Aztecs in 1519 and he was able to observe the processing technique, so he took this knowledge and some more beans back to Spain.

Members of the Spanish court fell in love with it after they discovered that by adding sweetener it became a wonderful drink. It was so favoured that it was kept a secret among the nobility for almost a century. With the marriage of Louis XIII of France to a Spanish princess in 1615, the scrumptious secret was let out and dispersed throughout Europe almost as fast as an Internet virus.

To make chocolate, the football-shaped pod is opened and the cacao seeds found inside are fermented for days in the sweet pulp from the pod. When the pulp rots and falls away, the beans are dried and roasted, removing the shells. They are then ground into a liquid consistency known as chocolate liquor.

"Chocolate was so favoured that it was kept a secret among Spanish nobility for almost a century."

If this base is hardened, it becomes unsweetened baking chocolate. To make it palatable, sugar and extra cocoa butter are added, and then it becomes what we know as semi-sweet chocolate. For milk chocolate, the world’s favorite flavor, milk is of course added along with sugar, extra cocoa butter and vanilla. White chocolate has only the cocoa butter, milk solids and sugar, and no chocolate liquor.

For Mother’s Day, here are some places to get deals on chocolate: You can buy Mom flowers and chocolates in one gift at Splendid Club Chocolate with their yummy flower bouquet. For lovely inexpensive chocolate gifts (or for yourself!), sneak over to their outlet on the main floor for factory direct chocolate bargains (even kosher) on caramels, raspberry-filled, cappuccino, almond bark, lollipops and solid or hollow novelties (Santas, bunnies, teddies). There are pretty baskets and towers from $6 to $100, and decorative boxes. Corporate gifts are available by appointment.


Splendid Club Chocolate, 4810 Jean Talon West, Suite 100 at Victoria. Ave. 514-737-1105, ext. 224. Monday-Friday, 10-3.

Galerie au Chocolat had long been a secret spot, as the wholesaler sold retail only to those in the know. The Belgian chocolate comes in milk chocolate or dark and is made in interesting varieties: Rice Krispie bark, raisin clusters, almond rochers, covered pretzels, caramel hazelnut wafers, ginger, orange peel and espresso wafers, bagged or beautifully boxed.

Sure there are chocolate bars, but also fair-trade hot cocoa, fondue, seasonal character molds and tiny chocolate dessert cups for port or digestives.

The best deals are on the counter, either the bags or the white box of seconds – same taste, priced less ($15 for 700 grams). You can even get free home delivery for orders over $75 ($10 if it’s less).


Galerie au Chocolat, 8985 Henri Bourassa W. at Thimens, Ville St Laurent. 514-331-8460. Monday-Thursday 9-4, Friday 9-3.

Another chocolate company started in Zurich in 1845 and then acquired the famous Rudolf Lindt’s company in 1899. Check out the back of the outlet shop, where treats are 25 per cent to 75 per cent off, and the chocolate still tastes wonderful at these prices.

It offers you all the Lindt classics, including nine kinds of Lindor truffles (intense orange is there), and for the health conscious, dark chocolate in 70 per cent, 85 per cent, and 90 per cent as well as red chili, pistachio and cherry flavours. There’s also Ghirardelli chocolate, Ricola Swiss herb cough drops and gift baskets. There’s usually free tastes at the counter.


Lindt Chocolate Outlet Store, 58 Brunswick, Mega Centre des Sources at Sources Blvd. 514-695-3392, Monday-Friday 9:30-7, Saturday 9-5, Sunday 10-5.



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