Can you believe it? March and we are almost at Easter, technically the beginning of the season here in the Mediterranean. Things are starting to hot up, yachts are madly trying to get their winter work completed and stewardesses are beginning to realise that there is not that much time left and still too many things to be done. We are also seeing the arrival of the young hopefuls who are looking for a start in the industry, along with the return of yachts from the Caribbean as well as the more seasoned “yachtie” looking for a new gig after a winter of travelling for fun.
Easter sees the beginning of charters and lots of owner’s taking their yachts out for the first trip of the season. This used to be around the time we would see the first yachts heading out of Palma but more and more we are seeing the season starting earlier and finishing later. I know some yachts that have already seen owners on board in February this year so there is no fixed start anymore.
March is yet another month of extended “fiesta days” in Spain. Easter is coming up and schools are beginning to get ready for mid-term holidays. Not unlike February, this is a month that is all about chocolate and that is what I would like to talk about this month. The lovely, glorious, comforting and sublime taste of chocolate, and where would we be without it.
Our beloved friend originates from as far back as 1900 BC where in the Central America region the Aztecs believed that the cacao seeds were a gift from the god of wisdom and were so valuable that they were used as a form of currency. Use of the fermented bean as a drink has been traced back to around 1400 BC where in Mexico it was served as an alcoholic beverage. The Mayan people also identified cacao with the gods, and would flavour their chocolate with chilli peppers and cornmeal.
After the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, chocolate was imported to Europe where it quickly became a favourite of the Royal courts. It was here that sugar was first introduced to the drink and then later alkaline salts to reduce its bitterness and a process of pressing which removed some of the natural fats making chocolate cheaper and more consistent. The first chocolate bar was made in the UK in 1842 and in 1847 Joseph Fry learned how to make chocolate mouldable by adding back melted cacao butter. Milk chocolate was then developed in 1875 by Daniel Peter in Switzerland who added a powdered milk which had been developed by Nestlé.
The cacao bean is a brownish-red almond shaped bean which is embedded inside a sheath and surrounded by pulp. The beans are very bitter due to the alkaloids within them and evidence suggests that it is the sweet pulp that may have been consumed first. There are two types of cacao bean; Forastero which is the easier bean to grow and the Crillo bean which is believed to be the tastier bean. Today the main exporter of the cacao bean is Dominican Republic followed by Peru, Mexico and Ecuador.
We have come a long way since then, with chocolate and the art of the Chocolatier becoming widely available to all. Switzerland leads the world in chocolate consumption, followed by Austria and then, believe it or not Ireland. The best chocolate manufacturers can be argued about forever as of course, it is all based on the personal taste of the consumer. However, some of the most famous brands can be listed as Valrhona, Godiva, Ghiradelli, Guylian, Lindt, Blacks, Cazenave, Hirsinger, Richart, Teuscher, and Charbonet et Walker to name but a few, and that is without taking into account the numerous independent small Chocolatiers who produce some of the most amazing, mouth-watering luxury chocolates.
Unfortunately for us, it is possible to die if you eat too much chocolate due to the high levels of Theobromine which is a stimulant and can cause heart failure, seizures, acute kidney damage and dehydration. However, you would need to eat 20lbs or about 40 bars of chocolate so go steady and be sure to not overdo it on the Easter eggs this month. But perhaps I should say GUESTURE eggs… if the internet is to be believed and Cadbury’s are renaming our favourite Easter treat, we will no longer be calling them Easter Eggs…And just in case you are interested, my favourite is Cadbury’s Mini Eggs.
Wishing you all a very Happy Easter from VIP Service School.
By Hazel Anderson
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