When you want to learn more about chocolate, it’s not about recipes.
It’s about history, war, science, technology, and agriculture. This post is about why we have chocolate, how and where it’s grown, the suffering and pain involved in its history. It’s also about types of chocolate, how the great confectioners work, how to treat chocolate and how to tell good from bad.
I can’t tell you all those things in a single post. But I can recommend the books that can tell you what you need to know.
The Chocolate Connoisseur, by Chloe Doutre-Roussel (U.S. publisher: Penguin Books, 2006). The author was once called “the luckiest girl in the world” thanks to her job as chocolate buyer for Great Britain’s Fortnum & Mason department store. Now a chocolate consultant who travels the world, Doutre-Roussel tells her story of a childhood with ordinary chocolate, then hitting proverbial pay dirt with a fortuitous introduction to a great confectioner and her apprenticeship with him. The book is a fast read that provides basic information on history, chocolate types, how to taste and what to look for in your next purchase. A few of the author’s favorite recipes are included.
The True History of Chocolate, by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe (Thames & Hudson, 1996). From the Aztecs to the artisans of today, the Coes’ book covers chocolate history from a scholarly viewpoint. No recipes or advice, just facts: the role chocolate has played throughout history in different societies.
Discover Chocolate, by Clay Gordon (Penguin Group, 2007). The author is the man behind Chocolphile.com and the founder of the New World Chocolate Society. Gordon’s book includes history, chemistry, biology and it’s a basic field guide on buying, storing tasting and appreciating chocolate.
The Chocolate Companion, A Connoisseur’s Guide, by Chantal Coady (U.S. publisher: Running Press, 2006). Coady is very widely known in the chocolate world; she runs her own shop in London and is the co-founder of The Chocolate Society. This is one of several books she has published, and it provides a brief historical perspective of chocolate, along with how it progresses from bean to bar, the different types and her take on how it should be purchased and consumed. She also reviews 84 chocolatiers, from tiny shops with one person creating the chocolate to large factory concerns. Photos and descriptions of their products are included, along with addresses and phone numbers.