The first chapter is a view of chocolate from both a historical and botanical perspective. The next chapter traces the complete life cycle of chocolate, from seedling, to mature tree, fruit, harvest, drying, fermentation, shipment, factory processing, and transformation into chocolate bars. The third chapter concentrates on the diversity of different cacao tree varieties, from criollo, to forasteros, to trinitarios. The last chapter is a collection of recipes that were developed for specified brands of chocolate.
The main strength of this book is that it teaches the chocolate lover that it really does matter about the cacao beans, just as it matters with coffee beans or wine grapes. Where was it grown? What variety is it? How was the fermentation and drying handled? Was it shipped properly? What types of beans were blended? What does the final product taste like? Is it high quality or just another mass-produced blend?
The flavor of chocolate varies all over the place, and one must know about the cacao beans it was produced from. This book makes a strong case for the opinion that if the consumer does not demand better quality chocolate, the great producers of the world will not give it to them. I learned that the expensive "boutique" brands of chocolate (E Guittard and Scharffenberger to name only 2 local such companies) really are worth the extra money. If nothing else, this book should raise the awareness of the chocoholic of the quality of the chocolate. The good news is that the chocolate companies really are capable of producing superior quality chocolate if the consumer demands it.
On the whole, this book is a mixed lot. It will inspire you to try all of the new, expensive "boutique" brands of chocolates. The recipes are intriguing in concept, but rather ordinary; only a couple of the Mexican-inspired hot chocolates are of interest. The most important part of this book is the list of resources listed in the back where you can learn about and buy all these chocolates. Also listed are books, classes, and websites that are very valuable sources of information.
On the other hand, once you finish reading the book, it will then become just another coffee table book. You will not be tempted to open this book again, except maybe to get that special website for that special brand of chocolate that you cannot find in the grocery store.