Today is Valentine’s Day. Apart from roses, jewelry, and champagne, chocolate is by far the most popular item for expressing one’s affection. Chocolate is a sweet indulgence for everyone across the globe, and almost no one can resist its charm. Nestled in Miaoli County’s Dahu Township, dubbed the “strawberry kingdom,” Schokolake — the first “chocolate farm” in Taiwan to produce classic chocolate — was opened in 2009. Based on a passion to make produce locally, Schokolake owner Ms. Lu has incorporated local ingredients and her creativity to make chocolate that caters to a Taiwanese palate. Among a wide variety of chocolate products, “Strawberry with White Chocolate,” one of Schokolake’s specialties, contains natural dried Dahu strawberries coated with a fine layer of white chocolate, giving it a pinkish-white look and a crunchy, sweet, and sour taste.
Schokolake manager Feng Ying-cheng told the Taipei Times that “Schokolake” is pronounced Sho-ko-laa-kay, a combination of the German word “schokolade” for chocolate and the English word “lake,” which is derived from “Dahu,” meaning “great lake,” since Lu hopes that Schokolake will be like a lake filled with tasty chocolate. Surrounded by the Hsueh-pa mountain range, Schokolake is spread out over 4 hectares (12,100 pings) with large lawns and a variety of creative architecture, including Chocolate Dream Hall, Chocolate House, Cloud Restaurant, the Strawberry Beer House, and the Space Password B&B. There are also all sorts of plants, the most notable being a unique tree called Moringa thouarsii, literally “elephant foot,” in front of Chocolate Dream Hall. The Swan Lake with birds and fish swimming in it in front of the beer house was built using natural engineering. As Lu said, “I want to build a home for nature, and nature will build a home for people.”
When entering the land of chocolate, people should of course indulge themselves in the delightful aromas, sweetness, richness, and intensity of chocolate. In Chocolate Dream Hall, people can taste raw chocolate from Madagascar, continental Africa, and Germany. Sugar-free raw xylitol chocolate is also available for a healthy alternative. There is also an assortment of chocolates in the Bon Bon Chocolate series with various creative flavors, such as wine, granadilla, raspberry, lychee, shaddock, Japanese green tea, Earl Grey tea, rose salt, pops candy, star anise, and truffles. Hands-on chocolate making workshops are offered at Chocolate Dream Hall, allowing people to add their own favorite flavors and then letting the chocolate cool in the fridge. The whole process, from making it to eating it, takes about an hour. In addition, Feng recommends Chocolate House’s specialty — Chocolate Fondue for Lovers — which is particularly appropriate on Valentine’s Day.
Lu has tried to plant cacao trees in Pingtung County. Since production is limited, she imports cacao beans from Belgium, Germany, Malaysia, Madagascar, and other places. Photos of cacao trees and descriptions of the process for turning cacao beans into good chocolate are displayed at Chocolate Dream Hall. To the surprise of many people, cacao pods are as big as the size of a papaya and grow directly from the trunk of the cacao tree, a phenomenon botanists call cauliflory.
Just as caffeine seems to perk people up, chocolate seems to make people happy. More than 300 different constituent compounds in chocolate have been identified and there has been a lot of research on the effect of chocolate on the human brain. Neuroscience for Kids Staff Writer Ellen Kuwana wrote, “Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine (PEA), a chemical related to amphetamines.” She wrote, “Phenylethylamine has been called the ‘love-drug’ because it quickens your pulse, as if you are in love.” That might be the reason why chocolate can improve your mood and make people feel warm. Whatever the chemical effects of chocolate, why not take a chocolate journey and add some romance and happiness to your life?
(Lin Ya-ti, Taipei Times)