Chocolate is unquestionably one of the best-loved sweet treats in the world. Delicious and available in many shapes and flavours it offers the perfect taste sensation! Chocolate may not be the best choice for our regular diets as it’s often packed with sugar, but don’t worry chocolate can be rather healthy in a variety of ways! Did you know that regular dark chocolate consumption may help to lower your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease?
As you can see, there’s certainly more to this sweet guilty pleasure than meets the eye! So waste no more time and join us on this tasty chocolate adventure filled with interesting facts about chocolate…
The history of chocolate
Ancient Aztec times
It’s believed that chocolate has been part of our lifestyle for at least two millennia. History tells us that chocolate has its roots in ancient Aztec times, eventually becoming part of a luxury drinking scene in 18th century Europe. The word chocolate also originates from Aztec times too. They called a drink made from the cacoa bean “xocoatl”.
Chocolate’s journey to Europe
When it hit the shores of the Old World cacao took on a new life. Praised by royalty, condemned by the church, and welcomed in the kitchen, chocolate became the most fashionable drink in all of Europe. In May 1502, returning from the ‘New World’, Christopher Columbus brought with him gold, silver, and a plain-looking cargo of beans. Even though the Spaniards weren’t captivated by the cargo, no one could have predicted just how much these unassuming beans would end up transforming Spanish and European cuisine. Two centuries later, Madrid was overrun by chocolate and consuming more than five tons every year!
The first chocolate
When John Cadbury founded his company in 1824 in Birmingham, he believed that chocolate is something that everyone should be able to enjoy! Since Cadbury’s first chocolate bar, the brand has become synonymous with authentic milk chocolate. When they made the Cadbury Dairy Milk in 1906 it was produced not just with glass but with the equivalent of glass & a half of full cream milk – and still is today. Quite impressive, a sweet tradition that goes on!
In 1847, only a few years later after the creation of the first chocolate bar, Fry and Sons created what was known as “eating chocolate”. These bars were called eating chocolate because, up to then, people only ever drank hot chocolate from mugs, a practice continued to this day! So we can say with certainty that chocolate is more than 170 years old!
Chocolate, cacao & cocoa
How to make chocolate
Because chocolate is reliant on cocoa, or cacao beans, in order to make a pound of solid chocolate, you’ll need around 400 cacao beans! An impressive number that makes us think about how many trees we’ll need to make that amount of chocolate! Breaing in mind the fact that a tree will generally grow between 2,500 and 3,000 beans, the chocolate industry needs a fair few forests to pick from! So if you thought making chocolate is easy, think twice!
The cacao tree
Theobroma cacao, meaning the “food of the gods” is the “magical” tree that grows these beans. In terms of deliciousness, the Cacao beans are priceless. An interesting fact, dating back centuries, tells us that the Aztecs traded the beans as currency! It takes a really long time for the cacao tree to start growing beans, therefore farmers usually have to wait five years before getting a good harvest! So if we think about it, chocolate is grown in a similar way as cultivating oranges or apples!
What’s the difference between Cacao and Cocoa?
When you open your chocolate, you’ve probably noticed that some packages contain the term cacao while others cocoa. The manufacturers of unroasted or less treated cacao bean products often use the word cacao rather than cocoa, referring that they’re more natural products. So basically cacao implies to the raw, uncooked, additive-free, and unprocessed form of chocolate, while the roasted and processed Cacao beans are called Cocoa.
One of the many brilliant cacao by-products is cocoa butter. Thinking of cocoa butter we might recall decadent desserts like chocolate bars, fudge layer cake, and chocolate chip ice cream. Yet this tasty ingredient can also be used as a staple in skin creams and other health and beauty products helping reducing stretch marks and scarring in many cases. Don’t worry, this skin care regimen won’t make you gain weight, but can it improve your appearance? Why don’t you try and see!
The tropical regions around the Equator where the hot and humid climate is well suited for growing cocoa trees are perfect for the production of cacao. 70% of the world’s cacao beans come from the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon. The Ivory Coast and Ghana together cultivate more than half of the world´s cacao and are by far the two largest producers of cacao followed by other cacao-producing countries like Indonesia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Brazil, and Ecuador.
Even though chocolate is primarily made in Africa and South America, Europe is the one that eats the most of it. In fact, around 40% of chocolate produced goes straight to the European continent! Perhaps the UK is the one to blame! However, based on what North America consumes, that’s nothing. The continent reportedly uses up 50% of all chocolate produced on the planet!
Sweetly scented treat
Pros and cons
The chocolate treats that are often connected to weight gain, can also be linked to mood elevation. It’s true that too much sugar leads to an increase in weight, but are you aware of the fact that chocolate is thought to possess similar mood relaxants to those found in cannabis? It’s believed that chocolate helps to provide a lot of dopamine to the brain and according to reports, it’s great for regulating serotonin. So, pro or con, it’s up for you to decide!
Chocolate scent and flavours
Studies have shown that the smell of chocolate alone might be enough to stimulate the positive brain receptors! So cooking chocolate smells good thanks to the fact that the scent can help to derive theta waves in the brain, that’s truly fascinating! If you know anything about flavour combinations, you’ll know that plenty of people taste wine thanks to its 200 different taste twists. Did you know, however, that chocolate has more than triple, at over 600 flavour mixtures?
A treat for women
Women and chocolate, what a connection! Chocolate is considered to be a treat that women prefer more than men. In fact, twice as many women are thought to enjoy chocolate as men who say the same. Why? Possibly because chocolate is depicted as a sinful treat that women just simply can’t resist!
The triangular chocolate treat
The triangular chocolate treat called Toblerone is hugely popular around the world. It’s thought that if all the Toblerones sold each year were placed across the Earth, end touching end, they would stretch further than 62,000km, or more than 38,500 miles. They would experience an interesting journey covering the expanse of the globe and coming back again!
In the 1920s mixing chocolate with other fillings started to become popular. That’s when the Mars confectionary company developed the Milky Way, which contains nougat. There are two different variants of the Milky Way, the global Milky Way bar sold as the Three Musketeers in the US and Canada, and the US Milky Way bar, which is sold as the Mars Bar on a global scale. To this day, there are multiple chocolate brands and treats which contain a soft, sweet centre.
The most popular chocolate treats on the planet
M&Ms are some of the most popular chocolate treats on the planet, even though they were created with a practical purpose in mind at first. Believe it or not, they were first made for soldiers to eat while on a campaign as they were seen as a more useful, practical treat alternative because M&Ms will only melt when crushed, and chocolate usually melts very easily when kept in your pocket. We don’t want any sticky chocolate in soldiers’ pants, do we?
Types of Chocolate
Dark and white chocolate
Dark chocolate boasts a darker, richer, and bitter blend of cacao that has a fair few health benefits. Regular dark chocolate intake may help to lower your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Did you know how super dark chocolate is? Well, technically it’s a superfood! By this, we mean that it’s crammed full of antioxidants, which is healthy for the blood, as well as for the brain. Again, we must remind you, don’t eat too much too often, as it’s full of added sugars. White chocolate on the other hand is quite an interesting concept. It’s not chocolate at all, it’s a lighter, creamier treat made from cocoa butter. No beans or liquor come anywhere near it!
Blonde, ruby, and pale pink
Did you know that there are more than three main types of chocolate? There is blonde chocolate, which is extremely rare, ruby chocolate, and a recent creation that is pale pink! If you want to try a sample of ruby chocolate yourself in the UK, try KitKat, the brand that was the first to adopt the new-look treat. Have you made up your mind yet? What’s your favourite chocolate type?
Death by chocolate?!
Reality or fiction? Reality according to a poor bishop back in the 17th century who found himself poisoned via the treat after he’d banned it from being enjoyed during his sermons! In general, in terms of chocolate poisoning, you’d need to eat around 22lbs of chocolate in one sitting for it to be toxic. But, be careful, when it comes to pets cocoa is extremely toxic! Never give your furry friends real chocolate, instead treat your pet with pet-friendly chocolate flavour treats from your local pet shop.
Why is chocolate under threat?
Chocolate is under threat from no other than climate change. Studies report that some of the major growing areas for cacao are threatened by increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall. Therefore, the majority of production areas may no longer be effective for growing beans, by 2050. If there weren’t already enough reasons for you to look into climate change and global warming, you just found another one. What’s more, climate change could bring a disease that can spread between trees and cacao-growing plants. Because this could mean the end of chocolate as we know it, scientists are actively working to create disease-resistant cacao able to withstand the ongoing pressures of global warming. How are they doing this you might ask? Through DNA editing!
Chocolate is pretty unique, melting at around 93 degrees Fahrenheit like no other edible solid. Chocolate is also a strong source of caffeine. In fact, the caffeine content is higher in dark chocolate, so the darker, the better. Need to stay up all night? Head for the market and find the darkest chocolate there is!
It’s thought that chocolate has aphrodisiac qualities, though science hasn’t proven it yet! There’s no existing biological proof that shows that chocolate or any other food or beverage acts as an aphrodisiac. Many foods have been credited with aphrodisiac qualities, and they have a tendency of having a strong placebo effect. In other words, chocolate gets you thinking about sex, thus putting sex on your mind.
Studies show that chocolate could help you fight tooth decay! You know that sugar is generally bad and that too much sugar can lead to tooth decay, and gum disease, but there’s a solution! Eat the odd chunk of chocolate but rely more on brushing and flossing regularly to avoid these kinds of problems! Chocolate is also thought to help remedy coughs. According to some studies eating chocolate can be more efficient at fighting common coughs than some medication!
It’s a well-known fact that many chocolatiers mix chocolate with a variety of savoury flavours. For example, an increase in chocolate and sea salt, as well as chocolate and chilli, has been developing over the past few years. Talking about a peculiar recipe, believe it or not, there’s one for chocolate and calamari (squid) soup out there – if you’re feeling adventurous, why not give it a try?
The biggest and the most popular
The biggest chocolate bar ever made was to honour Thornton’s anniversary, a popular UK chocolate manufacturer. Its weight was almost 5,800kg or 12,800lbs! Can you believe that the most popular chocolate treat in the UK is an orange, not a bar? It’s true, Terry’s Chocolate Orange is a fruit-shaped sweet which you can divide into segments and eat one at a time. Even if it sounds rather unbelievable, Terry’s makes around 350 million segments each year. You can enjoy Terry’s Chocolate Orange in white, dark, and even popping candy versions.
Chocolate and art
What’s the connection between chocolate and art? Well, chocolate has been used to make sculptures and artwork. In fact, an Australian Easter egg with a weight of more than 2,000kg (less than 4,500lbs) and around 10 feet tall was the biggest chocolate sculpture ever made! On Easter people traditionally share chocolate eggs, as they’re thought to represent the rebirth of Jesus Christ.
The biggest chocolate empires on the planet
Milton Snavely Hershey is accountable for helping to build one of the largest chocolate empires on the planet, mostly trading in the US. Qualified in the confectionery business, Hershey pioneered the manufacture of caramel, using fresh milk. He was booked to sail on the ill-fated Titanic, but luckily he cancelled his trip at the last minute.
Insect filled chocolate
If you’re eating chocolate right now, you might want to pause a moment! It’s assumed that the average chocolate bar contains up to eight parts of an insect! We’re not sure that’s always the case in a bar of Dairy Milk, but we can’t underestimate statistics!
What’s the connection between chocolate and the microwave oven?
We wouldn’t have the microwave oven if it wasn’t for chocolate. That’s because inventor Percy Spence discovered that a chocolate bar he’d kept in his pocket melted close to his radar equipment during World War II!
If a special occasion awaits you chocolate is often a good way to mark that occasion. But did you know that many people actually celebrate chocolate itself worldwide? Various ‘National Chocolate Days’ across the USA and UK are a great excuse to tuck into your favourite treats. Happy chocolate holidays!
Do you know any interesting or fun facts about chocolate? Share them in the comments section below!
Are you fascinated with sweet treats? Check out these super facts about sugar!