Chocolate is amongst the most favorite foods in the world and will unlikely ever go out of use. It is a wonderful source of quick energy. Chocolate has more than 500 flavor components, which is double the amount found in strawberry and vanilla. The annual consumption of cocoa beans averages around 600,000 tons per year. Consumers spend more than $20 billion annually on chocolate with chocolate manufacturers using around 40% of the world’s almonds and around 20% of the world’s peanuts.
The word “chocolate” comes from the Aztec word, “cacahuatl” or “xocolatl”, which means “bitter water”. Chocolate is extracted from Cocoa Beans. It was Cacao originally but changed to Cocoa as a result of constant misspelling. The scientific name for Cocoa tree is “Theobroma Cacao”, which is a Greek term meaning, “foods for the gods”. Cocoa trees require warm and moist climates to grow and are largely found in West Africa – Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Brazil. They are evergreen and never stop blooming.
Back in 1000 B.C. the South Mexico Olmec tribe ate chocolate all the time. The Mayans drank liquid chocolate during all kinds of occasions, like engagements, weddings, baptisms, and even funerals. In fact, Cacao Beans were so valued in ancient Mexico that the Maya, and later Toltec and Aztec civilizations used them as a unit of calculation and currency to purchase small household items and pay for other services. A large tomato was worth one bean, a rabbit was ten beans, and a slave was a hundred beans. Taxes levied against conquered tribes were also paid in Cacao beans by sacks, each containing about 24000 beans. The Mayans and Aztecs believed that Cacao Beans came from paradise and would bring wisdom and power to anyone eating them. The Aztecs mixed chocolate with chilies, cornmeal, and hallucinogenic mushrooms that made into a bitter brew.
Normally, the shelf life of a bar of chocolate is a year, but it can be put in a freezer to be kept indefinitely. The melting point of cocoa butter, which is a fat extract from roasted and crushed Cocoa Beans, is just below the human body temperature, which is why chocolate melts when put into the mouth. Cocoa butter is also used as a massage cream. Chocolate has also been used as a perfume because of its ‘feel good’ smell like fresh baked bread and brewed coffee.
For chocolate to be lethal, a person has to consume 22lb of chocolate. There are no allergies caused by chocolates. Eating a chocolate before a meal will take the appetite away hence, it helps to keep a balance diet. Chocolate releases the hormone, serotonin, which makes a person feel relaxed, calm, and happy. Unlike the common belief, chocolate is not high in caffeine as ten chocolate bars would equate to only a cup of coffee. Another fact is that acne is not linked with eating chocolate, but it is caused due to an improper diet or a hormone imbalance. However, chocolate is addictive, but it is poisonous for canine animals as it could lead to epileptic seizures. The poisonous part for the animal is theobromine, which is harmless to humans, but deadly to canine animals as it over stimulates their cardiac and nervous systems and can cause instant death. Almost two ounces of milk chocolate can be poisonous for a 10-lb puppy. The reason why chocolate is good for humans is that cacao beans contain theobromine that helps to enlarge blood vessels, which then treats high blood pressure.
The first to create and export the chocolate products were the Mexican nuns who used them as a fund raiser for their convent in 1700s. Europe was first introduced to chocolate when Christopher Columbus brought back cocoa beans from the Caribbean islands from his 1502 voyage and then they began to be constantly brought to Europe by the Spanish Conquistadors in 1528. Today, American chocolate manufacturers use about 1.5 billion pounds of milk, which is only surpassed by the cheese and ice cream industries. In fact, the Americans are also responsible for eating half of the world’s chocolate products, consuming around 2.8 billion pounds of chocolates each year, or over 11 pounds per person.
The first to discover cacao plants as edible and delectable for man were the monkeys as they would eat the pulp and spit out the beans. The first chocolate factory in the US was established in 1765 called the Walter Baker Company. The cocoa powder was first created in 1828. Milton Hershey at the age of 19 first set up his confectionery shop in 1871 in Philadelphia. He is responsible for the mass production of chocolate in America and was nicknamed the “Henry Ford of Chocolate”. Hershey’s is the oldest and largest chocolate company in the United States. Mr. J. J. Fry first invented the chocolate Easter egg in 1873. After eight years of experimentation, Daniel Peter from Switzerland created milk chocolate in 1875 and sold it to his neighbor, Henri Nestle, who helped in mixing condensed milk when making chocolate bars. In 1879, Rudolphe Lindt from Switzerland first developed the method of giving soft and smooth consistency to chocolates through conching process which is still in use today. The first recipe for brownies appeared in 1896 edition of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Another Swiss confectioner, Jules Sechaud, introduced a process for producing filled chocolates in 1913. The chocolate chips were introduced in 1939 by Nestle, and they now produce about 250 million each day.
In 1569, Pope Pius V did not like chocolate, so he declared that drinking chocolate on Friday did not break the fast. In 1615, Ann of Austria, daughter of Philip II of Spain, introduced the beverage to her new husband, Louis XIII of France, and his French court, as part of her dowry. In 1770, Marie Antoinette was the first queen who bestowed the title, ‘by appointment to the Queen’ on her personal chocolate maker. Chocolate is commonly believed to be an aphrodisiac and was used by Casanova, who mixed it with champagne to attract women. In the 18th century, the French philosopher, Marquis de Sade, was once imprisoned for using chocolate to cover the flavor of non-lethal poison for concubines. Also King Louis XIV of France established the position of Royal Chocolate Maker of the King in his court. Napoleon is said to have eaten chocolates to restore energy during his military campaigns.
Chocolate was the reason why microwave was ever invented as some scientists were initially experimenting with micro waves in an attempt to create a better radar detector. It was during the WWII when scientists continued to test devices called magnetron. In one of such laboratory, a scientist called Percy Spencer was walking pass by with a chocolate bar in his pocket. He realized that it had melted because of this, he thought of using magnetron for cooking food. So he tried it first with some popping corn and succeeded. Then he tried it with some real food, an egg which cooked so quickly that it blew on his face.
There are many unusual flavor combinations of chocolate that exist like meat flavored chocolate which is made from dark chocolate and ground salty dried meat. Then there is chocolate mixed with spices like pepper, chili and fennel. There are also flavors of cauliflower, basil and tomato in chocolates, and also chocolate biscuits encrusted with chicken skin.