The long history of this heavenly sweet treat called ‘chocolate’ includes numerous interesting things. The delicious origins of the cacao tree can be traced over 2,000 years ago in the tropical rainforests from South America, while throughout time different studies have revealed some curious facts about chocolate. By the way, did you know that scientific studies have proven that chocolate is not addictive?
We all know how chocolate tastes like, but what does the word ‘chocolate’ mean? It seems that the word comes from the Aztec “Xocolatl”, which means bitter water. The first people who discovered cocoa were the Maya, who fermented, roasted, and ground the seeds into a paste, then mixed it with water, chili peppers, an different other ingredients. Aztecs traded with Maya for cacao and they often required that citizens and conquered peoples pay their tribute in cacao seeds, which was considered as a form of Aztec money.
When enjoying a sweet chocolate bar we never take the time to think how it is made. Well, when something is as delicious as this, it’s rather impossible to imagine an entire complicated process. In fact, it takes approximately 400 cacao beans to make one pound of chocolate, while cocoa beans go through an eight step process to become a delightful treat. Chocolate is made so it melts in your mouth, as cocoa butter has a melting point that is just below the average human body temperature.
Europeans first discovered chocolate in 1519 when Moctezuma, the last ruler of the Aztecs, gave Cortés ‘chocolatl’, his favorite drink. Hernan Cortés was a Spanish conquistador sent on an expedition to colonise Mexico in 1517. When he returned to Spain in 1528 he brought cocoa beans and equipment for making the drink. Next, it took nearly a century for news of cocoa and chocolate to spread across Europe.
It is estimated that the first solid chocolate dates back to Mexico sometime in the 1700’s. Still, the world’s first solid chocolate bar was born in the 1840s when two British companies, Cadbury, and Fry and Sons began to make edible chocolate. In fact, in 1847, Fry & Sons of Bristol, England mixed sugar with cocoa powder and cocoa butter to produce the first solid chocolate bar.
The aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate have been discovered by the French people at the Royal Court. It is said that Madame de Pompadour, Louis XIV’s favorite, used to drink one hot chocolate a day to cure her frigidity. Besides, famous Casanova used to drink chocolate and we all know he was really lucky in his love life.
Chocolate contains a chemical known as phenylethylamine, which is also produced by the brain when we fall in love. Phenylethylamine, in addition to the sugar, fat and caffeine found in chocolate release serotonin and endorphins, two known chemicals that make us feel happy.
Since love and chocolate are strongly related through incredible chemical reactions, someone had to come up with the idea of heart-shaped boxes of chocolate. This person was Richard Cadbury who first made this type of boxes in 1861. Then, seven years later, John Cadbury began mass producing them. Nowadays, there are various types heart-shaped boxes to choose from.
Besides its incredible taste, chocolate is also very healthy. It seems that it helps fight depression, high blood pressure, tumors and pre-menstrual syndromes. Chocolate contains antioxidants that are thought to lower the risk of heart diseases. A Harvard study says that people who eat chocolate live a year longer than people who don’t.
What about energy? Did you know that one chocolate chip gives the average adult enough energy to walk about 150 feet? Or, that a bar of dark chocolate contains about 10-15 grams of sugar while a glass of orange juice contains about 22 grams of sugar? Moreover, one ounce of baking chocolate or cocoa contains 10% of the daily recommended intake of iron.