There are only a few foods that people are really passionate about. Chocolate is universal and breaks the boundaries of age, culture and religion. If someone is offered chocolate, it will be accepted with a smile. Chocolate can bring people closer and make a bad mood disappear. Everybody loves chocolate and the world would not be the same without it.
What is Chocolate?
Chocolate is a food that is derived from the beans of the cacao tree. Although first cultivated and harvested in the Americas, at present it is mostly grown in Western Africa, from where 2/3 of all chocolate production comes from. Chocolate is suited for planting and harvesting in that region because of its high temperatures and ample rainfall, which provide the perfect conditions for growing and harvesting cacao for chocolate production. The chocolate that most of us buy, eat or drink is produced from the cacao beans that go through a multi-stage process. After the cacao beans are harvested, they are allowed to ferment and dry before cleaning. After that process, the beans are then ground, which result in a chocolatey paste. The paste is then pressurised to produce 2 ingredients known as chocolate liquor and cocoa butter. Chocolate types include:
- Unsweetened chocolate. This is made from 100% cocoa liquor and is bitter unless it is mixed with other ingredients.
- Dark or semisweet chocolate. Dark chocolate does not contain any milk powder and contains 35% milk solids. Semisweet and bittersweet are similar and will only differ in the sugar percentage.
- Milk chocolate. 10% chocolate liquor and 12% milk solids make up milk chocolates. It also has more sugar that the semisweet and dark varieties.
- White chocolate. This is made from 100% cocoa butter with sugar.
- Cocoa powder. Made from the crushed, ground solids left after the cocoa butter is removed from the chocolate liquor. Cocoa powder is normally unsweetened to make it more versatile.
Why Do People Love Chocolate?
For every 10 years, the average adult eats their body weight in chocolate. With an average consumption of chocolate of 9.5kg/year in Switzerland and 5kg/year in the United States, why is eating chocolate so addictive? Let science explain why.
According to a study by Psychologist David Lewis, letting the chocolate slowly melt or dissolve in your mouth produces an increase in brain activity and heart rate. It’s the same feeling you get from a passionate kiss. However, the effects of chocolate last 4 times longer. Many scientists and experts have been studying the chemistry and effects of chocolate for many years. Although there are a hundred different compounds in a slab of chocolate, a handful of them seem to be more important in making chocolate taste good. Among these important compounds are the stimulants theobromine, caffeine and phenyl ethylamine. Chocolate also contains the chemical anandamide, a feel-good chemical which is naturally found in the brain and is similar to anandamide THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which is found in cannabis or marijuana. This produces a kind of chocolate high. Interesting right? Although chocolate does not contain the same active chemicals as cannabis, they have some similarities in effects on the brain.
20 Interesting and Delicious Facts about Chocolate
1. Ruth Wakefield, the inventor of the chocolate chip cookie, sold her recipe to chocolate giant Nestle in exchange for a lifetime supply of chocolate. That’s a good deal.
2. Kisses, Hershey’s popular chocolate, got their name from the kissing sound the machine makes when depositing the chocolate on the conveyor belt.
3. The Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa once wrote “There are no metaphysics on earth like chocolate”. That’s heavy, man.
4. Chocolate giant Hershey’s makes 80 million Kisses chocolate every day.
5. Chocolate milk was invented in Jamaica. The Irish botanist Sir Hans Sloane is commonly credited for mixing milk and chocolate when he was in Jamaica during the 1700s.
6. Speaking of chocolate milk, it’s an affective post workout recovery drink.
7. According to a 2004 study conducted in London, 70% of people would give or reveal their password in exchange for a chocolate bar.
8. Dark chocolate helps widen the arteries and promotes a healthy blood flow, which helps in preventing artery plaque build-up. It also contains antioxidants that help the cardiovascular system by lowering blood pressure and so reduces the chances of heart disease by 13%.
9. The smell and taste of chocolate increases the theta brain waves which triggers relaxation.
10. Cadbury, the English chocolate company introduced the first chocolate bar in 1842.
11. Red wine, scotch or brandy goes well with dark chocolate. Sparkling white wine, regular white wine and champagne are too acidic to mix with chocolate.
12. Red wine has 200 flavour compounds while chocolate has over 600 flavour compounds. Chocolate is clearly the winner.
13. The compound theobromine, which is poisonous to dogs, can also kill humans. But a person would have to eat lots of chocolate to get killed. A 10 year old child would have to eat 1,900 Hershey’s miniature milk chocolates to reach a fatal dosage of the compound.
14. The word chocolate came from the Aztec word “xocolatl” which refers to a bitter and spicy Aztec drink from cacao beans.
15. Chocolate was consumed as a liquid and not as a solid food for 90% of its history.
16. Dark chocolate contains more cacao and less sugar as compared to other types of chocolate. Thus, it is considered healthier than white and milk chocolate.
17. A person who feels depressed consumes about 55% more chocolate than a non-depressed person.
18. Daniel Peter discovered the process of mixing condensed milk and chocolate with the help of Henri Nestle. With this discovery, milk chocolate was first introduced and manufactured in 1875.
19. According to German research, there is no link between chocolates and acne. The experts suggested that the flavonoids found in chocolate absorb UV light and thus protect and enhance the blood flow to the skin.
20. Hershey’s is the largest chocolate company is the US and it produces over 1 billion pounds of chocolate every year.
If you’re a chocolate lover, you’re sure to appreciate these easy cacao recipes that you can add to your list of favourite chocolate-based creations. Chocolate is love!