Chocolate History

The history of chocolate begins in Mesoamerica. Chocolate, the fermented, roasted, and ground beans of the Theobroma cacao, can be traced to the Mokaya and other pre-Olmec people, with evidence of chocolate beverages dating back to 1900 BC. The Aztecs believed that cacao seeds were the gift of Quetzalcoatl, the God of wisdom, and the seeds had so much value they were used as a form of currency. Originally prepared only as a drink, chocolate was served as a bitter, frothy liquid, mixed with spices, wine or corn puree. It was believed to have aphrodisiac powers and to give the drinker strength. After its arrival in the sixteenth century, sugar was added to it and it became popular through Europe, first among the ruling classes and then among the common people. In the 20th century, chocolate was considered a staple, essential in the rations of United States soldiers at war. The word "chocolate" comes from the Classical Nahuatl word chocolātl, and entered the English language from Spanish.[Wikipedia]

Both the Mayans and Aztecs believed the cacao bean had magical, or even divine, properties, suitable for use in the most sacred rituals of birth, marriage and death. According to Chloe Doutre-Roussel's book The Chocolate Connoisseur, Aztec sacrifice victims who felt too melancholy to join in ritual dancing before their death were often given a gourd of chocolate (tinged with the blood of previous victims) to cheer them up. Sweetened chocolate didn't appear until Europeans discovered the Americas and sampled the native cuisine. Legend has it that the Aztec king Montezuma welcomed the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes with a banquet that included drinking chocolate, having tragically mistaken him for a reincarnated deity instead of a conquering invader. Chocolate didn't suit the foreigners' tastebuds at first –one described it in his writings as "a bitter drink for pigs" – but once mixed with honey or cane sugar, it quickly became popular throughout Spain. By the 17th century, chocolate was a fashionable drink throughout Europe, believed to have nutritious, medicinal and even aphrodisiac properties (it's rumored that Casanova was especially fond of the stuff). But it remained largely a privilege of the rich until the invention of the steam engine made mass production possible in the late 1700s. In 1828, a Dutch chemist found a way to make powdered chocolate by removing about half the natural fat (cacao butter) from chocolate liquor, pulverizing what remained and treating the mixture with alkaline salts to cut the bitter taste. His product became known as "Dutch cocoa," and it soon led to the creation of solid chocolate. The creation of the first modern chocolate bar is credited to Joseph Fry, who in 1847 discovered that he could make a moldable chocolate paste by adding melted cacao butter back into Dutch cocoa. By 1868, a little company called Cadbury was marketing boxes of chocolate candies in England. Milk chocolate hit the market a few years later, pioneered by another name that may ring a bell – Nestle. In America, chocolate was so valued during the Revolutionary War that it was included in soldiers' rations and used in lieu of wages. While most of us probably wouldn't settle for a chocolate paycheck these days, statistics show that the humble cacao bean is still a powerful economic force. Chocolate manufacturing is a more than 4-billion-dollar industry in the United States, and the average American eats at least half a pound of the stuff per month. In the 20th century, the word "chocolate" expanded to include a range of affordable treats with more sugar and additives than actual cacao in them, often made from the hardiest but least flavorful of the bean varieties (forastero). But more recently, there's been a "chocolate revolution," Leaf said, marked by an increasing interest in high-quality, handmade chocolates and sustainable, effective cacao farming and harvesting methods. Major corporations like Hershey's have expanded their artisanal chocolate lines by purchasing smaller producers known for premium chocolates, such as Scharffen Berger and Dagoba, while independent chocolatiers continue to flourish as well. "I see more and more American artisans doing incredible things with chocolate," Leaf said. "Although, I admit that I tend to look at the world through cocoa-tinted glasses." [smithsonianmag.com]

Chocolate in Belgium

Belgium produces 220,000 tonnes of chocolate per year. This amounts to 22 kg of chocolate per inhabitant annually, i.e. 61 grammes per day on average. The world’s biggest chocolate selling point is Brussels National Airport.

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Bacon Milk Chocolate

But more recently, there's been a "chocolate revolution," Leaf said, marked by an increasing interest in high-quality, handmade chocolates and sustainable, effective cacao farming and harvesting methods. Major corporations like Hershey's have expanded their artisanal chocolate lines by purchasing smaller producers known for premium chocolates, such as Scharffen Berger and Dagoba, while independent chocolatiers continue to flourish as well.

Japanese Kit-Kat Flavors

But more recently, there's been a "chocolate revolution," Leaf said, marked by an increasing interest in high-quality, handmade chocolates and sustainable, effective cacao farming and harvesting methods. Major corporations like Hershey's have expanded their artisanal chocolate lines by purchasing smaller producers known for premium chocolates, such as Scharffen Berger and Dagoba, while independent chocolatiers continue to flourish as well.

Peanuts and Ketchup

But more recently, there's been a "chocolate revolution," Leaf said, marked by an increasing interest in high-quality, handmade chocolates and sustainable, effective cacao farming and harvesting methods. Major corporations like Hershey's have expanded their artisanal chocolate lines by purchasing smaller producers known for premium chocolates, such as Scharffen Berger and Dagoba, while independent chocolatiers continue to flourish as well.

Largest Chocolate Bar by Weight

According to the guinnessworlrecords.com, the largest chocolate bar weighed 5,792.50 kg (12,770 lb 4.48 oz) and was created by Thorntons plc (UK) in Alfreton, Derbyshire, UK on 7 October 2011. The chocolate bar measured 4.0 m (13 ft 1.48 in) by 4.0 m (13 ft 1.48 in) by 0.35 m (1 ft 1.78 in). The ingredients were sugar, dried whole milk powder, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, butter oil, emulsifier.

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Chocolate and Health Chocolate can affect human body in ways you may not know about

Chocolate contains several biologically active ingredients, all of which can cause abnormal behaviors and psychological sensations like those of other addictive substances. Researchers at the University of Tampere in Finland found that self-proclaimed chocolate “addicts” salivated more in the presence of chocolate, and showed a more negative mood and higher anxiety. The researchers state that chocolate addicts show traits of regular addiction, because they exhibit craving for chocolate, irregular eating behavior, and abnormal moods.

1. Chocolate - wonder drug

The essential components of addiction are intense craving for something, loss of control over the use of it, and continued use despite negative consequences. Studies have shown that people can exhibit all three of these components in relation to food, particularly food that contains sugar or fat. Since chocolate contains both, it is often used in studies of food addiction. In addition to sugar and fat, chocolate contains several substances that can make it feel "addictive". These include tryptophan, an essential amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in regulating moods; high serotonin levels can produce feelings of elation. Another is phenylethylamine, a neurotransmitter from which amphetamine is derived; phenylethylamine is nicknamed "chocolate amphetamine" and can cause feelings of excitement and attraction. [Wikipedia] Some research has shown that chocolate contains the same alkaloid compounds that make alcohol addictive, so experts believe there may be some basis to consider chocolate physiologically addictive. It also contains a compound called anandamine, which, scientists believe, stimulates the brain in the same way as marijuana. However, there remains much debate in the medical community as to whether chocolate contains enough of these compounds to be truly addictive or psychoactive. [Fitday.com]

2. Healthier heart, diabetes prevention

The latest research backs up claims that chocolate has cardiovascular benefits: In a 9-year Swedish study of more than 31,000 women, those who ate one or two servings of dark chocolate each week cut their risk for heart failure by as much as a third. Wish that was a serving each day? Another big, long-term study in Germany this year found that about a square of dark chocolate a day lowered blood pressure and reduced risk of heart attack and stroke by 39 percent. Most of the credit goes to flavonoids, antioxidant compounds that increase the flexibility of veins and arteries. Candy as a diabetes foe? Sure enough. In a small Italian study, participants who ate a candy bar's worth of dark chocolate once a day for 15 days saw their potential for insulin resistance drop by nearly half. "Flavonoids increase nitric oxide production," says lead researcher Claudio Ferri, M.D., a professor at the University of L'Aquila in Italy. "And that helps control insulin sensitivity." [Women's Health]

3. Chocolate is a stress reliever

Chocolate can be used, in appropriate quantities, as one tool for stress reduction. Dark chocolate has been found to improve mood by increasing serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain. According to research published in 2009 in the journal "Proteome Research" and reported by "The Huffington Post", eating 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate daily for two weeks is associated with lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. "Psychology Today" even reports pregnant women who eat more chocolate during pregnancy give birth to more stress-free babies. In the study, researchers looked at the effects of eating 1.4 ounces (40 grams) of dark chocolate every day for two weeks on blood and urine measures of stress in 30 healthy adults. Half of the chocolate was eaten midmorning and the other half was eaten midafternoon. The participants’ anxiety levels were determined at the start of the study, and blood and urine samples were collected and analyzed at the beginning and end of the two-week study. The results showed that eating dark chocolate daily reduced stress hormone levels in those who had high anxiety levels.

4. Chocolate and brain function

Cocoa products and chocolate have recently been recognized as a rich source of flavonoids, mainly flavanols, potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents with established benefits for cardiovascular health but largely unproven effects on neurocognition and behavior. In this review, we focus on neuromodulatory and neuroprotective actions of cocoa flavanols in humans. The absorbed flavonoids penetrate and accumulate in the brain regions involved in learning and memory, especially the hippocampus. The neurobiological actions of flavanols are believed to occur in two major ways: (i) via direct interactions with cellular cascades yielding expression of neuroprotective and neuromodulatory proteins that promote neurogenesis, neuronal function and brain connectivity, and (ii) via blood-flow improvement and angiogenesis in the brain and sensory systems. Protective effects of long-term flavanol consumption on neurocognition and behavior, including age- and disease-related cognitive decline, were shown in animal models of normal aging, dementia, and stroke. A few human observational and intervention studies appear to corroborate these findings. Evidence on more immediate action of cocoa flavanols remains limited and inconclusive, but warrants further research. As an outline for future research on cocoa flavanol impact on human cognition, mood, and behavior, we underscore combination of functional neuroimaging with cognitive and behavioral measures of performance. [ScienceDirect.com]