Chocolate is the most popular confectionary flavour worldwide. We love and enjoy it in all its variety and forms, but just how much do we know about it? Although one doesn't need to be a master chocolatiere to appreciate it, there are an endless number of fascinating facts and statistics about its production and our usage of it. Here are just 20 facts that I have compiled for your observation. I'm sure they'll make interesting points of conversation (if nothing else).
1. Research suggests that chocolate was originally used more than 2,500 years ago, begining in Central America. The Mayan civilisation considered Cacao to be a divine gift and so, it was held in high regard. It was used ceremoniously and sometimes as a form of currency. The name 'Cacao' is a Maya word meaning 'god food' which after being introduced to Europe in the 16th century, formed the basis of the Latin name for the Cacao tree 'Theobrama Cacao' meaning 'food for the gods'. It is thought that the word 'cocoa' has come about through a miss-spelling of 'cacao.'
2. The name chocolate comes from the Aztec word xocalati meaning bitter water. Not at all surprising, being that they concocted a drink by combining cacao with chillie peppers, achiote, cornmeal and it's believed they added a form of hallucnogenic mushroom (possibly helped to take their minds of the taste).
3. Over 66 percent of the entire worlds cacao is grown in Africa and 98 percent of all cocoa is cultivated by just 15 countries.
4. More than twice as many women than men eat and crave chocolate.
5. It is observed that chocolate cravings cannot be satisfied by any sweet/candy other than chocolate itself (no surprises there).
6. Chocolate produces the effects of a mild anti-depressant by increasing serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain.
7. Chocolate contains a small quantity of caffeine emulates a mild amphetamine.
8. Although not scientifically proven, chocolate is believed by many, to be an aphrodisiac. The theory is supported by the fact that chocolate does contain among many chemicals the stimulants: caffeine, theobromine, and phenyethylamine.
9. Cocoa butter is a by-product produced from the crushing of roasted cacao beans, and although used in the chocolate making process, it is also used in a number of cosmetic products including massage oils and skin cosmetics. It is one of the most stable, highly concentrated natural fats known. It melts at just below average body temperature and therfore it is easilly desolved into the skin, making it the ideal foundation in moisturising creams and other such products.
10. Terry's of York will produce over 350 million segments of chocolate orange per year.
11. The biggest chocolate structure ever made was a 4,484lb, 10 foot tall, Easter egg, made in Melbourne Australia.
12. 17,000 people in Belgium work in the chocolate industry
13. Despite being high in fat content, chocolate doesn't appear to raise blood cholesterol levels.
14. Allergies to chocolate are uncommon (isn't that good to know).
15. America consumes virtually 50 percent of the worlds chocolate.
16. Napoleon always carried chocolate with him, which he ate as a pick-me-up whenever he needed an energy boost. (and we all thought he bought it for Josephine...).
17. One cacao pod will contain about 42 beans. 270 cacao beans are required to produce a pound of chocolate.
18. More than 7 billion chocolate chips are eaten annually.
19. Ninety percent of the worlds cacao is grown on small family run farms, no larger than 12 acres.
20. In 2006 more than 6.5 million tons of chocolate was traded worldwide.
There is a great deal of information readily available concerning our no.1 confectionary delight, and it is quite obvious that our love and ongoing relationship with it, isn't going to change in the near or distant future - not if I have anything to do with it!
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