The Popularity of Chocolate Through the Years
If you wanted to give someone a sweet treat, the first thing that might come to your mind is chocolate. The U.S and Europe are the largest consumers of chocolate in the world. The World Cocoa Foundation estimates that at least 3 million tons of cocoa beans are consumed around the world every year. Chocolate is so popular that so many researchers have dedicated their time to find the health benefits of chocolate for your brain and your heart.
Just what is Chocolate?
Chocolate is referred to as “food of the gods.” At least that is the meaning of the Theobroma cacao tree that produces the fruits from which chocolate is extracted. The trees are abundant in the Amazon and Orinoco River. Each tree produces fruits the size of papaya in which is about 50 seeds (the cocoa beans). The fruits are hand-harvested to avoid injuring the trees with machines. The seeds undergo fermentation to produce the chocolate aroma. It also destroys the embryo of the seeds to prevent germination.
After fermentation and falling of the white pulp, the farmers dry the seeds and send them to the chocolate factory. In the factory, the roasting of the beans and removal of the hulls occur. The remaining part of the bean is the nib. The nib becomes chocolate after grinding and a series of other processes.
The History of Chocolate
Human beings have consumed chocolate for about 2000 years or more; there is still a debate on this. Other scientists believe that cocoa beans have been on the diet for more than 4000 years. In its early days, chocolate was a bitter drink in the Aztec world, referred to as “xocoatl.”
When the Spanish soldiers and explorers came to Central America, they changed the way people consumed chocolate. In other parts of America, cocoa beans were objects of batter trade. Spanish conquistadors added honey and cane sugar to the bitter chocolate in Central America. The sweetened chocolate became a delicacy in Spain.
Throughout the 18th century, the sweetened version of chocolate became a drink for the rich Europeans. Afterward, the Industrial revolution facilitated the mass production of chocolate and distribution to the masses. After this, so many cacao tree plantations came up and chocolate has never been less popular.
The Spanish used slave labor, especially Mesoamericans to farm the plantations. However, after a while, the locals started dying in mass numbers due to contagious diseases brought by Europeans. Because the Spanish could not stop the plantations, they resulted to use of Africans in the plantations as recorded in the Bibliography of Chocolate.
The European taste of chocolate was increasing and more cacao trees were needed to satisfy the taste. All the while chocolate was a drink. In 1815, however, everything changed when a Dutch physicist removed cocoa butter from the liquor to create a chocolate powder that further led to the creation of solid chocolate.
It was not until 1847 when chocolate was produced in mass numbers. Later chocolate was turned into a paste that could be molded. Around the same time, Henri Nestle (whose company still stands) invented the milk chocolate. Major European chocolate brands, Lindt and Cadbury, came up in the 1800s.
In America, mass consumption of chocolate started in the late 1800s. In the early 1900s, so many chocolate companies came up and the consumption of chocolate increased. For instance, in 1923, Mars Co. invented the Milky Way chocolate bar. The same year, H.B. Reese came up with the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Over the years, there have been so many chocolate concoctions from so many companies. In 2017, Barry Callebaut came up with Ruby chocolate that has a rosy pink color. So many other colored chocolates have been produced.
Types of Chocolate
There are three categories of fine chocolate; milk, white, and dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, lecithin, vanilla, and sugar. Milk chocolate has all the contents of dark chocolate with milk fats and solids. White chocolate has all the contents of milk chocolate with the exception of chocolate liquor.
White chocolate is the only type of chocolate that does not have chocolate liquor in its ingredients. Because of that, many lovers of chocolate do not consider white chocolate as chocolate. There are also several grades of chocolate including unsweetened chocolate, semisweet, and dark milk chocolate. The percentage of cocoa and the range of ingredients determine the type of chocolate.
Chocolate has so many benefits. For starters, it makes you feel good and it is sweet. Research has shown that dark chocolate contains iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus. Dark chocolate has more flavonoids than any other type of chocolate. With moderate chocolate intake, consumers can draw benefits including reduced risk of heart disease and reduced deterioration of the brain cells due to conditions such as dementia. The production of chocolate might be lower in the coming years’ thanks to climate change that has affected cacao tree plantations. Even with the threat, the love for chocolate is still great and millions of tons of chocolate bars are produced each every year.