Humans have been enjoying the delectable tastes of cocoa for over two thousand years now and in all different forms; some of which we are still creating. It’s amazing the global and culinary journey cocoa took over a couple millennium and what we’ve learned over the years about what can be more than just food!
- It takes a lot to make chocolate, yet it’s one of the most consumed food products in America. Chocolate comes from cacao beans – a football-sized fruit that grows on trees in parts of South America and West Africa. The trees can produce approximately 2,500 cacao beans, but it takes over 400 of the beans to make only one pound of chocolate! After the beans are harvested, they are cut open and the seeds inside are scooped out to be fermented. They are then roasted and turned into a chocolate liquor paste. From there, simple ingredients such as sugar, vanilla, milk and an emulsifier are added to blend the paste into what we know as chocolate!
- Benjamin Franklin sold homemade chocolate in the early to mid 1700s before he became the founding father he is remembered for today. Chocolate was once considered a delicacy as it was so hard to come by. In fact, it was even deemed the “food of the gods” before it made it to the states. Of course the chocolate Benjamin Franklin sold and helped popularize is not the chocolate we eat today. Chances are, it was a more bitter-tasting cocoa based drink.
- Humans are the animals that are able to eat chocolate! Because the sweet food goes through so much processing between sprouting and eating, it becomes toxic for animals, even at small doses. This is due to the Theobromine, an alkaloid found in other processed foods and drinks, which are also toxic to animals. This being said, it doesn’t mean it’s good for humans. In fact, people can get chocolate poisoning similar to a household pet, it just takes a much larger amount to get there. (Although scientists argue that some reptiles and rodents have a higher tolerance for chocolate as well!)
- According to ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), dark chocolate has healthy benefits for your body! ORAC determines, based on the quality and level of antioxidants, what foods are healthiest and boost your metabolism. Dark chocolate scores high on the points system, and it’s determined eating it helps lower blood pressure, prevents heart problems, improves brain function, and more!
- There are four main variants of cocoa: Criollo, Forastero, Trinitario And Nacional. Criollo is the most fragile form of cocoa and only accounts for 1%-5% of our worlds chocolate. Criollo is unique in that it doesn’t have much bitterness from the start and is considered “pure.” Forastero chocolate takes the fastest time to make, and therefore is most likely what you’re eating when you buy chocolate at a supermarket. Because of its bulk shipments and low price, it tends to be considered “low quality.” Trinitario is a hybrid type of cocoa that only makes up less than 10% of manufactured chocolate. This type of chocolate can be altered to have many different tastes and textures. Nacional chocolate is the rarest of the variants and was recently discovered in Peru in 2011. This is another bean with very little bitterness and is extremely creamy, making it a delicacy.