Hardly any food has inspired humanity as much as the sweet treat we know as chocolate. Beloved around the world, its origins actually date back thousands of years. We couldn’t imagine a world without chocolate. Here are some of our favorite chocolate facts.
Facts About Chocolate
1. Cocoa is native to Central America.
First traces of the cocoa tree have been found in modern-day Mexico, although evidence suggests that it was first domesticated in equatorial South America before it became popular in Central America.
2. The first treat made from cocoa was a drink.
Although we primarily associated cocoa with chocolate bars today, the original chocolate treat was a simple drink. The Mokaya people in modern-day Mexico meae the beans into a drink as early as 1900 BC. Thousands of years later, in the Aztec, Mayan, and Inca empires, the drink was known as chocolatl. Cocoa beans were first roasted, then milled and kneaded into cakes which were finally added to cold water to produce a drink. Supposedly, the Aztec emperor Montezuma consumed up to 50 jars of this beverage per day.
3. Cocoa beans were once used as a currency.
In the Aztec, Mayan, and Inca empires cocoa beans were so popular that they soon possessed an inherent value and were even used as a currency. Beans of different varieties and quality possessed different values. In the later years, a variety known as quauhcacaoatl was used exclusively for bartering. A rabbit could be purchased for 10 beans while a slave could cost upwards of 100 beans.
4. Cocoa beans were introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus.
Christopher Columbus was the first to bring cocoa beans from Central America to Europe, but the chocolate drink was only really adopted during the Spanish colonization in the 1520s. From here, it took over a hundred years to really catch on in Europe and remained a delicacy meant only for the upper classes for a long time after that.
5. Chocolate milk was invented in England.
The cocoa drink had a hard time in Europe as its bitter taste was not at all to the European’s likings. Gradually other ingredients were added to the drink such as sugar. In 1657 the first “chocolate bar” was established in London, but milk was only added from 1727. The invention of chocolate milk is attributed either to Nicholas Sanders or Sir Hans Sloane (who first came across cocoa in Jamaica). Their recipe was later purchased by famous chocolate producer Cadbury.
6. The first chocolate bar also came from England.
In order to produce a chocolate bar similar to the ones we know today, a process called “Dutching” needed to be invented. Essentially, most of the cocoa fat was pressed from the bean, leaving behind what we know as cocoa nibs. These were milled with sugar before adding some cocoa butter back in to achieve a smooth texture. Although the process was invented in the Netherlands, the first chocolate bar was produced by Joseph Fry in Bristol, United Kingdom.
7. Milk chocolate was invented in Switzerland.
The first chocolate bars could be considered “dark chocolate”. Milk was first added to these bars in 1875 by Daniel Peter. Because the quality of the chocolate suffered greatly when too much liquid was added, he looked for a way to add milk in dried form. In this, he was aided by Henri Nestle.
8. Chocolate gets its smooth texture from conching.
Fry’s and Peter’s chocolate bars were still fairly gritty. In order to improve the product’s texture, Rodolphe Lindt of Switzerland invented a machine that would mill the ingredients for several days. Due to its shape, the machine was known as a conch and the associated process is known as conching until today.
9. Chocolate gets its snap from tempering.
In order to guarantee the shelf-life of the pretty oily & buttery chocolate and to ensure a satisfying snap to a chocolate bar, it first needs to be tempered. Tempering is the process of continuously warming and cooling chocolate so the cocoa butter can form stable crystals.
10. By definition, white chocolate is not chocolate.
The first white chocolate was introduced by Nestle in 1936. It consisted mostly of the same ingredients of which white chocolate is produced today – sugar, milk, and cacao butter. No cocoa solids are added to white chocolate. However, by definition, chocolate must contain at least 10% chocolate liquor (which is produced from cocoa solids) in the US and at least 20% in the EU which means white chocolate is not quite chocolate, even though it is produced from the cocoa bean.
11. Most chocolate is produced from forastero cocoa beans.
The three main varieties of cocoa plant are Forastero, Criollo, and Trinitario. Forastero is the most widely used in chocolate production, comprising 80–90% of the production worldwide.
12. Criollo is the rarest kind of cocoa bean.
Only about 5% of all cocoa beans produced worldwide are of the Criollo variety, making it the rarest and most expensive cocoa on the market. Few countries produce it due to its susceptibility to disease. Today, Venezuela is the biggest producer of criollo beans.
13. There may be a fourth kind of cocoa bean: Ruby.
In 2017, Barry Callebaut, a Belgian–Swiss cocoa company, introduced the world to what they call “ruby chocolate”. Ruby chocolate is pink in appearance, slightly acidic in taste, and creamy in texture. While its production is a trade secret, the producer has claimed that the chocolate is made from a new variety of cocoa bean, the Ruby bean. Experts suggest that Ruby beans may be an existing variety of cocoa bean that has been partially fermented and treated with acid to bring about its pinkish hue.
14. More than 75% of cocoa is grown in Africa.
Although the cocoa tree is endemic to the Americas, colonizers soon brought the beans from there to the African continent. Today, the majority of cocoa is produced in Africa, primarily in Ivory Coast and Ghana. Together with the other west African nations, they produce roughly 75% of all cocoa worldwide.
15. Chocolate can bloom.
If you have ever seen a white film on top of a chocolate bar, you most likely encountered a phenomenon known as “chocolate bloom”. This generally happens when either fat or sugar separate from the rest of the mass and is particularly common in chocolates containing higher amounts of fat, e.g. from added nuts. The good news is: bloomed chocolate is still safe to eat.
16. The largest chocolate weighed 13,853 kg (30,540 lbs).
The largest single chocolate ever produced was a Hershey’s Kiss, weighing in at well over 13 tons in 2007 to celebrate Hershey’s Kisses 100th anniversary.
17. Chocolate is rich in antioxidants.
Studies have shown that the consumption of chocolate can increase both the total antioxidant capacity and the antioxidant content of blood plasma. However, this positive effect is negated by the addition of milk and/or sugar. In order to draw any nutritional benefits from chocolate, one should limit themselves to small pieces of dark chocolate.
18. Chocolate is the only edible substance with a melting point of 93 F.
93 F, the melting point of chocolate, is just below human body temperature which is the reason why it melts so temptingly in our mouths (or between our fingers if we don’t eat it quickly enough).
19. Chocolate is toxic to dogs, cats, and other pets.
Chocolate is not an appropriate treat for your pets as one of its components, theobromine is toxic to many animals, including cats and dogs. The level of theobromine varies from chocolate to chocolate, but is especially high in dark chocolate. Ingestion can lead to mild symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, but also to elevated blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms, or, in the worst case, death.
20. An average milk chocolate bar contains 50 mg of caffeine.
Apart from the sugar, another reason why you may feel energized after a piece of chocolate is its caffeine content. In fact, a milk chocolate bar may contain as much as 50 mg of caffeine, more than is found in a single shot of espresso which usually contains somewhere between 30-50 mg.
21. It takes 100 cocoa beans for one pound of chocolate.
According to Hershey’s, it takes them about 100 cocoa beans to produce a single pound of chocolate.
22. Americans consume over 58 million pounds of chocolate on Valentine’s Day.
Not surprisingly, Valentine’s Day is a big day for chocolatiers. In the US alone, more than 58 million pounds of chocolate (26 million kg) go over the counters.
23. Switzerland consumes the most chocolate per capita.
Although in absolute numbers it is hard to beat the chocolate consumption in the USA, no single person in the world eats more chocolate per year than a Swiss person. On average, Swiss people consume 9 kg (19.8 lb) of chocolate every year!
24. Cadbury produces more than 500 million cream eggs per year.
Cadbury Cream Eggs are one of the most beloved chocolate treats worldwide. According to them, they produce nearly 500 million cream eggs per year – that’s 1.5 million eggs daily!
25. Hershey produces more than 25 billion Hershey’s Kisses per year.
If you thought 500 million Cadbury eggs was a lot, how about 25 billion Hershey’s kisses? According to Hershey, they produce about 70 million pieces per day.
16. In France, people eat chocolate fish on April Fool’s Day.
In French, April Fool’s Day is known as Poisson d’Avril. Interestingly, “poisson” also means fish. Instead of going angling, however, kids enjoy a piece of fish-shaped chocolate on the 1st of April.
27. The chocolate industry is worth 75 billion USD worldwide.
Chocolate is big business. All sectors considered, the chocolate industry is worth about 75 billion USD globally. That is how much money is turned over every year!
28. The film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was a marketing ploy.
The movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory from 1971 was in fact a very elaborate marketing ploy. In a time when many film studios were strapped for cash, the production of the movie was financed by Quaker Oats to promote their new Wonka chocolate bar. Although the film wasn’t a major hit at the time and the Wonka Bars were short-lived, the new candy company found major success in the following years.