Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fifty-Five Facts on Chocolate

Chocolate is certainly the most popular confectionery on the planet. We consume it with a passion, in extraordinary amounts, but just how much do we know about chocolate?

Here are some interesting chocolate facts:

1. Research suggests that chocolate was originally used more than 2,500 years ago, beginning in Central America. The Mayan civilization 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 Mayan 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 surprising, considering they made a drink, by mixing cacao beans with chillies, achiote, cornmeal, and some reports suggest the inclusion hallucinogenic mushrooms (probably helped to get over the taste).

3. More than 66 percent of the worlds cacao is produced in Africa and 98 percent of the worlds cocoa is produced 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.

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 that 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 therefore it is easily dissolved into the skin, making it the ideal foundation in moisturizing creams and other such products.

10. On the fourth visit of Christopher Columbus to the Americas, he presented cocoa beans to the Spanish Court. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabelle were not impressed and dismissed the chocolate as bizarre tribal concoctions.

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.

15. Almost half the world's chocolate is consumed in America.

16. Napoleon always carried chocolate with him, which he ate as a pick-me-up whenever he needed an energy boost.

17. A cocoa pod contains an average of about 42 beans. It takes up to 270 cocoa beans to make a pound of chocolate.

18. More than 7 billion chocolate chips are eaten annually.

19. Ninety percent of the world’s 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, and consumers spent more than $7,000,000 a year on chocolate related products.

21. The first recorded “Death by Chocolate” case occurred in the 17th Century in Chiapas, Mexico. Upper class Spaniards were so addicted to chocolate that they refused to adhere to a church dictated chocolate ban that forbade them from eating or drinking any food during the church services. As a result, the people of the town refused not only listen to the ban but chose to attend worship services in convents instead. The Bishop who passed the law was later found dead due to poison being mixed into his daily cup of chocolate.

22. The biggest bar of chocolate ever made was created in 2000 and weighed 5,000 pounds. Turin is the city in Italy that can be proud of this accomplishment.

23. Americans eat an average of 22 pounds of candy each year, or approximately 2.8 billion pounds annually which is split almost equally between chocolate and candy. Most Europeans consume far less than this.

24. While the US produces the most chocolate and consume the most pounds every year, the Swiss consume the most per capita, followed closely by the English.

25. Besides the obvious cheese and ice cream industries, American chocolate manufacturers use about 1.5 billion pounds of milk and consume approximately 3.5 million pounds of whole milk yearly.

26. Chocolate manufacturers currently use 40% of the world’s almonds and 20% of the world’s peanuts.

27. Chocolate is technically responsible for the microwave. Scientists were experimenting with micro waves in hopes of creating better radar detectors and in the wake of World War II, scientists were testing devices called magnetrons. A scientist named Percy Spencer entered the lab with a chocolate bar in his pocket and realized it quickly began to melt. Spencer then realized that the magnetron could potentially be used to cook food. He successfully tried popping corn and then attempted to cook an egg which cooked so quickly, it blew up in his face.

28. Every Russian and American space voyage has included chocolate bars.

29. Cacao is a tree, native to South America, whose seeds are the source of cocoa and chocolate.

30. Botanists believe that cacao trees grew wild in the Amazon region , however, the use of the cacao tree, for culinary purposes, did not begin until it reached the lush tropical lowlands of southern Mexico over 3000 years ago.

31. The oldest known civilization of the Americas (1500 - 400 B.C.), The Olmecs, were probably the first users of cacao.

32. Though few records survived, recent linguistic findings suggest the word "cacao" is derived from the word Kakawa in Mixe-Zoquean, believed to have been their language.

33. Cacao beans were so valuable in ancient Mexico that the Maya and subsequent Aztec and Toltec civilizations used them as a means of currency to pay for commodities and taxes.

34. Cocoa, a rare and expensive commodity, had been introduced in Central Europe via Spain as early as the 1600’s but it wasn’t until 1765 that the first chocolate factory was established in the United States.

35. In 1765, the company, Walter Baker Chocolate, was founded by Dr. James Baker and his chocolate maker John Hannon, in a converted wooden mill on the banks of the Neponset River in Massachusetts and thus the term “Baking Chocolate” came into being.

36. Chocolate was such as a prestigious luxury that the French Ruler, Louis XIV, also known as the “Sun King”, established a court position entitled Royal Chocolate Maker to the King.

37. In 1828, cocoa in a powdered format became widely available. This allowed chocolate to become mass produced and widely available during Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth (19th) century.

38. In 1849 during the “Gold Rush” of San Francisco, Dominbro Ghirardelli of Italy began making chocolate. His original factory still stands at Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, CA.

39. In 1868, a Parisian named Etienne Guittard arrived in California and started the Guittard Chocolate Company which is still in operation.

40. 1871 was a landmark year for American Chocolate as Milton Hershey, at the age of nineteen (19), founded his company in Pennsylvania.

41. In 1875, Milk Chocolate was introduced. After over eight (8) years of experimentation, Daniel Peter of Switzerland created this concoction. He sold his creation to his neighbor, Henri Nestle, and thus Nestle Chocolate came into being.

42. In 1879, Rodolphe Lindt, the founder of Lindt Chocolates, invented the process of “conching” which is used to refine chocolate thus enhancing it’s quality.

43. In 1896, the recipe for chocolate brownies, an American snack food staple, was introduced in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

44. In 1907, the iconic Milk Chocolate Hershey's Kisses were introduced. They are one of the most successful chocolates and Hershey produces approximately 20-25 million per day in a variety of flavors.

45. In 1913, a process was invented by a Swiss Confectioner named Jules Sechaud that allowed chocolates to have unique fillings.

46. The original 3 Musketeers Bar of the 1930s had three parts: chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. It became all chocolate in the 1940s and the formula remains the same to this day.

47. In 1938, Nestle Crunch was introduced. It was the first chocolate bar to combine milk chocolate and crunchy crisps to create a sensory eating experience that blended taste, texture and sound.

48. In 1939, Nestle introduced Chocolate Chips.

49. During the Second World War, the U.S. Government commissioned Milton Hershey to create a candy bar to be included in soldier’s rations. The candy bar chosen was the famous Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar. So successful was this collaboration, Hershey Chocolate was called upon during the Persian Gulf War to create a chocolate bar that could withstand high temperatures.

50. In 1960, Chocolate syrup was used to simulate blood in the famous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, “Psycho”. The scene, featuring Janet Leigh, took over seven (7) days to shoot.

51. In the U.S., the Midwest and the Northeast consume more candy per region than the South, Southwest, West or Mid-Atlantic states.

52. Chocolate manufacturers currently use forty (40) % of the world's almonds and twenty (20) % of the world's peanuts.

53. The average commercial dark chocolate contains about 60 percent cacao and has been found to contain 536 milligrams of flavonoids per 1.4-ounce serving. Research has shown that as few as 80 milligrams of flavonoids a day can lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease.

54. It's a common misconception that chocolate is packed with caffeine. In reality, the amount of caffeine in chocolate is miniscule compared to what's in other daily pick-me-ups. An ounce of dark chocolate contains about 20 milligrams of caffeine, while an ounce of milk chocolate contains about 5 milligrams—the same as an 8-ounce cup of decaf coffee. In comparison, a cup of coffee contains about 100 milligrams and a cup of tea contains about 50 milligrams of caffeine.

55. The world's most popular chocolate brand is Ferrero Rocher, Italian made roasted specialties. The Ferrero Rocher wafer is covered with milk constituents, and encased with caramel toppings and other selectivity.

The top ten chocolate brands include:
1. Ferrero Rocher
2. Lindt & Spr√ľngli
3. Ghirardelli
4. Guylian
5. Patchi
6. Toblerone
7. Cadbury
8. Galaxy
9. Mars
10. Kit Kat

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