About an indulgence: July 7th is World Chocolate Day. Chocolate comes from the seed of the cacao tree; the cacao bean was cultivated thousands of years ago in Mexico, Central and South America. Hot chocolate was the first treat, with leaders of the Aztec civilization reputedly drinking dozens of cups a day. Mesoamericans also used the highly valued cacao beans as currency.
Today West Africa supplies up to 70% of cacao for chocolate making from an estimated 1.5 million farms. A cacao tree takes four to five years to produce its first beans; each cacao tree delivers approximately 2,500 beans. Four hundred cocoa beans go into producing one pound of chocolate.
- Dark chocolate is a powerful source of antioxidants, plus it helps to improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease. It also increases serotonin and dopamine levels, which boost our mood. The higher the percentage of cacao (minimum 70%), the better the health benefits.
- Market research estimated worldwide consumption of chocolate in 2022 at 7.5 million tons. Switzerland ranked first per capita with 8.8 kilos of consumption per person.
- Brussels Airport in Belgium sells more chocolate than anywhere else in the world: a remarkable 800 tons each year.
- The world consumes over $100 billion dollars worth of chocolate annually. Mars Inc. (over 100 years old, headquartered in McLean VA) is the largest chocolate company in the world, with $20 billion in net sales each year.
- In the 18th century Dr. James Baker and John Hannon founded their chocolate company, later called Walter Baker Chocolate. The term “Baker’s chocolate” does not mean chocolate used just for baking.
- German Chocolate Cake is not from Germany. It’s named after English American Samuel German, who invented a sweet baking chocolate in 1852. In 1957 a Texas homemaker used it in her unique recipe, “German’s Chocolate Cake.” As the cake gained notoriety, the apostrophe was dropped. Black Forest Cake, however, did originate in Germany and features one of the main crops of the Black Forest area: cherries.
- Brothers James and Gilbert Ganong founded the oldest chocolate company in Canada: Ganong in 1873 in St. Stephen NB.
- Founded in 1894 in Pennsylvania, Hershey’s is the largest and oldest chocolate company in the U.S. Hershey’s created the “D Ration Bar” — four ounces of high energy, heat tolerant chocolate — for the supply packs given to soldiers during the D-Day invasion.
Count Glen and me among the one billion people who eat chocolate every day. With our cuppa caffeine-free tea in the evening, we also enjoy 30 g (1.05 oz) of dark chocolate. •