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53 Chocolate Facts

Updated on April 3, 2010
Photo Credit: B52 Chocolate Pastry by Kirti Poddar,
Photo Credit: B52 Chocolate Pastry by Kirti Poddar,

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Cocoa and Chocolate

Robert W. Paul, a British scientist, pioneering film maker, and humorist is probably best known for his remark about chocolate: “A new British survey has revealed that 9 out of 10 people like Chocolate. The tenth lies.” The British aren’t the only people who love chocolate. People around the world love this treat that starts out as a lowly bean. A Google search on the world “chocolate” generated 132,000,000 results 0.45 seconds. Chocolate affects people lives. In addition to health issues, it has influenced history, led to technological innovations, provides income for many people and affects society. Here are 53 facts about chocolate that show how pervasive it has been and continues to be in human affairs.

Chocolate Biology

  1. Chocolate comes from the cacao bean which grows on the cacao tree. The tree is native to Mexico, Central and South America.
  2. The scientific name of the cacao tree is Theobroma Cacao, which is Greek for “food of the gods.”
  3. The cacao tree produces pods, each of which contain 20 – 50 cacao beans.
  4. Technically, chocolate is a vegetable. It comes from cacao beans and beans are vegetables. So, chocolate is a vegetable.
  5. Once the cacao bean is harvested and begins its journey to eventually becoming chocolate, the spelling changes from cacao to cocoa.

Chocolate History

  1. The first use of chocolate was probably by the Olmec people, an ancient people who lived between 1400 and 500 BCE (before common era) in South Central Mexico in the area that is now known as Veracruz and Tabasco. The Olmec used cocoa as a drink.
  2. The word chocolate comes from the Aztec word xocolātl, which means “bitter water.”
  3. The Aztecs used the cacao bean as money. For example, a turkey cost 100 cacao beans and a pumpkin cost four (4) beans.
  4. Chocolate was introduced to Europe in the 16th century by the Spanish, after they conquered the Aztecs.
  5. Chocolate became a popular drink on the European continent where it was available only to royalty and the well-connected.
  6. According to legend, English pirates seized a Spanish ship, confiscated cargo of chocolate and introduced the drink to England.
  7. The first chocolate house (like a coffee house) opened in London in 1657and anyone who could afford it, could buy chocolate.
  8. In the 17thcentury, the Bishop of Chiapas, Mexico .banned eating and drinking during mass. But, the people loved chocolate so much that they refused to obey the rule. Instead, they attended mass at a nearby convent and the Bishop, was found dead. Someone poisoned his daily cup of chocolate.
  9. In 1689, Scottish physician and collector Hans Sloane a milk chocolate drink that was used by apothecaries (the 17thcentury pharmacist) sold to the Cadbury brothers in 1897.
  10. According to legend, the Emperor Napoleon insisted that his armies always have wine from the Chamberlin vineyard in Burgundy France and chocolate. However, the soldiers got the wine and only Napoleon and his senior advisors got the chocolate.
  11. In 1937, The United States Army added chocolate, in the form of the Ration D bar, to the basic field rations for soldiers. Chocolate rations served as a morale booster and a high-energy, pocket-sized emergency ration and has been part of the soldier’s rations ever since. But, it didn’t taste very good. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that a heat-resistant chocolate bar that tasted good was developed for the military.

Chocolate and the Human Body

  1. Chocolate contains the chemical theobromine. This is a natural substance that stimulates the heart and respiratory systems. It is harmless to humans in small amounts, but it can be deadly to dogs, cats and other pets.
  2. Contrary to popular belief, chocolate has only a small amount of caffeine. A single cup of coffee contains the same amount of caffeine as ten (10) chocolate bars weighing 1.65 oz.
  3. Dermatologists will tell you that there is no link between chocolate and acne. It is the truth. There is no scientific evidence that proves such a link.
  4. A 1.65 oz milk chocolate bar contains only 12 milligrams (mg.) of cholesterol while a one (1) oz. piece of cheddar cheese contains 30 mg of cholesterol.
  5. Allergies to the cacao bean are very rare. An allergic reaction to chocolate is most likely caused by some other ingredient added to the chocolate.
  6. Chocolate contains trace amounts of THC (a form of cannabis), which is the active ingredient in marijuana. It also contains trace amounts of caffeine, tyramine, and tryptophan. The human brain uses these chemicals to produce dopamine and serotonin, which are “feel good” chemicals that stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain.
  7. Chocolate is considered by many to be an aphrodisiac although there is no scientific evidence to support this. Chocolate stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain and this may lead to romance.
  8. There is research that suggests that chocolate aids in post exercise muscle recovery. Drinking low-fat chocolate milk after exercise may be more effective than a high carbohydrate beverage in aiding muscle repair.
  9. The melting point of chocolate is 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit (36 degrees Celsius) and a person’s average body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). This is why chocolate literally “melts in your mouth.
  10. Contrary to popular belief, chocolate is not physically addicting.
  11. Research shows that dark chocolate, eaten in small amounts can re reduce LDL "bad" cholesterol, improve hear heath, blood pressure and increase blood flow to the brain. In addition, there is some evidence that dark chocolate may reduce the risk of diabetes by improving blood sugar and insulin sensitivity.

Chocolate Manufacturing

  1. Cacao beans have a very strong bitter taste. They must be fermented to develop of cocoa flavor. Then they are clean, roasted, and shelled to produce cocoa nibs. At this point the spelling of the word changes from cacao to cocoa.
  2. The cocoa nibs are ground up to produce a “cocoa mass” that is put a bag and hung in a warm room.
  3. Cocoa butter is a pure vegetable fat that is extracted from the cocoa bean.
  4. The cocoa butter melts and drips out of the bag, leaving the cocoa, which can be melted to make a liquid or dried and ground to make cocoa powder. This process was developed by the Ghirardelli Company in 1865.
  5. Chocolate liquor is pure chocolate in liquid form. It is made by melting the cocoa mass. It is cooled and molded into bars and is known as unsweetened baking chocolate.
  6. A chocolate maker is called a chocolatier.
  7. Today, the majority of the world’s cocoa is grown in Africa and 47% is grown on the Ivory Coast.
  8. According to the World Cocoa Foundation, more than 50 million people around the world earn their living from cocoa.
  9. Chocolatiers use approximately 40% of the world’s supply of almonds and 20% of the supply of peanuts.
  10. White chocolate was not invented until the 1970’s. It is a combination of cocoa butter, sugar and milk solids and it isn’t really white. Its color may best be described as ivory or off-white.
  11. From the time of its discovery until the 19thcentury, the cacoa bean was ground up, fermented, and served as a drink
  12. Dutch chocolate is chocolate that has been processed by adding an alkiod such as salt. This chances the flavor of the chocolate and gives it a milder flavor when compared to cocoa.
  13. Joseph Fry, the first British chocolatier , discovered a way to add some of the extracted cocoa butter back into the chocolate mix some of the cocoa butter back into "Dutched" chocolate to which he added sugar, This created a chocolate past that could be molded into bars , making the first chocolate bar.
  14. Chocolate contains more than 1,500 flavor components. While many of these flavor components come from the cocoa, chocolatiers add other flavors, such as milk vanilla and malt, to balance the cocoa flavor.
  15. The Mars Three Muskateers Bar was first introduced in the 1930’s and contained three layers, chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. the recipe was changed to all chocolate in the 1940’s.
  16. There are three (3) main types of chocolate: dark, milk and white chocolate. The primary ingredients of all three types are sugar and cocoa butter. Milk and dark chocolate are made by adding varying amounts of chocolate liquor. Depending on the type of chocolate, milk and vanilla may be added.

Chocolate and Society

  1. Christina Edmunds lived in Brighton, England. In 1870, she stated buying chocolate creams. She would take them home, add strychnine to them and the return them to the unknowing vendors who sold them. She also sent boxes of poisoned chocolates to prominent people. Fortunately, only one person died, while the others became seriously ill and recovered. She was known as the “Chocolate Cream Poisoner.”
  2. The first know recipe for chocolate brownies appeared in the Sears Roebuck Catalog in 1897.
  3. The milk chocolate Hershey Kiss was first introduced in 1907. It is the most successful candy products ever. The Hershey Company produces more than 20 million pieces every day in several flavors.
  4. The Nestle Company introduced chocolate chips in 1939.
  5. Alfred Hitchcock used chocolate syrup to simulate blood in his famous 1960 movie, Psycho.
  6. Americans eat almost half of the world's yearly supply of chocolate and the average American eats 10 – 12 pounds of chocolate per year. However, the average person in Denmark eats 29.5 pounds a year.
  7. Worldwide, people spend more than $20 billion a year on chocolate.
  8. Dark chocolate is more popular with men than with women. Women prefer milk chocolate.
  9. Chocolates can be frozen for up to six months. Pack them in sealed, air-tight plastic bags or a similar container before freezer.
  10. Chocolate is present in entertainment. From Forrest Gump “”Life Is like a box of chocolates... You never know what you're gonna get!" to Deanna Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation “I never met a chocolate I didn't like.” Chocolate entertains and delights us.

The Total Chocolate Facts

Biology = 5 Facts

  • History = 11 Facts
  • Human Body = 11 Facts
  • Manufacturing = 16 Facts
  • Society = 10 Facts

Total Cacao and Chocolate Facts = 53

This article is part of dchinn1’s Bibelot spot series. A bibelot is a small object of curiosity, in this case, knowledge


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