Chocolate is one of the most popular sweet treats in the world. According to the world cocoa foundation, people around the world consume more than 3 million tons of cocoa beans a year. Not only does eating chocolate make you feel good, it may also be good for your heart and your brain.
On October 28, we celebrate National Chocolate Day which recognizes one of the world’s favorite tastes. While many specific chocolate related holidays exist throughout the year, National Chocolate Day celebrates all things chocolate. As America’s favorite flavor, chocolate is well-deserving of its own day of honor. (Some sources designate July 7 or December 28 as Chocolate Day or International Chocolate Day.)
What is chocolate?
Chocolate is prepared from the fruit of the Theobroma cacao, a tropical tree whose name means “food of the gods” in Greek. Theobroma cacao trees are native to the Amazon and Orinoco river basins in South America.
The trees are widely distributed from southeastern Mexico to the Amazon River. They thrive in hot, humid areas within about 20 degrees of the equator, according to Cornell. As the popularity of chocolate spread, growers established plantations in other regions, such as West Africa and South and Southeast Asia. Today, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Indonesia and Brazil account for 79 percent of the world’s cacao production.
How is chocolate made?
Chocolate comes from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. The earliest known documentation of using cacao seeds is from around the year 1100 BC. Since cacao tree seeds have a very intense, bitter taste, they must be fermented to develop the flavor. Research has found that chocolate, when eaten in moderation, can lower blood pressure.
Once fermented, the beans are dried, cleaned, and roasted. After roasting, the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The cacao nibs are then ground into cocoa mass, which is pure chocolate in rough form.
The cocoa mass is usually liquefied then molded with or without other ingredients. At this point in the process, it is called chocolate liquor. The chocolate liquor may then be processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.
History of national chocolate day
The history of chocolate dates back some 2,500 years. Aztecs (central Mexico) loved their newly discovered liquid chocolate to the extent that they believed Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom, literally bestowed it upon them.
Cacao seeds acted as a form of currency. And this was back in the “bitter” chocolate days before they added sugar!
Once chocolate turned sweet in the 16th century in Europe, the masses caught on and turned chocolate into a powerhouse treat.
Several present-day chocolate companies began operations in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Today there’s a move toward dark chocolate since it contains far less sugar. Ghana, Ecuador, and the Ivory Coast, all near the equator, have ideal climates for cacao trees and produce some of the world’s best chocolate. It’s best to look for dark chocolate from those regions.
But there’s a dark side. Child labor has become a serious issue. When you purchase “fair trade chocolate,” you’re working to help make cocoa farming more sustainable. Keep this in mind and choose your chocolate wisely.
How to observe National Chocolate Day
Visit your favorite restaurant and indulge in a delicious chocolate dessert. Also, you can host a chocolate tasting party.
Invite friends to bring their best chocolate recipes to share.
Use #NationalChocolateDay to post on social media.