The History of Chocolate
Mel Gibson’s got the right idea, and according to straight statistics, so do a lot of other men. This week alone, 75% of the chocolate purchased will be purchased by men, for women. If you’re a woman reading this statistic, then I’m sure you completely disagree, but, numbers don’t lie. Apparently either a lot of men did something very wrong, or are doing something very right!
If you’re a man reading this, you’ll be happy to know that chocolate significantly reduces theta activity in the brain, helping us to “calm down”; so you have every valid excuse to buy it for your partner! And while many women will tell you they like to stuff themselves on chocolate at 9:30 at night watching tv… the truth is that only about 20% of chocolate is even being eaten after 8pm- another shocker, I know. Most chocolate consumption ends up being in between meals for most of us, not at night in bed- that’s just when we feel guilty about it.
But before chocolate was given as a gift, before Halloween, before chocolate Easter bunnies… cacao beans were used as currency by the Mayans. (250-900A.D.) Just think, instead of saying sorry with Hershey’s kisses, you could spend 10 cacao beans on a prostitute, or (if you’re a depressed eater) a rabbit.
As a matter of fact, the beans were used as currency in some areas of Latin America until the 19th century! Certainty chocolate’s taste was exquisite, but, the cacao bean’s value was greater un-eaten, unless you were the richest Aztec on the block.
Once chocolate made it’s way to Spain, Spaniards used it as a treatment for fever, blood pressure (which is effective btw), and alleviating pain in their patients. I’m just spitballing here, but I’m guessing there was an increase in doctor’s visits in Spain… or at least a stronger need for chocolate because soon after it was considered a medication, chocolate went viral. Well, as viral as things could get by ship, hawk, or horse.
By 1657 the first Chocolate House opened. Chocolate could of course only be consumed in a liquid format at the time, much like coffee today. Folks would come in, order their hot chocolate, sit a spell, play chess, read the paper, and then be on their way. Just like Starbucks today, minus the wifi…but I have a feeling the pricing scale was about the same.
(image courtesy of Historyextra.com)
In the early 1800s a Dutchman named Coenraad Von Houten invented the cocoa press, which separated the cocoa from the butter. If you’ve ever eaten Dutch Chocolate, you have Hehr Houten to thank.
Not to be out done, in the 1840s, the Lindt brothers from Switzerland, found a way to solidify chocolate powder into a bar…that could be packaged and sold. Whether they knew it or not, the Lindt brothers changed the world by inventing the first chocolate bar. Until then, you could only get your chocolate as a hot cup of cocoa. This was a game changer. If sugar was a big hit, chocolate quite literally, topped the cake.
images courtesy of icollector.com and lindtusa.com)
By the end of the century, factories were up and running, with machines that could wrap candy bars at lightening speed; and so started the love of chocolate- not for dead rabbits, or a fever, but as a luxury. Chocolate was such a hit, that the majority of the candy bars you know today, were released in the late 1800s to early 1900s during the chocolate boom. If there’s a demand, they’ll make a market. Wait, or is that the other way around?
(images courtesy of Pinterest and mars.inc)
Cocoa may have started in Mexico, but the chocolate bar belongs to Europe. 50% of the world’s chocolate sales are from Europe, only 20% come from the U.S. And while you thought Americans were the “fattest on earth”, the average Brit eats about 24lbs of chocolate a year; the average American only eats about 11lbs a year. All together, Americans eat about 25lbs of candy each year, with less than half going towards chocolate.
To give you some clarity, Americans eat about 12lbs of lettuce every year, and 9lbs of carrots a year. So for most of us, we’re eating more candy than we are salad annually and yet we have no idea why over 100 million Americans are diabetic or pre diabetic.
Chocolate, like sugar is a billion dollar industry. Mars Inc. earns over 17 billion a year, every year, and Hershey’s Chocolate is in the second top spot. On Halloween alone, more than 90 million pounds of chocolate are bought each year.
A good day for a child slave consists of not being beaten, a bad day could mean death; with the majority of these children never even tasting the chocolate they help create.
The three largest makers of chocolate have spent less than 00.73% of their earnings on helping to combat these horrific conditions, and don’t seem in a rush to start now. It’s a 35 billion dollar industry that destroys our rainforests, enables slave like conditions, and makes us all sick. But we’re still buying aren’t we? Where there is a market, there is a demand; or is that the other way around?
What You Can Do
Buying Fair Trade organic chocolate and single-origin chocolates helps put your money where your mouth is, and if enough of us do so, we can put a dent in the slave market and the corporate wallets of the companies who allow this to continue by giving them their business.
But buying “clean” chocolate does more than just save the rainforest. Chocolate is good for you! Those Spaniards were on to something when they used chocolate medicinally. Real chocolate is full of antioxidants and flavonoids like procyanidins, which help prevent cancer and are good for your heart.
Chocolate also contains Theobromine, which also helps prevent cancer and also lowers blood pressure. Even now, scientists are studying Theobobromine and it’s effects on the body. But the bad news is even though all these facts are true, there are two reasons you’re unlikely to ever see the benefits.
Most chocolate is highly processed and thus loses any nutritional value. Secondly, once you mix milk with chocolate, even dark chocolate, it loses it’s potency; and what goes best with chocolate? I rest my case.
But you can make better choices in your chocolate selection when you shop. In the U.S., milk chocolate only has to contain 10% chocolate liquor, and at least 20% cocoa butter. Semi sweet chocolate must contain at least 35% chocolate liquor. The U.K. has higher standards, but for now, let’s stay in the states.
A Few Brands To Try
Endangered Species (Linda's favorite)
Ethically traded and the best tasting chocolate for your money. Ranging in 35%-80% cacao
(image courtesy of godiary.com)
Organic, non GMO, no soy lecithin, and range from 55%-85% cacao
(image courtesy of godiaryfree.com)
Try the 85% dark blackout for the most health benefits
(image courtesy of bcorporation.com)
Sold at Aldi and is a German based company with 70%-85% cacao
(image courtesy of Pinterest)
You don’t have to quit chocolate, you just have to learn the tricks to making it a healthier snack for you and the millions of children creating it for you. Where there is a demand, there will be change, and you are that change-that’s pretty sweet.
10/29/2017 10:30:14 pm
I’ve had the dark chocolate endangered species chocolate. Super good.
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