Cacao is a tree, native to South America, whose seeds are the source of cocoa and chocolate.
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.
The oldest known civilization of the Americas (1500 - 400 B.C.), The Olmecs, were probably the first users of cacao.
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.
The Aztecs, and other ancient indigenous cultures, believed chocolate to be an aphrodisiac.Although this is not exactly true, chocolate does contain phenyl ethylamine (PEA) which creates a chemical reaction in the brain similar to that of falling in love.
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.
The French Leader Napoleon insisted that wine, from the Burgundy vineyard called Chambertin,as well as chocolate be available during military campaigns.Due to its precious nature, the distribution of chocolate was limited to himself and his senior military advisors.
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.
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 neighbour, Henri Nestle, and thus Nestle Chocolate came into being.
In 1879, Rodolphe Lindt, the founder of Lindt Chocolates, invented the process of Conching which is used to refine chocolate thus enhancing it quality.
In 1913, a process was invented by a Swiss Confectioner named Jules Sechaud that allowed chocolates to have unique fillings.
In 1939, Nestle introduced Chocolate Chips.
During the Second World War, the U.S. Government commissioned Milton Hershey to create a candy bar to be included in soldier 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. The Desert Bars were included in the soldier daily rations and were also sold to consumers for use in survival kits.
In 1960, Chocolate syrup was used to simulate blood in the famous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock movie, Psycho. The scene, featuring Janet Leigh, took over seven (7) days to shoot.
Before the 1970s there were hardly any recipes containing white chocolate.
Cocoa butter melts at just below human body temperature - that is why it melts in your mouth.
Cadbury's in England produced the first ever bar of chocolate in 1842.
17,000 people in Belgium - that 1 in every 200 workers - are involved in the making, selling and promotion of chocolate.s
One chocolate chip provides enough food energy for an adult to walk 150 feet. Therefore, it takes about 35 chocolate chips to walk a mile or 875,000 to get you around the world.
It takes the whole of one year crop from one tree to make half a kilo of cocoa.
During the Aztec reign, a slave could be bought for 100 cocoa beans.
1 in 7, 15-24 year-olds claim life without chocolate is not worth living.
Joseph Fry of Bristol, England, made the first eating chocolate in 1848.
The biggest chocolate sculpture ever made was a 4,484 lb, 10 foot high Easter egg, constructed in Melbourne, Australia.If the number of Toblerones sold in one year were laid end to end, they would equate to 62,000 Km equivalent to the circumference of the Earth.
The first cacao trees were found growing in the Amazon river basin and the foothills of the Venezuelan and Colombian Andes.
Every year on February 14th, Japanese girls give chocolate hearts to their loved ones. The gesture is copied by the men one month later on Howaito white day.
In Holland, the feast of St. Nicholas or Santa Claus is celebrated on December 6th. The children put their clogs outside at night so Santa can fill them up with chocolate money.