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Love Chocolate

Chocolate was used as medicine during the 18th century. It was believed that chocolate could cure a stomach ache. Chocolate originated in Mayan culture, where it held a highly revered place. In fact, the Mayans believed chocolate was so sacred they could only drink it from solid gold goblets -- which had to be thrown away after a single use!

Chocolate symbolized life, fertility, health, and royalty. Because they didn’t have sugar, the Mayans had to get creative in flavoring their chocolate drinks, and they did, using all kinds of spices (even hot chili peppers!). The Mayans believed chocolate came directly from the gods, and they even used cocoa beans as currency. That’s one of the better strange facts in chocolate history: money really did grow on trees!

The Many Uses Of Chocolate

Chocolate isn't just a candy. Before maids started leaving wrapped mints on hotel pillows at night, chocolate had some varied and esoteric uses. The beans, which emerged from the forests of Central America, were used as a monetary unit in paying taxes to the Aztecs in 1000A.D. Cocoa had been grown and harvested for centuries, with evidence of its existence in the region going back another 5,000 years. Besides serving as money, it was considered a beverage only for royal males, when ground into pasted and mixed with boiling water and various flavourings.

Christopher Columbus got to sample it in the 15th century but passed it by as an item of interest and set off for what he thought were the East Indies. That left it to Spanish explorers to seize on the idea of calculating the worth of something in beans, and soon the drink of the Aztecs made its way to the royal court of Spain. They kept it to themselves for almost a century, substituting cane sugar for the spices, and making a delightfully sweet drink. Then a Spanish princess married the King of France and they inherited the secret. And of course, English guests at court seized on the idea as well and it made its way across the English Channel, where in the 18th century, it was used as a preventative for stomach aches.

Even once chocolate crossed the ocean, it remained a symbol of prestige and nobility. The explorer Cortez first combined cocoa with sugar and other spices to create a version of the famous hot chocolate we know today. Only royalty could afford this extravagant drink, however, so cocoa remained a status symbol for the elite.

Dominican monks carried the secret of hot chocolate to the rest of Europe, where it quickly caught on. But the strange facts in chocolate history don’t stop here: believe it or not, chocolate continued to find use as a currency in Europe! One hundred cocoa beans purchased a small hen or rabbit.

For whatever reason, the Catholic Church later decided that while drinking chocolate didn’t constitute a sin, eating it did. Fortunately, they later reversed this decision (much to the relief of children collecting chocolate eggs at Easter). As chocolate traveled to the new world, it became a solid confection, increasingly accessible to the world at large -- but not nearly so valuable. By the eighteenth century, the days of chocolate currency had come to an end.

Chocolate's medicinal role actually dates back to the Aztecs, with the emperor Montezuma declaring that "The divine drink, which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day without food." Chocolate isn't just a candy. Before maids started leaving wrapped mints on hotel pillows at night, chocolate had some varied and esoteric uses.

For over 3000 years, Chocolate…like gold, has had a universal appeal

2000 BC, Amazon: Cocoa, from which chocolate is created, is said to have originated in the Amazon at least 4,000 years ago.

Sixth Century AD: Chocolate, derived from the seed of the cocoa tree, was used by the Maya Culture, as early as the Sixth Century AD. Maya called the cocoa tree cacahuaquchtl… "tree," and the word chocolate comes from the Maya word xocoatl which means bitter water.

300 AD, Maya Culture: To the Mayas, cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility... nothing could be more important! Stones from their palaces and temples revealed many carved pictures of cocoa pods.

600 AD, Maya Culture: Moving from Central America to the northern portions of South America, the Mayan territory stretched from the Yucatán Peninsula to the Pacific Coast of Guatemala. In the Yucatán, the Mayas cultivated the earliest know cocoa plantations. The cocoa pod was often represented in religious rituals, and the texts their literature refer to cocoa as the god’s food

Chocolate has impacted the ways in which some humans worshiped, and expressed their values

1200, Aztec Culture: The Aztecs attributed the creation of the cocoa plant to their god Quetzalcoatl who, descended from heaven on a beam of a morning star carrying a cocoa tree stolen from paradise. In both the Mayan and Aztec cultures cocoa was the basis for a thick, cold, unsweetened drink called xocoatl… believed to be a health elixir. Since sugar was unknown to the Aztecs, different spices were used to add flavor, even hot chili peppers and corn meal were used!

Aztecs believed that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cocoa tree, and also that it had nourishing, fortifying, and even aphrodisiac qualities. The Aztec emperor, Montezuma drank thick chocolate dyed red. The drink was so prestigious that it was served in golden goblets that were thrown away after only one use. He liked it so much that he was purported to drink 50 goblets every day!

The cocoa beans were used for currency… records show that 400 cocoa beans equaled one Zontli, while 8000 beans equaled one Xiquipilli. When the Aztecs conquered tribes, they demanded their payment in cocoa! By subjugating the Chimimeken and the Mayas, the Aztecs strengthened their supremacy in Mexico. Records dating from 1200 show details of cocoa deliveries, imposed on all conquered tribes.

1492, Columbus Returns in Triumph From America: King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were presented with many strange and wonderful things… the few dark brown beans that looked like almonds didn’t get a lot of attention.

1502, Columbus landed in Nicaragua: On his fourth voyage to America, Columbus landed in what is now called Nicaragua. He was the first European to discover cocoa beans being used as currency, and to make a drink, as in the Aztec culture. Columbus, who was still searching for the route to India, still did not see the potential cocoa market that had fallen into his lap.

1513, A Slave is Bought for Beans: Hernando de Oviedo y Valdez, who went to America in 1513 as a member of Pedrarias Avila's expedition, reports that he bought a slave for 100 cocoa beans. According to Hernando de Oviedo y Valdez 10 cocoa beans bought the services of a prostitute, and 4 cocoa beans got you a rabbit for dinner.

At this time, the name of the drink changed to Chocolatl from the Mayan word xocoatl [chocolate] and the Aztec word for water, or warm liquid.

1519, Hernando Cortez Begin a Plantation: Hernando Cortez, who conquered part of Mexico in 1519, had a vision of converting these beans to golden doubloons. While he was fascinated with Aztec's bitter, spicy beverage [he didn’t like the cocoa drink], he was much intrigued by the beans’ value as currency. Later, Cortez established a cocoa plantation in the name of Spain… henceforth, "money" will be cultivated! It was the birth of what was to be a very profitable business.

Chocolate affected many cultures and traditions, and even…

International economics!

1528, Chocolate Arrives in Spain: Cortès presented the Spainish King, Charles V with cocoa beans from the New World and the necessary tools for its preparation. And no doubt Cortès taught him how to make Chocolatl.

Cortez Inspires a Major Breakthough: Cortez postulated that if this bitter beverage were blended with sugar, it could become quite a delicacy. The Spaniards mixed the beans with sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and cinnamon. The results were tantalizing, coveted, fashionable, and reserved or the Spanish nobility which created a demand for the fruits of his Spanish plantations. Chocolate was a secret that Spain managed to keep from the rest of the world for almost 100 years!

It is no secret that Chocolate has enjoyed a reputation as an aphrodisiac ever since Conquistadores first became aware of the "pagan" ways of the Aztecs [who regarded chocolate as a medicine, but probably not as an aphrodisiac.]

1544, Dominican Friars Get into the Swing: Dominican friars bring a delegation of Mayans to meet Philip. Spanish monks, who had been consigned to process the cocoa beans, finally let the secret out. It did not take long before chocolate was acclaimed throughout Europe as a delicious, health-giving food.

The beans were still used as currency. Two hundred beans bought a turkey cock. One hundred beans was the daily wage of porter, and would buy a hen turkey or a rabbit (the price has really escalated in 30 years! Three beans could be traded for a turkey egg, a new avocado, or a fish wrapped in maize husks. One bean bought a ripe avocado, tomato, or a tamale.

1569, The Roman Church Takes a Serious Look at Chocolate: Pope Pius V, who did not like chocolate, declared that drinking chocolate on Friday did not break The Fast.

1579, English Buccaneers Burn Currency: After taking a Spanish ship loaded with cocoa beans, English Buccaneers set it on fire thinking the beans were sheep dung.

1585, Chocolate Goes to Market: The first shipment of beans intended for the market makes it to Spain.

1587, Another Ship Goes Down: When the British captured a Spanish vessel loaded with cocoa beans, the cargo was destroyed as useless.

1609, Chocolate is Lauded in Literature: The first book devoted entirely to chocolate, "Libro en el cual se trata del chocolate," came from Mexico.

1615, Chocolate Comes With the Dowery: Ann of Austria, daughter of Philip II from Spain, introduced the beverage to her new husband, Louis the XIII, and his French court, too.

1625, Cocoa Beans are Currency in Spain too: 200 small cocoa beans were valued at 1 Spanish real, or 4 cents.

1643, The French Court Embraces Chocolate: When the Spanish Princess Maria Theresa was betrothed to Louis XIV of France, she gave her fiancé an engagement gift of chocolate, packaged in an elegantly ornate chest.

Chocolate was extremely popular with Louis XIV and the members of his Court at Versailles. Louis XIV, The Sun King, reigned for over 74 years [1643 to 1715] and is considered to be one of the greatest absolute monarchs. His foresight lead him to appoint Sieur David illou to manufacture and sell chocolate, which not only created a new income stream, but also it is said to have inspired erotic pleasures. It was well known that in Louis’ 72nd year he was making love to his wife twice a day… Chocolate?

Chocolate Mania in Paris: The chocolate craze which now included candy took hold in Paris and then conquered the rest of France.

Chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac flourished in the French courts. Art and literature was thick with erotic imagery inspired by chocolate. And the Marquis de Sade, became proficient in using chocolate to disguise poisons! Casanova was reputed for using chocolate with champagne to seduce the ladies.

Madame de Pompadour was advised to use chocolate with ambergris to stimulate her desire for Louis XV… but to no avail. Madame du Barry, reputed to be nymphomaniacal, encouraged her lovers to drink chocolate in order to keep up with her.

1657, Even London Succumbs: London's first chocolate shop is opened by a Frenchman. London Chocolate Houses became the trendy meeting places where the elite London society savored their new luxury. The first chocolate house opened in London advertising "this excellent West India drink."

1662, Rome Takes Another Look: As chocolate became exceptionally fashionable,The Church of Rome took a second look at this bewitching beverage. The judgment: "Liquidum non frangit jejunum," reiterated that a chocolate drink did not break the fast. But eating chocolate confections didn’t pass muster, until Easter. Is this where the Easter Bunny makes an entrance?

1670, One Man Takes a Stand: Helmsman Pedro Bravo do los Camerinos decides that he has had enough of Christian voyages of exploration and settles in the Philippines, where he spends the rest of his life planting cocoa, thus laying the foundations for one of the great plantations of that time.

1671, All Troubles Have a Silver Lining: Sometimes people just don’t see it…this time creativity prevailed! As the story goes, a bowlful of almonds is dropped, and the angry chef tries to "box the ears" of his kitchen boy… but instead he spills a pan full of hot, burnt sugar over the almonds. Meanwhile the renowned gourmet, Duke of Plesslis-Praslin, is waiting for his dessert!

His personal chef turns anger in to creative energy, and serves the Duke almonds coated of cooled burnt sugar. The Duke is not only delighted… he is also inspired to give his name to this nouveau sweet. Today we call this confection "praline," but there is no doubt of the origin!

1674, A Trendy Coffee House Takes Chocolate To New Horizons: An Avant Guard, London Coffee House called At the Coffee Mill and Tobacco Roll, goes down in the annals of history for serving chocolate in cakes, and also in rolls… in the Spanish style.

1677, Brazil Gets into The Market: By Royal Decree, November 1, 1677, Brazil [later to achieve an important position in the world market] establishes its first cocoa plantations in the State of Par .

1697, The mayor of Zurich, visits Brussels: Heinrich Escher, mayor of Zurich, drinks chocolate in Brussels and introduces the awe-inspiring concoction to his friends at home… nothing he has ever tasted is even slightly like this brew!

1704, The Germans Impose a Tax on Chocolate: Chocolate makes its appearance in Ger many, and Frederick I of Prussia reacts by imposing a tax. Anyone wishing to pay homage to its pleasures has to pay two thalers for a permit.

1711, Chocolate Migrates to Vienna: Emperor Charles VI transfers his court from Madrid to Vienna and along with his Court, comes chocolate.

1720, Coffee Houses Propagate Trendy Chocolate: Italian Chocolatiers from Florence and Venus, now well versed in the art of making chocolate, are welcomed to France, Germany and Switzerland.

1730, Hand Methods of Manufacture Gave Way to Mass Production: The transition was hastened by the advent of a perfected steam engine, which mechanized the cocoa grinding process. By 1730, chocolate had dropped in price from three dollars or more per pound to within financial reach of all.

1747, Frederick III of Prussia forbids hawking: Especially the hawking of chocolate! In fact, Frederick prohibited chocolate in his realm. In where Chocolate flourished, It’s high price ensured that only the wealthy could indulge.

1755, America Discovers Chocolate: Diligently forging the concept of Democracy, Americans take time out to discovers Chocolate.

1765, First Chocolate Factory In the USA: The production of chocolate proceeded at a faster pace than anywhere else in the world. It was in pre-Revolutionary New England.

1780, Spain Was First: The first machine-made chocolate is produced in Barcelona.

1792, A Factory Opens in Berlin: In Germany, the Josty brothers from Grisons open a confectioner's shop and make a hit selling Swiss Chocolate… and they open a chocolate factory in Berlin.

1797, Don’t Leave Home Without Chocolate: As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe tours Switzerland, he insists on having Chocolate available at all times… and a chocolate pot.

1800, Chocolate is an Industry: Antoine Brutus Menier built the first industrial manufacturing facility for chocolate.

1810, Venezuela's Dominates the Industry:. A survey shows that Venezuela produces half of the world's chocolate. And 1/3 is consumed by the Spaniards.

1819, The Swiss Invest in a Chocolate Factory: In a former mill near Vevey, Fran‡ois-Louis Cailler, who had learned the secrets of the chocolate trade in Italy founds his first factory. As cocoa plantations spread to the tropics in both hemispheres by the 19th century, the increased production lowered the price of the cocoa beans and chocolate became a popular and affordable beverage.

Secret techniques in blending and roasting beans,
traditional family recipes and creative interpretations,
and innovative candy making techniques
have been handed down from generation to generation.

1822, The Cocoa Tree becomes an Ornamental Plant: off the west coast of Africa on the Principe Island in the Gulf of Guinea, Ferreira Gomes [from Portugal] introduces the cocoa tree as an ornamental plant.

1828, The Cocoa Press is Invented: The Press lead to reduced prices and helped to improve the quality of the beverage by squeezing out part of the cocoa butter. Drinking chocolate had a smooth consistency and a more pleasing taste.

1830, The Drink Became a Confection: Solid eating chocolate was developed by J. S. Fry and Sons, a British chocolate maker.

1847, An English Company Introduced Fondant Chocolate: This smooth and velvety chocolate almost completely replaced the old coarse grained chocolate.

1849, Cadbury Brothers Exhibited Chocolate: The exhibition was at Bingley Hall at Birmingham, England.

1851, Marks a First for Americans: Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert orchestrated The Exposition in London. It was the first time citizens of the United States were introduced to bonbons, chocolate creams, hard candies (called "boiled sweets"), and caramels.

1853, Heavy Import Duties Are Reduced: Once English duties made Chocolate a luxury for the wealthy, now the doors were open, allowing a number of cocoa and drinking chocolate manufacturers to get into the business

1857, Ghana Develops into an Important Producer: A Portuguese Baron of Agua Iz, takes the cultivation of cocoa from Principe Island to a neighboring island, Sao Thome, and then to the African continent. Members of the Basle Mission in Ghana encourage the growth of this emerging crop, and small to medium farmers turn Ghana into one of the most important producers.

1875, Milk Chocolate Comes of Age: After eight years of experimentation, Daniel Peter from Switzerland puts the first milk chocolate on the market.

1879, Chocolate Literally Melts in Your Mouth: Rodolphe Lindt of Berne, Switzerland, invented "conching", a means of heating and rolling chocolate to refine it. After chocolate has been conched for 72 hours and has more cocoa butter added to it, chocolate becomes "fondant" and it melts in your mouth!

1900, Switzerland Takes the Leadership Role: Spain, where chocolate was first introduced to Europeans, falls far behind. Germany consumes the most per head, followed by the United States, France and Great Britain.

1910, The Swiss Reputation for Wonderful Chocolate is Undisputed: Bolstered by an unbroken series of medals at international exhibitions, Swiss Chocolate, like bratwurst, rosti and fondue, is elevated to a national dish.

1913, A new Star is Born: Jules Sechaud of Montreux of Switzerland introduced the process for filling chocolates.

Chocolate making is an important part of European Cultures…
the Swiss, Belgians, French, Italians and Germans
And now, American Chocolatiers are also making their mark

1923, The CMA was Established: The Chocolate Manufacturers Association of the United States of America (CMA) was organized in.

1925, Cocoa is Big Business: The New York Cocoa Exchange, located at the World Trade Center, was begun so that buyers and sellers could get together for transactions.

1938, World War II: The U.S. government recognized chocolate's role in the Allied Armed Forces. It allocated valuable shipping space for the importation of cocoa beans which would give many weary soldiers the strength to carry. Today, the U.S. Army D-rations include three 4-ounce chocolate bars. Chocolate has even been taken into space as part of the diet of U.S. astronauts.

You may read that chocolate is an aphrodisiac based on studies from reputable universities. Scientists have isolated phenylethylamine (PEA) which is a stimulant found in chocolate, and also in the brain. A miniscule amount of PEA is released at moments of emotional euphoria, raising blood pressure and heart rate. There is no evidence that PEA found in foods increases PEA in the brain. And by the way, cheddar cheese, salami and pickled herring all contain more PEA than Chocolate, Industrialization brought Chocolate to the masses, yet Chocolate is still considered to be an exceptional indulgence!

Five Strange Facts About Chocolate

Think you're a chocolate expert? Here are five strange facts about chocolate you probably never knew!

You might think of yourself as a chocolate genius, but here are five strange facts about chocolate you've probably never heard before! Sit back and prepare to be amazed: your favourite food is even stranger than you ever realized!

1. Chocolate is responsible for the microwave. Don't believe it? It's the truth! Scientists were initially experimenting with micro waves in the hopes of creating a better radar detector. In the wake of WWII, scientists continued to test devices called magnetrons. On one such lab, a scientist named Percy Spencer happened to stroll through with a chocolate bar in his pocket. When he discovered the melted chocolate, Spencer realized that he might be able to use the magnetron to cook food. He tried popping corn (successfully) and then thought he'd give real food a try. His first experiment? An egg, which cooked so quickly it blew up in his face!

2. Chocolate is a serious American staple.

Some interesting facts about chocolate consumption in the U.S. of A.:

-American chocolate companies use 1.5 billion pounds of milk every year.

-Americans consume almost half of the world's annual chocolate products

-Every Russian and American space voyage has included chocolate bars.

3. Throughout history, we've had a love-hate affair with chocolate.

You know the drill: you love the stuff, but you could really do without the sugar highs, added pounds, and guilt factor that come from chocolate. Well, in the category of past strange facts about chocolate: during the 16th and 17th centuries, the church was a watchtower of health and waistlines: eating chocolate was considered a sin! By the 18th century, however, people considered chocolate a medicine. It was especially popular as a treatment for stomach aches (and I bet a woman came up with that!).

4. Chocolate really can be deadly.

You're not the only one who craves chocolate, you know. Chocolate is extremely addictive for our canine companions! Small amounts of chocolate may not hurt your dog, but once a dog develops a taste for the sweet, it'll stop at nothing to get more. And in large amounts, chocolate can lead to epileptic seizures and poisoning.

The poisonous part of chocolate is a chemical called theobromine. It's harmless to humans, but deadly to dogs.

5. There are a lot of myths about chocolate.

There are a lot of strange facts about chocolate out there, but a lot of MISinformation, too! For example:

-Chocolate is not particularly high in caffeine. You would have to eat ten chocolate bars to get the same amount of caffeine as you find in a single cup of coffee.

-There is absolutely no link between chocolate and acne, as any modern dermatologist will happily tell you.

-Chocolate is good for you -- unfortunately, its additives aren't! Pure cocoa powder is full of iron and antioxidants. Add sugar or butter, though, and the calories begin to mount.

Chocolate isn't only delicious, it's a fascinating and even exciting treat! Grab yourself a few ounces and keep surfing for strange facts about chocolate.


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