10 mind-blowing facts about chocolate
Unwrap a 99% cocoa bar and sound the chocolate horn, today is chocolate day! Why? Because the 13th of September marks the birthday of famous chocolate maker Milton Hershey, in his day a real life Willy Wonka of the United States. (By the way, there’s a similar celebration on July 7, World Chocolate Day.) Regardless, reason for Cocoa from Ghana to take additional pride in our mission to put the spotlights on cocoa-rich Ghana. We dove into the long history of chocolate and unearthed some exciting facts about our favourite food. About Napoleon, space shuttles and how lady-killer Casanova was so successful… Feel free to grab a slice of bread with chocolate sprinkles or, why not, a chocolate pizza from the fridge. Read on: how many of these trivia didn’t you know?
#001 Money for the Mayas
Did you know… that cocoa beans played an important role as money for the Mayan and Aztec people?
Cocoa’s far from a new hype, we’ve used it for centuries. But where we like to make chocolate out of it today, for the Mayan people in Central America 1500 years ago, cocoa beans were literally money. A single bean got you a tomato, ten netted you a rabbit and one hundred a turkey. To maintain its value, the cultivation of cocoa trees was restricted. Rare = valuable = a good way to pay. This system survived many cultures, from the Mayan to the Aztec people.
#002 I’m laughing at clouds
Did you know… there’s a component in chocolate that makes you happy?
Endorphins are the brain’s ‘joy chemical’. Guess what chocolate triggers? Gulp down an Easter egg and you instantly feel happier. But there’s more to it. The feeling of chocolate is crucial for its effectiveness. Chocolate is a food of celebration, shared on special occasions (Valentine, Easter, visits to the cinema) or used as comfort food. When you eat it, all those memories join in the chorus. No wonder chocolate can be slightly addictive. Everything good has an edge…
#003 Wartime pick-me-up
Did you know… that Napoleon always carried chocolate with him into battle?
After 200 years, Napoleon Bonaparte had become more historical caricature than the bogeyman he once was. The general, statesman and emperor conquered all of Europe with novel ways of warfare. Apparently, chocolate helped him a hand. During long battles he carried a stash for a quick energy boost. The effect isn’t all too different from eating a Snickers: a bar made up of carbohydrates and cocoa butter your body can swiftly break down into energy. Do you think it helped him during the long march back from Moscow?
#004 Quick recovery
Did you know… that chocolate milk is an effective recovery beverage for athletes?
Fitness tip: drink a glass of chocolate milk after working out. It may sound too good to be true, but chocolate milk has a few things going for it. It obviously contains carbohydrates (sugars) for energy, but also proteins your muscles use to recover. It’s important to drink a variant with a low amount of fat, since that can slow the process. Low-fat chocolate milk contains nutrients like calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium and vitamins B and D. Athletes, pay attention!
#005 Casanova’s secret weapon
Did you know… that lady-killer Casanova used chocolate to seduce women?
In the 18th century, Giacomo Casanova acquired fame with his memoires about his many conquests. His name became synonymous for ‘lady-killer’, but did you know one of his tricks was to drink a strong glass of chocolate milk before making love? In his time, and still to this day, chocolate is known as an aphrodisiac: substances that arouse lust. Whether this is true or simply between the ears, Casanova used it to his advantage. ‘Ciocollato delizioso!’, as the ladies perhaps cried in the heat of the moment.
#006 Tax free chocolate
Did you know… that Brussels Airport is number one in chocolate sales?
Waiting to board a plane isn’t on the list of hobbies for many travellers. What to do during those wasted hours? Brussels Airport knows exactly what: buy chocolate. It’s the world’s biggest sales point for chocolate, with an estimated 800 tonnes a year. That’s 2000 kilos per day and a whopping 1,5 kilos per minute. The stores carry an assortment of quality brands from the region. Belgium isn’t known as the land of bonbons and artisanal chocolate for nothing!
#007 Intergalactic M&M’s
Did you know… that chocolate ventured into outer space in 1981?
Just like all of humanity’s greatest accomplishments (golf sticks, Lego, Buzz Aldrin), M&M’s have gone into outer space. In fact, it has become the de facto treat for astronauts. Ever since space shuttle Columbia brought it on board in 1981 there has been a partnership between NASA and the producer of M&M’s. Smart move, since they don’t crumble or break, and therefore can’t cause a mess in the capsule. That in turn causes less problems to report to Houston.
#008 Mamma mia!
Did you know… that Americans and Brazilians eat chocolate pizzas?
You knew it had to happen. Somewhere in some dark laboratory they created the heart attack of meals: the chocolate pizza. A regular pizza base made of dough, but covered with chocolate sauce and topped with nuts, flakes, marshmallows, M&M’s or even fruit (which doesn’t belong on regular pizzas, much less on this one). It’s already a hit in the US and Brazil. But is this madness/genius restricted to the Americas? Nope. Beware, they’ve already been spotted in supermarkets everywhere…
#009 Wonder drink
Did you know… chocolate drink was prescribed in the 17th century as medicine?
Living in the 16th and 17th century, it might very well occur that you were prescribed chocolate drink when visiting a doctor. As medicine against anger attacks and depression. This was of course wishful thinking, just like Coca-Cola – featuring real cocaine – was used in the past. Still, eating especially dark chocolate has health benefits. It contains for instance flavenoids, an anti-oxidant, and helps lower cholesterol. Oh, and remember the Mayan people we talked about earlier? They used cocoa as a healing balm against snake bites and burns.
#010 Swiss sweet tooths
Did you know… that the Swiss lead the polls in chocolate consumption?
You might think you’re a fan of chocolate, but the Swiss have you beat effortlessly. Nowhere do they consume more of it. Almost 12 kilos per person, per year. Interestingly, they’re mostly fond of bars, where the Belgians (number three with 8,7 kilos) prefer bonbons. Compared to those two, the Dutch are relatively humble with 5 kilos. What form do they favour? It’s won’t surprise you with their love for sweet bread toppings: the exclusively Dutch chocolate sprinkles and chocolate paste.