If you consider yourself a chocoholic, you are not alone.
Chocolate is one of the most craved items in the world. Chocolate is viewed as a pleasure food and it comes in many different forms. People enjoy eating chocolate in the form of candy bars, hot drinks, cakes, cookies and so much more. Chocolate is often mixed with many different ingredients to form the items that you love to eat or drink.
If you are a chocolate lover, you most likely will eat chocolate in any of these forms, but have you ever wondered where this sweet, luscious delicacy comes from?
If you are wondering where chocolate comes from, the answer is quite simple. It comes from trees. The trees that produce chocolate are called cacao trees. Within these trees, there are small pods which are where the chocolate begins growing. You are not likely to see these trees growing in North America though. They are primarily found on the continents of Africa and South America, but are also commonly found in Asia as well.
The cacao tree requires warm climates all year round and well over half of the chocolate that is grown comes from Africa. So, on the cacao tree there are many pods. Each of these pods contains small seeds that actually become the chocolate. It is common for each pod to contain roughly 40 seeds each, but you should not try eating these seeds. They will not taste like chocolate at this point. Instead, they taste extremely bitter.
To make chocolate, the seeds are removed and are placed through a fermentation process. After this is complete the seeds must be cleaned, roasted, cracked and crushed. At this point the substance is almost ready to be used to produce chocolate products. Once this entire process is done, the substance that is created is called chocolate liquor. This substance does not contain alcohol, even though the name implies it does.
This is a substance that is actually used to make all of the chocolate treasures that you love to eat. Of course, the substance must be mixed with other ingredients, because on its own it still does not have the sweet taste of chocolate as we know it.
Chocolate has been a food item that people have consumed and enjoyed for hundreds of years. The first known chocolate dates back to the times of the Mayans and the Aztecs. This time frame is around the 1500s. During this time, these two groups of people consumed chocolate in the form of a drink. The drink was called Xocoatll and was produced from the cacao tree. It continued to be used in various drinkable forms but was called different names, such as jocolatte and chocalatall.
Chocolate was not actually used as something that was eaten until the 1800s. It was not very popular; however because it still contained a very bitter taste. In 1874, milk was added to chocolate and suddenly the taste became sweet and was desired by many people.
It is hard to estimate how much chocolate is consumed every year, but many experts believe that on average, a person eats approximately 11 pounds each year. Why is it that people like chocolate so much? One of the reasons is for the taste, but there are other reasons as well which are based on the chemical setup of chocolate. Chocolate contains many different chemicals; in fact, scientists believe it contains over 300 different ones. Many of these chemicals cause our brains to feel good, and this is a common reason for eating chocolate. It simply makes you feel good.
One of the main chemicals found in chocolate is caffeine, and people often avoid chocolate because of this. It also contains phenylethylamine. This is a chemical that somewhat resembles the properties of amphetamines, which are known to make your blood sugar levels rise, as well as your blood pressure. This chemical alone will make you feel more alert, and this is often because it increases your pulse and heart rate. Chocolate should be eaten in moderation because of this.
Most analysts believe that American people eat over 3 billion pounds of chocolate every single year. This is a lot of chocolate. If you find yourself craving chocolate all of the time, you might be a chocoholic. Being a chocoholic is not a bad thing, and is not abnormal; however, you must remember not to eat too much. It can leave you feeling sick and it also contains a lot of calories. Chocolate is a great-tasting snack and now you will understand where it comes from and how it is made.
To learn more about chocolate, check out the following links:
- Exploratorium: A view into the origins of chocolate and the health benefits and risks of it.
- Pace University: A look into the history of chocolate during the Aztec and Mayan time periods.
- Cornell University: Looking at where chocolate comes from, how it is made and the origins of chocolate.
- Chocolate.org: A site dedicated to everything about chocolate, from the history of chocolate to how it is made to its health benefits.
- The Field Museum: Learn about the Chocolate Around the World Exhibit that is moving from one museum to another and find out when this exhibit will be at a museum near you.
- Neuroscience for Kids: A site dedicated to teaching children about chocolate, why we eat it and the ways it is made.
- Exploratorium Magazine: Learning about the effects of chocolate because it contains caffeine which can be an addicting ingredient.