We are constantly looking for a good excuse to much on chocolate, and the calendar offers plenty of excuses to purchase a bar or two. For example, July 7 is Chocolate Day, a nod to the day when chocolate was first brought into Europe on July 7, 1550 (although a number of sources argue that it might have hit the continent’s shores as far back as 1504, thanks to Christopher Columbus. There's also National Milk Chocolate Day on July 28, International Chocolate Day on September 13, and National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day on November 7.
2. Chocolate is Actually a Vegetable – Kind of…
Dark and milk chocolate are made from the cacao bean, which grows on the cacao tree, an evergreen from the family Malvaceae. Therefore, this makes the most important part of chocolate a vegetable.
3. White Chocolate is Not Actually Chocolate
Since it doesn’t contain cocoa solids or chocolate liquor, white chocolate isn’t chocolate in the strict sense. However, it does contain parts of the cacao bean – mainly cocoa butter.
4. The Cacao Bean is Native to Mexico and Both Central and South America
It’s is believed that inhabitants of these areas started cultivating the bean as far back as 1250 BCE, and perhaps even earlier.
Cacao was brewed in both Mexican and Aztec culture, though the result was nothing like today’s hot chocolate – it was a bitter concoction that was used for ceremonial occasions such as weddings.
6. Cacao Was Once Used as Currency
The Aztecs loved and valued the cacao bean so highly that they used it as currency during the height of their civilization.
7. Spanish Friars Helped to Spread the Love
After cacao and chocolate were introduced to Europe, traveling Spanish Friars took it to various monasteries, helping to spread it around the continent.
8. A Pair of British Confectioners Invented Solid Chocolate
The Fry and Sons shop concocted what they called “eating chocolate” in 1847 by combining cocoa butter, sugar, and chocolate liquor. This was a grainy, solid form of the treat.
9. Napoleon Loved Chocolate
The French leader demanded that wine and chocolate be made available to him and his senior advisers even during military campaigns.
Daniel Peter created the treat in 1875, after 8 years of trying to make his recipe work. Condensed milk ended up being the key ingredient.
11. Making Chocolate is Hard Work
Despite its revered status and regal background, the cacao bean doesn’t just magically turn into chocolate – it takes around 400 beans to make a single pound of the good stuff.
12. The First Chocolate Bar Was Made in England
Way back in 1842, the Cadbury company made the world’s very first chocolate bar. The company still exists today, and are well-known for their Easter-themed treats.
13. Most Cacao is Now Grown in Africa
Despite its Amazonian roots, most cacao – nearly 70% of the world’s supply – comes from Africa. The Ivory Coast is the largest single producer, providing about 30% of the world’s cacao.
14. Chocolate Has a Special Melting Point
Chocolate is the only edible substance to melt at 93F, just below the human body temperature. This is why it melts so easily on your tongue.