A universal crowd pleaser, chocolate is lush and comforting, an instant-pick-me-up and something to savour slowly, leisurely, one bite at a time. It can be bitter or sweet, solid or liquid, amazing on its own and even better in a velvety, rich dessert or pastry.
To celebrate World Chocolate Day on July 7, here are 5 things you didn’t know about this great little treat.
It was once used a currency
In Mayan and Aztec times, cacao beans were used as currency and exchanged for goods and services in the same way we might hand over coins or notes. Considered to be worth more than gold dust, their cultivation was restricted so as to keep their value in check. Research also states that some people would go as far as making counterfeit beans with clay.
It took eight years to develop the recipe for milk chocolate
The development of milk chocolate by Swiss chocolatier and entrepreneur Daniel Peter changed the flavour of chocolate around the world. However, getting there wasn’t a straightforward process. A neighbour of Henri Nestlé in Vevey, Switzerland, Peter took in fact eight years to figure out a recipe for milk chocolate that would work. It wasn’t until 1875 that he realized that condensed powdered milk was the answer to all of his troubles.
Chocolate chip cookies were an ‘accident’
Chocolate chip cookies were one of those accidental discoveries that forever changed the course of history and humankind (very much like penicillin). Ok, we might be exaggerating (honestly though, who doesn’t like chocolate chip cookies?), but the story goes that the invention of the first chocolate chip cookie happened in 1930 when American Ruth Graves, a dietician and food lecturer who ran an inn in Massachusetts with her husband, decided to bake a batch of Chocolate Butter Drop Do cookies, a popular old colonial recipe, to serve to her guests.
As she started to bake, Mrs Wakefield discovered she was out of baker’s chocolate. A resourceful cook, she quickly chopped up a block of Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate that had been given to her by Andrew Nestlé of the Nestlé Company, thinking it would melt and disperse through the cookie dough as regular baking chocolate would. Instead, the chocolate pieces retained their individual form, softening to a moist, gooey melt, and the world had its first known chocolate chip cookie.
Chocolate is literally chemical love
Chocolate contains a chemical called phenylethylamine, which releases certain “pleasure” endorphins in the brain, making people feel good all over -- similar to how they feel when they’re madly in love. While chocolate might not be a perfect love substitute, it’s probably the food world’s closest thing to it.
It has more flavour compounds than wine
Chocolate contains over 600 flavor compounds, which give off its distinct aroma, according to the American Chemical Society. In comparison, red wine is reported to only have around 200 flavor compounds.