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Chocolate Day is on 7th July 2021.
Chocolate comes from cocoa beans, which are the seeds of the cocoa fruit. Once harvested, they are dried and fermented. It takes about 500 roasted beans to make 1 kg of chocolate. Below you can see how cocoa beans were traditionally ground with a mortar and pestle. I learnt this from a chocolate museum in Belgium.
The cocoa tree, Theobroma cacao, grows in tropical climates near the Equator. The Aztec and Mayan Civilizations in Mesoamerica were the first to use cocoa in their diet in the form of a bitter beverage. This discovery was later introduced to Europe by Spanish conquerers, who modified the drink by adding sugar. In the 1850s, solid chocolate was created by adding cocoa butter. This was the birth of chocolate as we know it today to be a sweet indulgence to many.
Can you spot the cocoa pods (fruit) on this tree? They are still green and raw. When ripe, the fruit changes colour to yellow, orange, red, or brown.
You know I LOVE chocolate, right? The art of chocolate confectionery began in Belgium and Belgian chocolate is still world famous today. How cute are these chocolate ducks I spotted in a chocolate shop in Bruges, Belgium?
Chocolate contains a number of molecules, the most well-known being the xanthine alkaloid called theobromine. See what it looks like on the Chocolate Tote Bag.
If you noticed that theobromine resembles caffeine, you are right! I wrote about the similarities and differences between Coffee, Chocolate and a Respiratory Medicine earlier this year.
Dark chocolate also contains phenethylamine, a molecule that resembles the love neurotransmitter dopamine, which explains why people might feel happy while eating chocolate. It's the same chemical that makes people have those fluttery feelings when they fall Head Over Heels in love.
White chocolate doesn't really contain theobromine like dark chocolate. It consists mainly of cocoa butter, which also originates from the cocoa bean. Like any butter, cocoa butter contains fatty acids such as stearic acid, palmitic acid and oleic acid.
Are you a chocoholic like me? What are your favourite chocolates to eat? Any recommendations for what I should try? Let me know in the comments below.