Few things in this world can rival the universal appeal of chocolate. It's a solace during a stressful day. A decadent treat that beckons us from shop windows. The ultimate symbol of affection on special occasions. But beyond its exterior lies a world of fascinating history, cultural significance, and surprising secrets many of us are yet to discover!
Join us as we unwrap the sweet secrets of chocolate. From how it was once used as a currency to crazy modern-day chocolate innovations. Whether you're a dedicated chocoholic or simply curious… Prepare to be amazed by the hidden stories and unexpected facts that make chocolate so much more than just a tasty treat!
So, grab your favourite GNAW chocolate bar. Settle into a comfy chair, and get ready to discover the sweet, savoury, and surprising world of chocolate!
In this blog:
- War Chocolate
- Nutritional Benefits
- Psychological Comfort
- Resistance to Spoilage
- Modern Conflict
- Chocolate Myths and Legends
- Chocolate as an Aphrodisiac
- Chocolate and Acne
- Chocolate and Love Spells
- The Chocolate Fountain of Youth
- White Chocolate’s Identity
- Little-Known Health Benefits
- Heart Health and Antioxidants
- Mood Enhancement
- Stress and Skin Health
- Chocolate Cultures around the world
We hope you enjoy learning 10 Sweet Secrets You Didn't Know About Chocolate. Feel free to ask any questions you have or tell us what you think by dropping a comment below!
Chocolate as a Currency
In ancient Mesoamerican civilizations such as the Maya and Aztec, cacao beans held a special place in society. Theobroma cacao, named as such by Swedish scientist Carl von Linné, was native to the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. The beans derived from cacao pods were highly prized for their versatility and extremely rich flavour
Cacao as a Symbol of Wealth and Status
At this time cacao was not a commonplace commodity used by the masses. It was a symbol of wealth and social status. The ability to cultivate cacao trees and produce cacao beans was a sign of agricultural prowess. Only the elite classes and nobility had access to cacao-based beverages in these ancient societies. This was due to the low supply and high demand by nature of cacao being difficult to produce.
Cacao as Currency
Cacao beans were used as a form of currency in everyday trade. They were a standardised unit of exchange. Much like how we use coins or banknotes in modern economies. People could use cacao beans to buy goods and services. This includes purchasing food, placing orders for clothing and would even be used to buy slaves.
The trade of cacao beans grew to extend across vast regions. Maya and Aztec traders travelled very long distances to exchange cacao beans for other commodities. Things like rare feathers, interesting textiles, and precious stones they couldn’t get in their region. This established extensive trade networks and cultural exchange among different Mesoamerican communities.
Cacao being used as both a currency and delicacy in ancient Mesoamerican cultures is where chocolate began. It’s a testament to the rich cultural heritage and significance chocolate has in human history. A reminder that our favourite confectionary has deep roots in the past and a history as rich as its flavour.
Chocolate has played a crucial role during wartime for over 100 years now. Providing comfort, sustenance, and a taste of home to soldiers on the front lines. Here's a glimpse of how chocolate became a staple in soldiers' rations during wars, particularly in World War II and other conflicts:World War II:
During World War II, chocolate bars were included in soldiers' emergency rations from many different nations. These compact and energy-dense chocolate bars served as a quick and convenient source of sustenance when soldiers were in dire need of calories and energy on the battlefield.
The US army chocolate rations were packed to withstand high temperatures. UK soldiers received chocolate bars that came to be known as “compo chocolate” in composite rations. Germany issued “Scho-ka-kola”, a highly caffeinated chocolate and cola nut bar which would help soldiers keep alert and combat fatigue.
Chocolate bars were valued for their nutritional content. They provided soldiers with essential calories, carbohydrates, and fats to keep them energised during long marches and combat situations. Chocolate's high energy density made it an ideal addition to military rations, being included in Canadian, Australian, US, UK, German and Soviet Union rations.
The taste of chocolate provided soldiers with a sense of comfort and familiarity in the midst of the chaos and stress of war. It served as a morale booster, offering a small taste of home and a moment of respite from the hardships of military life.
Chocolate was known to be traded amongst soldiers for amenities such as cigarettes, canned goods and gambled in card games. It was also given as a gift and token of friendship as a gesture of gratitude as a way to express goodwill and solidarity.
Resistance to Spoilage
Chocolate bars were resistant to spoilage and could withstand various environmental conditions, making them practical for use in the field. This durability ensured that soldiers could rely on their chocolate rations even in challenging circumstances.
One of the primary motivations behind the development of the 1937 D-ration chocolate in the United States was its ability to endure extreme temperatures. This resilience was crucial because infantrymen frequently found themselves in outdoor settings, including tropical and desert environments. Given that soldiers carried these chocolate bars in close proximity to their bodies, conventional chocolate bars would quickly succumb to melting under such challenging conditions.
Today chocolate is found in most nations in some form or another. It's a testament to how valuable chocolate remains during times of conflict for soldiers. Transcending borders and cultures. Whether it's the comforting warmth of hot chocolate in Portugal and the Netherlands or the nourishing dark chocolate bars in Ukrainian and Russian rations amidst the current conflict. Chocolate continues to provide a small but cherished source of sustenance and solace for soldiers across the globe.
Chocolate Myths and Legends
Chocolate's history is woven with a vibrant tapestry of myths and legends. There are layers of intrigue added to its story over time. These captivating and entertaining myths and beliefs have endured through generations, shaping our perception of what we know it as today. They reflect not only the deliciousness of chocolate but also its profound cultural and historical relevance through the ages.
Chocolate as an Aphrodisiac
One of the most enduring myths is that chocolate is an aphrodisiac. This belief dates back to the ancient Aztecs, who considered cacao to be a potent aphrodisiac. While there is no scientific evidence to support this claim, chocolate's rich, indulgent flavour and the pleasure it brings may contribute to its romantic reputation.
Chocolate and Acne
Many people used to believe that chocolate consumption could lead to acne breakouts. This myth persisted for years and years. But research has largely debunked the connection between chocolate and acne. Acne is primarily influenced by factors like genetics and hormones, not simply chocolate consumption itself.
Chocolate and Love Spells
In mediaeval Europe, chocolate was associated with love and romance. Some believed that consuming chocolate could enhance the effects of love spells and potions. It was often used in rituals to attract a partner. How romantic! Maybe there is something to the Spell of chocolate… It still works today!
The Chocolate Fountain of Youth
In the 16th century, the explorer Hernán Cortés played a significant role in introducing cacao to the European world. He was rumoured to have discovered a mythical chocolate fountain that granted eternal youth. This folklore legend likely emerged from the reverence and mystique surrounding cacao. As well as the allure of Aztec culture and the encounters he had with the Aztec people during the 16th century.
White Chocolate's Identity
White chocolate has been the subject of many a debate regarding whether it qualifies as "real" chocolate. Some purists argue that white chocolate, made from cocoa butter, sugar, and milk solids, lacks the cocoa solids found in dark and milk chocolate. And therefore, should not be considered true chocolate. However, it's widely accepted as a chocolate variation today. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!
Little-Known Health Benefits of Chocolate
Dark chocolate, when consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet, can offer several surprising health benefits. This is thanks to its rich content of antioxidants and other bioactive compounds. Let’s discuss below what some of these benefits are:
Heart Health and Antioxidants
Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids. Research shows flavonoids provide a wide range of health benefits. From fighting cancer and improving heart health to preserving brain function. It can enhance blood flow and reduce blood pressure, lowering the risk of heart disease. Additionally, its high antioxidant content helps protect cells from oxidative stress and is said to have anti-aging effects.
Chocolate is known to Enhance Mood and Cognitive Function. Dark chocolate can temporarily boost mood by triggering the release of feel-good neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters like serotonin and endorphins are known as “happy chemicals”. It also supports cognitive function by improving blood flow to the brain, potentially enhancing memory and cognitive performance over time.
Stress and Skin Health
Dark chocolate also offers several different advantages. These include reducing stress through cortisol level reduction, promoting skin health by protecting against UV radiation, and aiding appetite control. It may also improve insulin sensitivity and lower inflammation in the body. Remember, for optimal benefits, choose dark chocolate with a high cocoa content, consume it in moderation, and incorporate it into a balanced diet.
Chocolate Cultures Around the world.
Explore how chocolate is enjoyed in various forms and traditions around the world. Discuss unique chocolate-based desserts or beverages from different cultures.
Switzerland is renowned for its high-quality chocolate, and one of the most famous ways to enjoy it is through chocolate fondue. In this tradition, a pot of melted chocolate, often combined with cream, is placed in the centre of the table. People then skewer pieces of fruit, marshmallows, or bread on long forks and dip them into the warm, luscious chocolate.
Spanish hot chocolate, also known as "churros con chocolate," is a beloved treat in Spain. It's a thick, rich, and velvety beverage made with dark chocolate. Often served with crispy, deep-fried churros (doughnut sticks) for dipping. This indulgent combination is particularly popular for breakfast or as a late-night snack.
The Sacher Torte is a famous Austrian chocolate cake. It consists of layers of rich chocolate cake separated by a thin layer of apricot jam and covered with a smooth chocolate glaze. This iconic dessert is often served with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.
In Colombia, it's not uncommon to add a slice of mild cheese to hot chocolate. Cheese such as queso fresco may be added. The cheese slowly melts into the warm beverage, creating a creamy and slightly salty contrast to the sweet chocolate. This combination is particularly popular during the Christmas season
Turkish Delight, or Lokum, is a confection made from starch and sugar. Often flavoured with rosewater or citrus. In Turkey, you can find variations of Turkish Delight with chocolate coatings, adding a delightful contrast to the sweet and chewy centre.
Japan is known for its wide variety of Kit-Kat flavours. Including unique chocolate creations such as green tea, wasabi, sake, and sweet potato. These limited-edition chocolate bars offer a glimpse into the inventive world of Japanese confectionery.
In conclusion, chocolate transcends its role as a mere indulgence. It holds a special place in our hearts, both as a source of comfort and a token of love. But it is also a testament to the rich human history and culture of chocolate.
We hope you've savoured these 5 sweet secrets that have shed new light on chocolate's captivating journey. From its humble beginnings as a form of currency in ancient civilizations to the awe-inspiring innovations that continue to shape its present-day allure, chocolate's evolution has been nothing short of extraordinary. It is a testament to the enduring human fascination with all things sweet, a symbol of our shared experiences, and a reminder that even the simplest pleasures can carry a world of history and wonder within them