7 fascinating facts about chocolate
THERE ARE MULTIPLE CELEBRATIONS OF CHOCOLATE EACH YEAR.
Holiday makers are constantly on the hunt for a reason to munch on chocolate, so the calendar offers plenty of excuses to buy a bar. July 7 is also Chocolate Day, a nod to the historical tradition that the day marks when chocolate was first brought to Europe on July 7, 1550, though a number of sources argue that it might have hit the continent’s shores as far back as 1504, thanks to Christopher Columbus. Official day or not, we do know that chocolate first arrived in Europe some time in the 16th century. There’s also National Milk Chocolate Day on July 28, International Chocolate Day on September 13, and, of course, National Bittersweet Chocolate With Almonds Day on November 7.
CHOCOLATE IS ACTUALLY A VEGETABLE—KIND OF.
Milk and dark chocolate come from the cacao bean, which grows on the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao), an evergreen from the family Malvaceae (other members of the family include okra and cotton). This makes the most important part of the sweet treat a vegetable.
THE CACAO BEAN IS NATIVE TO MEXICO AND BOTH CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA.
It’s believed that inhabitants of these areas first started cultivating the bean as far back as 1250 BCE, and perhaps even earlier.
MARIE ANTOINETTE LOVED HOT CHOCOLATE (THE MODERN KIND).
Marie didn’t just love cake, she also loved chocolate, and hot chocolate was frequently served at the Palace of Versailles. It wasn’t just the taste everyone loved—it was also believed that the drink was an aphrodisiac.
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.
SPANISH FRIARS HELPED SPREAD THE LOVE.
After cacao and chocolate were introduced to Europe, traveling Spanish friars took it to various monasteries, handily spreading it around the continent.
CACAO TREES CAN LIVE TO BE 200 YEARS OLD.
That may sound impressive, but the tropical beauties only make viable cacao beans for just 25 years of their lifespan.