Did you know that Friday will be International Chocolate Day? Yes, such a delicious-sounding day really does exist! In fact, there are many “chocolate days” around the world, including Chocolate Day (July 7, the most popular), International Chocolate Day (September 13), National Chocolate Day (October 28 and again on December 28), and a few other variants, such as National Milk Chocolate Day, National White Chocolate Day, and National Cocoa Day.
I suppose it’s safe to say that people around the world really, really like chocolate!
Did you know these chocolaty facts?
* International Chocolate Day is celebrated on September 13, the birthday of Milton Hershey. You recognise that name, but I bet you didn’t know The Hershey Company was established 125 years ago! The company, based in the United States, was the first to produce chocolate on a mass scale, which allowed for regular people to be able to afford it. Before that, it was a luxury item that only the rich could afford. Thanks, Mr. Hershey!
* The cacao bean, which is where chocolate comes from, is native to Central and South America but is now grown throughout the tropics, especially in African countries. Some 70 per cent of the world’s cacao is now grown in Africa, especially Ivory Coast, which produces 30 per cent!
* Chocolate is made from a seed of cocoa tree. It takes 400 cocoa beans to make one pound of chocolate.
* Hot chocolate was the first chocolate treat, brewed in Mexican and Aztec cultures hundreds of years ago. However, it’s not the type of hot chocolate we know today. It was bitter, and chilli flakes were added. No milk or sugar was added. It was used for special occasions.
* Cacao seeds were highly prized in these cultures, and even used as currency since they could be stored for long periods of time.
* Most of us now eat chocolate in the form of chocolate bars. The very first chocolate bar was made in England by the Cadbury company in 1842. The company still exists, and is well known for its Easter-themed chocolate bunnies.
* There are three types of chocolate: Dark, milk, and white. If we’re being very strict, white chocolate isn’t “real” chocolate, because it does not contain cocoa solids; however, it does contain part of the cacao bean: the cacao butter.
* Milk chocolate is the most popular type of chocolate. It was invented in Switzerland in 1875. Condensed milk turned out to be the key ingredient.
* Chocolate really does “melt in your mouth”, since the melting point (93 °F) is below the human body temperature (around 98.6 °F).
* Besides the wonderful taste of chocolate, even the smell of chocolate is found to be relaxing.
* Napoleon Bonaparte, a famous French Emperor who conquered much of Europe in the late 1700s, loved chocolate. He demanded it to be provided to him, even during intense military campaigns.
* An 18th century Swedish botanist (someone who studies plants), dubbed the cacao tree Theobroma cacao, which means "food of the gods".
* Chocolate is not good for cats and dogs! It can make them sick, or worse.