Bean To Bar Blog
7 Things You Never Knew About Chocolate
In the UK we eat around 11Kg of chocolate per person, per year. That’s over 300 Gemini Small Raw Chocolate Bars – almost one a day – for each and every one of us, but how much do we actually know about the stuff? Here we have collected 7 surprising facts you might not know about about Britain’s favourite sweet treat.
- We’ve got monkeys to thank for discovering chocolate. They were the first creatures to eat cacao pods, but they were fonder of the sweet, white fruity pulp. In fact they spat out the cacao seeds that we would later turn into chocolate, but this habit helped to spread cacao trees across South and Central America.
- The first chocolate was more medicinal than delicious. Ancient Mayans were the first humans to give chocolate a try, but rather than make it into sweet bars, cacao beans were ground up with spices and water to make a nutritious, but bitter, chocolate drink with a chilli kick. Called Xocoatl this drink was thought to have divine properties and was reserved for the very wealthy or warriors. Nothing like a modern cup of cocoa.
- Cacao seeds were used as money by the Aztecs. After the Aztecs took over the Mayan lands they began to use cacao beans as currency, exchanging them for goods in everyday transactions. For example a rabbit might cost 10 cacao beans, while a slave would be worth 100.
- Chocolate is a vegetable. The cacao bean grows on an evergreen tree called the Theobroma cacao. This tree is from the malvaceae family, which also includes okra, cotton and the kola, or cola, nut, used in the soft drink. This means that technically cacao is a vegetable, and raw chocolate certainly contains plenty of the goodness usually associated with veg.
- Criollo is the most expensive type of cacao bean in the world. Prized for its rich, complex flavour, the criollo, used in our Just Chocolate bars, is also the rarest bean, making up only 10% of the world’s production of cacao beans. It was once the most common variety, but has since been overtaken buy the more robust Trinitario and Forastero varieties. Just like an exclusive, fine wine it is well worth seeking out to savour its unique nutty flavour, with hints of vanilla and caramel.
- Chocolate contains over 600 flavour compounds. It can mix bitter, sweet, nutty, fruity, floral and savoury all at the same time to create a truly complex and delicious mouthful of flavour. Compare this to red wine, which has just 200 flavour compounds, and you will begin to understand why we just can’t get enough of the myriad tastes of chocolate.
- Eating chocolate can help your heart. A study from Harvard University, published in 2017, suggested that eating chocolate could reduce the risk of developing ‘heart flutter’, or atrial fibrillation, to give it its medical name. Heart flutter doubles your risk of developing more serious cardiac conditions like strokes, heart attacks and heart failure. So that’s one more reason to indulge in some delicious raw chocolate.