The date of the observance is not coincidental – 7 July 1550 is believed to be the day chocolate had first arrived in Europe. Before that day, the cacao tree was completely unknown to Europeans. Cacao seeds were, however, used by Aztecs as a form of currency, because they were very valuable. It is also suggested that cacao beans may have been fermented and served as an alcoholic drink as early as 1400 BC, but in Mexico chocolate might have been served as a drink even earlier – in 1900 BC. The cacao tree is, indeed, native in Mesoamerica, including Mexico, and it is cultivated there for ages. Europe, however, only got to know chocolate in the 16th century due to Christopher Columbus. He had encountered the cacao bean on his fourth journey to Americas in 1502. He and his son noticed that the natives valued the beans so much, that they picked them all up “as if an eye had fallen”. Chocolate was then imported to Europe, beginning with Spain.
French royalty fell in love with hot chocolate. In 1657, first chocolate house was opened in London. Europeans then started to create new ways of producing chocolate that would be better, cheaper and more consistent in quality. They also figured out how to add sugar and cocoa butter to make a bar of chocolate that could be eaten, not drunk. Mass-production technologies allowed chocolate to become available for everyone, not only for the rich. Nowadays, nearly two-thirds of cacao is being produced in Western Africa, mainly in Ivory Coast. The shops are full of different tastes, fillings and forms of chocolate.
Today it is proved that chocolate does have medical properties. It is a source of many substances that have a positive impact on our health: iron, magnesium, potassium, fibre or antioxidants. This is why it is good for our immunity. Chocolate affects our mood, provides an energizing and relaxing effect. Dark chocolate is good for our heart health. It also improves memory and improves brain function. Ironically, it is even said that it helps to burn fat. The U.N.’s chief medical doctor said that pure chocolate is even better for humans than vegetables – he would rather choose to eat chocolate than broccoli in order to do something good for his body. As it is proved today, there were good reasons why first chocolate consumers believed in its healing power. Luckily, celebration of the World Chocolate Day does include consuming chocolate. It is a great occasion to simply enjoy your favourite type of chocolate, or try some new taste or form of it.
Did you know?
7 July is not the only Chocolate Day. In the United States there are even more occasions to indulge – International Chocolate Day is there celebrated on 13 September, and National Chocolate Day is observed twice a year: on 28 October and on 28 December. This might be one of the reasons why 100 pounds of chocolate is being consumed every second in the United States. The biggest chocolate consumers, however, are the Swiss – they eat nearly 20 pounds of chocolate per year, while the average American eats only half of it.
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