It might take only seconds to devour a chocolate bar, but it has taken centuries to perfect this much-loved treat.
As we approach National Chocolate Week, starting on Monday 10 October, it’s time to unwrap a few choice choccie facts.
Cocoa was first cultivated and eaten by the Olmec people, 1500-400 BC. From the third century BC, the Mayans in Guatemala and the Yucatan integrated cocoa into their rites and devised a popular hot drink for the elite.
The first Spanish conquistadors obviously didn’t know a good thing when they saw one and dismissed cocoa beans until Hernan Cortez in 1528 told the Spanish King Charles V that a cup of chocolate could help fight fatigue.
Until the 17th Century chocolate was only ever drunk not eaten and the first Chocolate Houses were launched in London in 1655 by a Frenchman. Demand intensified when it was reported that chocolate might have aphrodisiac properties, unsurprisingly Casanova was a fan.
The first chocolate factory was founded in Switzerland in 1819 and in 1847 the House of Fry moulded the first chocolate block. But the big breakthrough came in 1879 when Rodolphe Lindt perfected the process of conching – which gives chocolate that melt in the mouth texture.
Each tree takes a long time to develop too. It takes 12 years for a cocoa tree to reach maturity and out of the 50,000 – 100,000 flowers each tree produces every year, only 1 in 100 will be fertilised to become a cocoapod. A whole year’s crop from one tree makes approximately 450 grams of pure chocolate.
So when you sit down with your friends to enjoy our chocolate-themed afternoon tea this week, share this teatime trivia and be a true chocolate clever clogs.