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Health Benefits of Chocolate



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Chocolate goes back 2000 years ago when it originally grew in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. 1500 years ago.

Before chocolate was a sweet candy, it was a bitter, spicy drink. Some of the earliest known chocolate drinkers were the ancient Maya and Aztecs of Mesoamerica. They ground cacao seeds into a paste that, when mixed with water, chile peppers, cornmeal, and other ingredient made a frothy bitter beverage. Drinking chocolate was an important part of life for the Classic Period Maya and the Aztecs.

The source of chocolate is the Cacao Bean from the Cacao Tree which produces a rather large football shaped pods containing around 40 seeds.

The Cacao Tree was worshipped by the Mayan civilization of Central America and Southern Mexico, who believed it to be of divine origin, Cacao is actually a Mayan word meaning "God Food" hence the tree's modern generic Latin name 'Theobrama Cacao' meaning ‘Food of the Gods’.

The Aztecs trading with the Mayans also developed their taste for chocolate. The Aztec's regarded chocolate as an aphrodisiac and their Emperor, Montezuma reputedly drank it fifty times a day from a golden goblet

During his conquest of Mexico, Cortez found the Aztec Indians using cocoa beans in the preparation of the royal drink of the realm, "chocolatl", meaning warm liquid. When Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes conquered the aztec empire in 1521 he exported their chocolate drink back to Spain. Chocolate was kept a secret by the Spanish court for almost a hundred years.

In the early 1600's, Jewish immigrants driven out of Spain brought chocolate to the port city of Bayonne in Southwest France. A few years later, the 14-year-old Spanish princess betrothed to France's Louis XIV, introduced Spanish chocolate to the French court in Paris. Since that time, French artisans have never ceased to perfect chocolate-making, raising it to the fine art it is today. It did not take long before chocolate was acclaimed throughout Europe as a delicious, health-giving food. For a while it reigned as the drink at the fashionable Court of France. Chocolate drinking spread across the Channel to Great Britain, and in 1657 the first of many famous English Chocolate Houses appeared.

Because cacao and sugar were expensive imports, only those with money could afford to drink chocolate. In fact, in France, chocolate was a state monopoly that could be consumed only by members of the royal court.

In 1755 the processing of chocolate moved back to the New World when John Hanau and James Baker opened a processing house in Massachusetts, which was beginning of the company now known as Baker's Chocolate.

In 1828 a Dutch chemist, Johannes Van Houten, invented a method of extracting the bitter tasting fat or "cocoa butter" from the roasted ground beans, his aim was to make the drink smoother and more palatable, however he unknowingly paved the way for solid chocolate as we know it.

Chocolate as we know it today first appeared in 1847 when Fry & Sons of Bristol, England - mixed Sugar with Cocoa Powder and Cocoa Butter (made by the Van Houten process) to produce the first solid chocolate bar.

In 1875 a Swiss manufacturer, Daniel Peters, found a way to combine (some would say improve, some would say ruin) cocoa powder and cocoa butter with sugar and dried milk powder to produce the first milk chocolate.

The Industrial Revolution witnessed the development of an enormous number of new mechanical inventions and ushered in the era of the factory. The steam engine made it possible to grind cacao and produce large amounts of chocolate cheaply and quickly.

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