Monday, 26 November 2012

Chocolate - the Food for the Gods

[Women] think the most wonderful thing in the world is chocolate.  [Men Behaving Badly]

In Aztec culture the god Quetzalcoati came down from the firmament with a cocoa tree that he filched from the Heavens.

Aztec Chocolate God Quetzalcoati

The Aztecs ground the cocoa seeds and seasoned it with cereals and chilli peppers to produce the spicy drink they called chocolati.

Aztecs enjoying a cup of chocolati

Christopher Columbus, the last man to discover America, stumbled across it in 1502 when he robbed a native trader, and thought it was a kind of almond. 

“They seemed to hold these almonds at a great price. For when they were brought on board ship together with their goods, I observed that when one of these almost fell, they all stooped to pick it up, as if an eye had fallen”.

But he failed to realise the importance of his chance discovery, and it was left to Hernando Cortez in 1519 to establish the first plantation for the growing of cocoa beans.

Cortez concludes a chocolate deal with Aztec Emperor Montezuma

In 1528 Cortez introduced chocolate to the Spanish court of Charles V where they added sugar, vanilla and spices to it. The result was so seductive that they keep it a secret for the next one hundred years.

In 1615 Louis XIII of France is given his first taste of chocolate by his Spanish wife. Soon it is a craze throughout France and gains a reputation as an aphrodisiac. In the following century Casanova has a cup of chocolate before each sexual conquest.

The craze reached London around 1652. In June 1657 the Publick Advertiser announced:
In Bishopgate Street in Queen's Head Alley, at a Frenchman's house, is an excellent West India drink called chocolate, to be sold, where you may have it ready at any time, and also unmade at reasonable rates. 

By the beginning of the eighteenth century chocolate had arrived in Germany and Austria. In the 1750s it reached the United States. Chocolate factories were opened in Europe and in North and South America. In 1847 J.S. Fry & Sons began making solid chocolate.

'Anything is good if it's made of chocolate'. [Jo Brand]

Any commodity as precious as chocolate is bound to lead to conflict, and in 1973 open hostilities broke out among chocolate-producing countries of the EU. After much bickering over the inclusion of vegetable oil in chocolate by some manufacturers, peace was finally restored in 2003.

Save the Earth. It's the only planet with chocolate.

From its humble beginnings chocolate has now become an $83 billion dollar a year industry. [MarketsandMarkets] In the UK 91% of women and 87% of men admit to eating chocolate. [Mintel] In 2008 Germany topped the world league for the consumption per capita of chocolate. And on Valentine's Day in the U.S. 58 million pounds of chocolate candy are sold.

In the words of the Fab Four....
All You Need is Love Chocolate! 

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