The world loves chocolate. Whether we’re drinking it, eating it, cooking with it or just staring at it, we have a peculiar fascination with this ancient indulgence. Our love affair has made us warp it into all shapes and sizes and create a host of ridiculous recipes to satisfy our appetite.
However, while we all might claim to be connoisseurs, there are more than a few hidden secrets at chocolate’s dark heart. Here are some facts to make you think a bit more deeply about your next bar.
1. White chocolate is a lie
If you’ve had your suspicions about the authenticity of white chocolate, you were right to be dubious. White “chocolate” contains none of the cocoa solids or liquids that make the dark and milk varieties so yummy. It’s actually made from cocoa butter and vegetable fat, then flavoured with milk and vanilla.
2. Milk chocolate is 4,000 years younger than dark chocolate
Milk chocolate is easily the most popular form on the planet. However, we’ve only been eating it since the 19th century. Before then, the only chocolate available was the far more bitter “dark” variety.
3. Chocolate was drunk way before it was eaten
Not only did we not have “sweet” chocolate for ages, we weren’t able to eat it at all for millennia. In Central America, chocolate’s natural homeland, the Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs brewed the beans as a drink, and it remained exclusively available in liquid form until 1847.
4. Switzerland is the most chocolate obsessed nation on earth
If Mexico gave chocolate to the world, the Europeans made it a global obsession. All of the top five global consumers of chocolate are in Europe, but it is the Swiss that take the top spot, putting away a whopping 20lbs per person per year.
5. Brussels airport sells more chocolate than anywhere else
The Swiss may eat the most, but the Belgians have turned chocolate making into a national profession. More chocolate is sold at the departures lounge in Brussels airport than anywhere else on earth, with over 860 tonnes shipped annually. That’s nearly two million lbs carried off by greedy tourists every year.
6. Chocolate can be ridiculously expensive
Though chocolate is a favorite treat for the masses, there are still some ridiculous luxury items available for the rich and famous. Chocolatiers Debauve & Gallais sell a set of 35 treats, complete with a gold embossed leather faux-book, for $600. At $17 dollars a piece, working your way through the box must be both painful and incredibly delicious.
7. Chocolate kills puppies
For all the joy it brings, chocolate also has a dark side. Theobromine poisoning, otherwise known as chocolate poisoning, affects thousands of household pets every year, especially dogs and cats. Unable to metabolise the alkaloid theobromine, dogs and cats that consume relatively low levels of chocolate can suffer from diarrhea, cardiac arrest and eventually death.
8. Chocolate is made by slaves
Despite its Central American origins, most modern chocolate is made in West Africa. Roughly two-thirds of all chocolate is produced here, with an annual crop of 1.5 million tonnes. However, this is not always good news for the local work force. When global prices drop, it has been alleged that up to 90 percent of cocoa farms in Cote d’Ivoire resort to slave and child labour in order to remain viable.
So, next time you’re unwrapping your favored bar or preparing to indulge in a particularly chocolatey dessert, remember that it’s not all fun and games where the world’s favorite snack is concerned. Buy responsibly, and make sure that you aren’t left with an overly bitter taste in the mouth.