12 Facts About Chocolate That Made Us Say 'Mmm, Chocolate'

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Vote up the tastiest facts about chocolate that make you hungry for more. 

To say that everyone likes chocolate is obviously an overstatement, but chocolate is something that a lot of people enjoy in all kinds of ways. Hot chocolate beverages, candy bars, chocolate chips, chocolate-covered fruit, chocolate sauce… you get the idea.

But have you ever given thought to what goes into making chocolate? Or where it comes from? 

We were curious about all-things chocolate and found out all kinds of facts about one of our favorite tasty treats. From the history of chocolate to exactly what differentiates cacao and cocoa, we discovered some fascinating morsels of information that made us hungry for more. Take a look and vote up what you think are some pretty tasty tidbits about history, too. 

  • Humans Have Been Cultivating Cacao For Thousands Of Years
    Photo: NasserHalaweh / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    Archaeological evidence in Central America suggests Mesoamericans consumed cacao roughly 4,000 years ago. Residue from Theobroma cacao [cacao seeds] traces back as early as 1800 BCE. 

    In terms of growing cacao, however, the earliest evidence of domestication appears roughly 3,600 years ago. The distinction between harvesting and consuming vs. domestication is in the specific breeding of plants to optimize growth. The dominant cacao tree across South and Central America is the Criollo, according to geneticist Omar Cornejo. This means beans from it were traded by ancient South Americans to people to the north

    The Criollo is native to South America, indicating the rest of the Criollo population in the Americas comes from that part of the world. In the words of researcher Michael Blake,

    [Cacao] caught on and very likely spread northwards by farmers growing cacao in what is now Colombia and eventually Panama and other parts of Central America and southern Mexico.

    109 votes
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    142 VOTES

    The Majority Of The World's Cacao Comes From Africa

    Despite its origins in the Americas, cacao is now grown mostly in Africa. Cacao was first transported to West Africa by the Portuguese during the early 1800s. The climate made Africa ideal for cultivating cacao, and using enslaved populations facilitated the development of cacao plantations. 

    From their initial placement on the island of São Tomé and Príncipe to locations in the modern countries of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, cacao production outlasted colonialism and remains an important part of the West African economy.  In 2020 and 2021, cocoa bean production accounted for 40% of Côte d’Ivoire's economy. 

    In terms of the international marketplace, 52% of global cocoa bean production came from Western Africa in 1984 and 1985. In 2013 and 2014, that topped 70%. According to the Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana produced 60% of the world's cocoa in 2021 and 2022.

    142 votes
  • 3
    151 VOTES

    It Takes Hundreds Of Cacao Beans To Make One Pound Of Chocolate

    Cacao trees live for around 100 years, but they only produce seeds for about 25 or 30 years. Seeds come from individual pods; each tree has about 30 pods, and each pod contains roughly 30 seeds.

    Once seeds are extracted from pods, they need to be fermented. This often means cacao seeds are placed in a box, covered, and occasionally stirred over the course of six to 10 days. After fermentation is complete, the seeds are dried for five to 10 days. Once dried, the beans are sorted and good seeds are put into bags, sold, and stored until manufactured.

    The distinction between cacao and cocoa is the temperature applied to the beans during processing. Raw cacao is unroasted, but it's possible for some cacao beans to be lightly roasted. Either way, cocoa results when beans or nibs (pieces of beans) are roasted at high temperatures. 

    Cocoa is much less bitter than its less-processed counterpart cacao. The differences between cacao butter, powder, and liquor and cocoa butter, powder, and liquor also relate back to this distinction.

    Chocolate is made by combining cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and sugar. Other ingredients like salt, milk, and vanilla can be added as well. By the time all is said and done, it takes 400 cacao beans to make one pound of chocolate. 

    151 votes
  • Moctezuma II Had A 50-Cup-A-Day Chocolate Habit
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Spanish sources offer modern observers information about Aztec society (often the sole source due to the destruction of Mesoamerican writings) and attest to the importance of cacao. Alongside descriptions of various uses for cacao beans, there are descriptions of how much hot chocolate was consumed by Moctezuma II (d. 1520) and his royal court. 

    According to Spanish soldier Bernal Diaz del Castillo, who fought under Hernan Cortes, at dinner,

    Motecusuma [sic] ate very little. Every now and then was handed to him a golden pitcher filled with a kind of liquor made from the cacao, which is of a very exciting nature… Though we did not pay any particular attention to the circumstance at the time, yet I saw about fifty large pitchers filled with the same liquor brought in all frothy.

    He also wrote about how warriors and officers in Moctezuma's household were served “frothing jugs of cacao liquor; certainly 2,000 of them, after which came different kinds of fruit in great abundance.”

    Moctezuma enjoyed as many as 50 cups of hot or cold chocolate daily, usually sweetened with honey and vanilla. Considered an aphrodisiac, chocolate beverages were not given to priests or women for fear it would be too intense. 

    144 votes
  • Despite the name, German chocolate cake has nothing to do with the country. It does, however, have to do with a man named German. 

    In 1957, Mrs. George Clay from Texas submitted a recipe for “German's Cake” to The Dallas Morning News. The cake was a hit. What made it “German” was the inclusion of Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate, developed by Samuel German for the Baker's Chocolate Company in 1852. 

    There was a huge rise in sales of German's chocolate after the publication of the recipe as newspapers around the country reproduced it. The name later lost the apostrophe and the “s.”

    The original recipe, according to recipe developer Rebecca White, had few instructions. She explained in 2018, “If one is not a seasoned baker, certain instructions will be unclear, such as ‘cream the shortening and sugar, and egg yolks and melted chocolate.’” 

    When the newspaper modernized the recipe that same year, the cake included flour, salt, Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate, sugar, and shortening alongside eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and coconut pecan frosting. 

    107 votes
  • M&Ms Trademarked The Most-Liked Advertising Slogan Ever In 1954
    Video: YouTube
    117 VOTES

    M&Ms Trademarked The Most-Liked Advertising Slogan Ever In 1954

    It's been part of M&Ms marketing since 1954 - “It melts in your mouth, not in your hands.” This is because M&Ms coated their chocolate candies to address the problem that chocolate does, in fact, melt when held in the human hand. In 2014, researchers determined the slogan is considered the most-liked line in advertising history. 

    Because the melting point of chocolate is between 86° and 90° Fahrenheit (although it softens at lower temperatures depending on the amount of milk and other ingredients), there necessarily needed to be a buffer between human body heat and the chocolate. 

    The makers of M&Ms (Forrest E. Mars, Sr., and Bruce Murrie, the son of Hershey Corporations's executive, Bill Murrie) got the idea for the well-known candy from  British Smarties - small, coated nibs of chocolate. Mars witnessed troops eating Smarties during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s and developed his own version of the candies when he got back to the United States.

    M&Ms were introduced in 1941 (though the letter "M" written on the little candies wasn't added until 1950). Because the chocolate pieces were coated in sugar, they didn't melt and were easier to eat on the go. With the onset of WWII, M&Ms were used as rations for troops. After the war, M&Ms caught on with the American public, in many ways aided by the large veteran population who liked the candy.

    The partnership between Mars and Murrie ended in 1949. Mars bought Murrie out for $1 million and M&Ms officially parted ways with the Hershey Company. 

    117 votes