Treat for the Gods

Chocolate, invented as a drink for religious ceremonies, is now known for its exquisite taste - be it in its solid or liquid form

Published: 18th January 2014 11:26 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th January 2014 11:26 AM   |  A+A-

Birthdays, anniversaries, farewell parties, or while in a stressful mood no matter what the occasion is, chocolates are something that one cannot say no to. So without much ado, here is an ode to chocolate. The sweetened food produced from the seed of a tropical tree, chocolate has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years by man. The significance of chocolate can be understood from the fact that the Latin name for the tree - Theobroma cacao - means food for the gods.

Cocoa drinks were served by the Mayans during their religious or sacred ceremonies and they also used chocolate as a medicine. Aztecs who believed it had some magical powers called it xocalatl meaning warm or bitter liquid.

In Latin America, cocoa beans were considered precious enough to be used as currency. It is surprising to know that though we associate chocolate with eating, for more than 80 per cent of its history, chocolate was meant to be consumed as a beverage.

Another surprising fact is that sugar had nothing to do with how chocolate was consumed.

It was in 16th century Europe that the Spanish began to add cane sugar and flavouring agents like vanilla to this bitter beverage to make it palatable. By the 17th century it gained popularity among the elite of Europe who praised it for its nutritional, medicinal and aphrodisiac properties. The invention of the steam engine and its mass production led the public to discover chocolate. It was in the year 1828 that a Dutch chemist discovered a

way to make powdered chocolate. This product came to be known as Dutch cocoa and soon led to the creation of solid chocolate. Joseph Fry is credited with the creation of the chocolate bar as we know it today.

In 1824 John Cadbury opened a grocer’s shop where he sold cocoa and drinking chocolate among other things. Gradually his business boomed and his name came to be associated with chocolate like little else. Milk chocolate was pioneered near the year 1875. Soon after this, Cadbury was making boxes of chocolate candies.

A Swiss gentleman named Daniel Peter had been carrying out experiments on milk chocolate for eight continuous years. Later in 1879 Henri

Nestle joined him to establish the Nestle company. The same year saw Rodolph Lindt of Berne, Switzerland invent a method to make chocolate smooth enough to melt it in the mouth.

Cadbury Dairy Milk - a chocolate that was touted to have more milk than anything else on the market - was launched between 1905 and 1907. Bournville chocolate was launched in 1908 and named after the factory where

it was made. Chocolate had and continues to have a wide appeal - this much we have gathered. Now are you wondering why it is so?

After years of research it was found that chocolate is composed of over 300 chemicals that have varying effects on our bodies through our nervous system. It causes the brain to release endorphin and dopamine - two neurotransmitters (molecules that send out signals between neurons and whose quantity in the nervous system at any given time determines mood to a certain extent) that help make you happy, relieve stress and aid memory as well as learning.

It is said that dark chocolate - chocolate with little or no milk - helps improving coronary circulation. So you see, a chocolate bar is not just sweet confectionery but also a part of history and health. Let moderation be the keyword in your consumption.


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