It is well known that chocolate does not grow on trees in its natural state. It is the result of a complex transformation of the pods, the fruits of the cocoa tree.
Cocoa and chocolate, a bit of history
Three millennia ago, cocoa was already cultivated by the people of Central and South America including the Aztecs, Mayans and Olmecs. At that time, the chocolate drink was very different from what we know today. They mixed ground cocoa beans with water and added chillies, spices and herbs. This mixture called "chocolatl", meaning "bitter water", was supposed to give strength and power to the person who drank it.
In 1492 when Christopher Columbus landed in America, he disdained these beans, thinking they were goat droppings. And so it was not until 1519 with the arrival of the conquistador Cortés that chocolate was discovered by Europeans. Cortés was offered the drink by an Aztec emperor and, enjoying it, he decided to bring the beans back to Spain.
As soon as he arrived in Spain the "bitter water" was a huge success. Sugar, honey, spices, vanilla, etc. were added. The Spaniards decided to intensify the cultivation of cocoa in the conquered territories and to market it.
It was not until the 17th century that chocolate was introduced to the rest of Europe especially in Italy, Germany, France and, a little later, England.
Chocolate for every liking
The ways to eat chocolate are almost infinite. But each of them is based on only four types of chocolate:
Pink chocolate more recently
Dark chocolate is the most concentrated of the four. With a cocoa concentration of at least 35%, it can go up to 100%! It contains less sugar and therefore generally has a more bitter taste than other chocolates.
Its composition is made of cocoa butter, cocoa paste, sugar and soya lecithin. Dark chocolate is the one of the four that brings the most benefits to the body. It is rich in iron, copper, fibre and lipids.
Milk chocolate contains at least 25% more cocoa and contains more milk powder than dark chocolate. The other ingredients are similar with a difference in the amount of added sugar. It is generally very popular with children because it is sweeter. Its fat and fibre content is lower than that of dark chocolate.
White chocolate is much less beneficial to the body. It contains twice as much sugar as dark chocolate and is completely free of fibre. For some people, it is not completely considered a real chocolate because of the absence of cocoa paste in the recipe. Nevertheless, it is a delight for gourmets.
Pink chocolate, also known as Ruby chocolate, has recently been discovered. It gets its pink colour from the special beans used in its manufacture. Contrary to popular belief, its colour and fruity taste are therefore completely natural.
What are the benefits of eating dark chocolate?
Fortunately, chocolate is not only good for our taste buds. Indeed, dark chocolate is not lacking in health benefits.
It improves sporting performance thanks to the epicatechin which dilates the blood vessels.
It contains antioxidants that help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
It contains catechin (an antioxidant) which is essential for fighting wrinkles.
The flavonoids in dark chocolate improve cognitive function and stimulate memory.
It improves concentration thanks to the presence of theanine, an amino acid known for its positive role on attention.
The consumption of chocolate by pregnant women would allow the foetus to develop more easily. It also helps to reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia.
Chocolate contains magnesium, which improves the quality of sleep.
The presence of catechin in chocolate promotes weight loss and the refining of muscles.
Chocolate consumption provides flavonoids that effectively lower blood pressure.