You probably have it in your purse, your pantry, and even by your TV’s remote control – chocolate is man’s (and definitely woman’s) best friend.
Click start to play today’s Spell It, where we discover interesting information about ‘cocoa’.
Whether it’s frozen, wrapped in foil and paper, coated around a fruit, or in thick, liquid form, chocolate has never failed to delight and comfort. Here are a few facts about this beloved sweet treat that may surprise you:
1. Cacao, cocoa or chocolate?
There’s a difference between the three. Cocoa and chocolate come from the fruit of the cacao tree, where trees produce large pods that contain between 20 to 40 beans. The raw, ground seeds are called cacao, and only when they are fermented, dried and roasted do they become cocoa. The chocolate we know and love, is made by mixing cocoa paste with cocoa butter, along with sugar, emulsifiers and even vanilla.
2. It’s a mood enhancer
Cocoa contains several feel-good components. Caffeine, for instance, stimulates the nervous system, as does the chemical theobromine that’s present in cocoa. There’s also a compound called phenylethylamine in it, which increases dopamine production and releases endorphins in the body.
3. The first people to consume cocoa
Although the Mayans and Aztecs are associated with the origins of chocolate, the first people to truly consume it were the Olmecs, a Mesoamerican civilisation that existed between 1,600 BC and 400 BC. They were thought to mix the crushed cacao beans in water, with herbs and spices, and ingest it as a drink.
4. The first chocolate bar
While England created chocolate bars as early as 1830, it was considered to be exclusively for royalty. Finally, in 1847, an English company called Fry’s created the first chocolate bar for the general public. And the world was never the same again.
5. It was a long-held secret
While Italian explorer Christopher Columbus brought cacao beans back with him from South America, it was Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes who made the drink popular. Cocoa was initially thought to be unpleasant and bitter, but its popularity skyrocketed with Spanish nobility once they added sugar. But Spain ensured the valuable drink was kept a secret, for a long time. English armadas were even known to toss containers containing cocoa from captured Spanish vessels, because they were clueless about its value. Spain continued to grow the beans throughout its colonies, and the monks who cultivated it kept it a secret until Spanish princess Maria Theresa gave it as an engagement gift to Louis XIV of France in 1615. From there, word spread, and the secret was finally out.
Do you love chocolate? Play today’s Spell It and tell us at email@example.com.