World Chocolate day is actually a relatively new event, first celebrated back in 2009. The date July 7th was specifically chosen because it was on this day in the year 1550 that chocolate arrived in Europe.
Chocolate comes from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree, an exotic tree that’s been cultivated for over three millennia in Central America, Northern South America and Mexico. It was first cultivated over 4000 years ago in Mesoamerica (modern-day Mexico) and was used by The Olmec, one of the most ancient civilizations in Latin America. They are thought to have been the first to turn the cocoa plant into a bitter chocolate drink, and they used it in rituals and for medicine.
Here’s a few fun facts about chocolate
- The Mesoamericans prized cacao so highly that it was used as currency.
- It was touted in Europe as a healing tonic. We know today that the darker the chocolate, the better, as it’s full of antioxidants and helps the brain to release ‘feel-good’ chemicals (that make you happy!).
- The cacao industry is now the most booming in West Africa. There are approximately 1.5 million cacao farms there!
- The Mayans also loved their chocolate, naming it the ‘food of the Gods’. They worshipped ‘xocolatl’ (‘bitter water’), and it was an integral part of their religious and social lives. The Mayans can be credited for being the very first baristas, as they fermented the beans then dried, roasted and ground them into a paste, much like modern-day chocolatiers. They poured their mixture back and forth to get a foamy head, much like a latte.