Historically, culturally, and economically speaking, chocolate has had an impact on every continent on the globe except Antarctica — but even down there I imagine scientists often get cravings for a Hershey bar while they’re eating freeze dried chicken powder and looking at ice under a microscope. That’s just how prevalent the yummy brown stuff is. In fact, chocolate holds such a high level of global importance that September 13th is officially designated International Chocolate Day, and to celebrate I’m going to take you on a journey to see how people produce and consume chocolate around the world.
I understand that reading about chocolate is nowhere near as entertaining as eating chocolate, but bear with me and maybe you’ll learn something sweet:
Chocolate in North and South America
We all have the Mayans to thank for chocolate as we know it, despite the fact that the chocolate they consumed was nothing like confection we eat today. After bringing cocoa trees up from the northern tropics of South America and farming them on the Yucatan Peninsula, the Mayans developed cocoa into a warm, frothy drink that was probably horribly bitter. It was good enough for the Aztecs, though, because they stole the idea for the drink and for cocoa farming from their Mayan neighbors in what is now Mexico, turning chocolate into such a luxury good that it was used as money.
Chocolate is still an important part of Mexican culture and cuisine (they use it as an offering on the Day of the Dead and mix it with spices to make their savory mole sauce) but the most devout chocolate consumers in North America reside in the United States, where almost every holiday has some sort of chocolate accompaniment: heart-shaped boxes of chocolate for Valentine’s Day, bunny-shaped chocolate to fill Easter baskets, buckets of foil-coated candy for trick-or-treaters, and piping hot mugs of hot chocolate during Christmastime.
image via people.gnome.org