Happy International Chocolate Day! Chocolate has been a sweet treat enjoyed worldwide for hundreds of years. It all started thousands of years ago in the Mesoamerica or Present-day Mexico region where the Olmec people first began turning cocoa beans into a beverage used for cultural rituals and medicinal purposes. Over time, chocolate's popularity grew and the Aztec and Mayan people groups were able to begin cultivating the cocoa beans. These beans were eventually used as a means of currency for trading. The popularity of the delicious delicacy continued to spread throughout history; making it's way to Europe around the 16th century and becoming mass produced by the late 1800s.
Today, chocolate is enjoyed worldwide in a multitude of ways and forms. People's preferences in the flavors and form by which they enjoy chocolate change from region to region. In honor of International Chocolate Day, Kimble's wanted to highlight some of the unique variations of chocolate from regions all over the globe including:
Mexico - Mexico is known for being the birthplace of chocolate. Originally, chocolate was enjoyed in the form of a specialty drink called "chocolatl" that was made up of cocoa beans and then spiked with chili pepper, vanilla, and annato. This drink is still very popular within the Mexico region today, and it is commonly enjoyed with pepper and spices.
Spain - Spain was introduced to chocolate in the 16th century when it was brought over by explorers traveling from Mexico. Early on, the wealthy and well connected families of Spain enjoyed a rich chocolate drink called "chocolatl". To make the chocolate drink more enjoyable, the Spanish would add cane sugar. Today, the people of Spain enjoy their chocolate in the form of a hot drink flavored with cinnamon and served with churros.
England - Chocolate in England was first introduced in the form of a milk chocolate drink during the 17th century. As chocolate became more affordable over time, its popularity grew with the people of England. English chocolate is said to be richer and smoother than the chocolate in the United States. Much of this difference can be traced back to the fact that British chocolate tends to have a higher fat and cocoa content than chocolate found in America.
United States - While chocolate in the United States is extremely popular, it is also quite different from the chocolate in other areas around the world. Chocolate in the United States is only required to have ten percent cocoa. Because of this, American chocolate also has a higher sugar content than chocolate in other regions. Some of the flavor differences are also the result of different regions using beans grown in different areas. The United States typically uses cocoa beans from South America while many places in Europe use cocoa beans from West Africa.
France - Unlike most regions, France was not originally very fond of chocolate. In fact, it was not until Maria Theresa of Austria, wife of King Louis XIV, expressed her love for the confection that the people of France began to enjoy it as well. Today, France produces some of the most popular chocolates globally. French chocolate generally has a bolder and more bitter taste than the chocolate variations of Switzerland and Belgium.
Switzerland - Chocolate in Switzerland is commonly recognized for it's high quality ingredients, including cocoa butter. The cocoa butter creates chocolate with an exceptionally creamy texture that is unlike any other region. In Switzerland, chocolate is a way of life, so it is no surprise that the country is known for it's world record levels of chocolate consumption.
Belgium - Chocolate that is made in Belgium is considered gourmet because of the quality of ingredients and production processes used. Belgian chocolate typically has similar qualities to dark chocolate. Often times, chocolate in this region is a little richer and more bitter than that average milk chocolate. Belgium is also known for having over 2,000 chocolatiers and a myriad of museums in honor of the sweet treat.