15 facts you may not know about cocoa and chocolate

cocoa pod, cocoa beans, cocoa powder and chocolate shavings

Did you know that cocoa beans were once used as a form of currency in the West Indies? Or that when chocolate was first introduced to London in 1657 it was so expensive that only the very wealthy could afford to drink it?

Today, countries are rich or poor based on how well they can trade with other countries. Obviously this gives rise to a whole host of issues and questions. The price of chocolate – along with many other raw materials such as coffee, agarwood and nutmeg – continue to sky rocket in the West. Are the hard working people who grow and harvest these raw materials on the other side of the world getting a fair share of these higher prices? What lengths will some countries go to in order to keep up with demand and to ensure the survival of their economies?

Here are thirteen more interesting facts about cocoa and chocolate:

– The Gold Coast of Ghana was producing more than half of the world’s supply of cocoa by the 1920’s. Up until the mid-1920’s, Ecuador occupied first place in chocolate production and produced some of the world’s finest cocoa.

Cocoa pods from Ghana

Yellow cocoa pods from Ghana

– Today Africa produces more than 75 percent of the world’s cocoa. ….and consumes only 3 percent.

– The Ivory Coast produces more than 35 percent of the world’s cocoa, followed by Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria and Cameroon.

– Cocoa trees only begin to bloom and bear fruit four to six years after planting. They reach full production potential in about the eighth year.

– Cocoa trees are vulnerable to a number of plant diseases.. Witches-broom, black pod fungus and monilea can destroy up to 40% of a cocoa crop.

dark chocolate photo

Dark chocolate bars. Photo taken from healthyfoodmind.com

– Snickers – owned by the Mars company – has annual global sales of US $2 billion, making it the best selling chocolate in the world.

– More than 17 billion Kit Kat “fingers” are sold every year. Kit Kat is owned by Nestle.

Kit Kat chocolate wafer bar

Kit Kat chocolate bar

– It takes about five hundred cocoa beans to make one pound of chocolate.

– Cocoa cultivation was introduced to the island of Trinidad in the 1700’s, until a blight devastated the cocoa plantations.

Bu’pu  is a drink originating from Mexico that combines frangipani flowers with hot chocolate to make a frothy, perfumed beverage.

– Sugar and vanilla were only added to flavor chocolate when it first became popular throughout Europe during the 17th century. Before then, chocolate was traditionally consumed as a savoury food and not as the sweet treat that we know of today. Corn, porridge, chilli, spices, flowers and herbs have all traditionally been used to flavor and transform chocolate throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.


Making Bu’pu, a Mexican foamed chocolate “drink” from Oaxaca. Photo from madrechocolate.com

– The West is running out of chocolate. Cocoa farms are unable to keep up with the global appetite for chocolate due to “increasing economic and environmental pressures.” Demand for chocolate from Asia is soaring, even higher than that of the traditional European markets of Germany, Switzerland and the UK. It’s anticipated that chocolate will eventually become like caviar – so rare and expensive that the average consumer will be unable to afford it.

– The International Cocoa Quarantine Centre is attempting to avert this chocolate crisis by introducing new varieties of cocoa at their facility in Reading.

Further reading: The New Taste of Chocolate by Maricel E. Presilla; The East India Company Book of Chocolate by Antony Wild; Madrechocolate.com

(If you are the copyright owner of any of the photos used in this post, please contact me at info@ajones-aromatics.com so I can add a credit.)

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