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Chocolate Disrobed

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The Basics

Chocolate comes from the cacao bean, which grows inside the fruit of the tropical cocoa tree. The top-producing cocoa bean countries are Côte d'Ivoire, which produces 1.4 million tons of beans a year, and Ghana, which produces over 600,000 tons per year.

The South American countries are known for their flavorful beans, a higher quality bean, while Africa is known for its bulk beans with the classic cocoa bean flavor. According to Allchocolate, chocolate is much like wine when it comes to diverse flavors. Chocolate contains over 1,500 flavor components. The difference comes from the origin of the chocolate, the type of bean, the process of fermentation and roasting, as well as the beans' growing conditions. There are even ways to describe your chocolate experience, such as how the chocolate feels on your tongue or how long the taste lasts.

My friends represent five countries: Holland, Cameroon, the U.S., South Korea, and China. Only Mr. Korea said he wasn’t fond of chocolate because he was unfamiliar with the taste, but all said that their native countries love chocolate. According to a 2006 Slashfood posting, Britons eat the most chocolate worldwide per capita, with 22 lbs. per person. This can be compared to rates of 17.8 lbs. per person in Germany, 15 lbs. in France, 8.5 lbs. in Spain, and 4.8 lbs. in Italy. Americans eat 12 lbs. per person per year.

Why Does the World Love Chocolate So Much?

Well, Mr. Cameroon puts it simply: "Because it’s very tasty.” But Mr. Holland reveals a possibly addictive substance in chocolate. Theobromine is an active ingredient in chocolate and it occurs only in cacao. Theobromine and caffeine share a similar chemical structure. While theobromine is not as addictive, it has been cited as possibly causing addiction to chocolate.

Chocolate As An Aphrodisiac

Theobromine also has been linked to an even more interesting topic, contributing to chocolate’s role as an aphrodisiac. Three other components have been linked to mood and potential aphrodisiac effects: PEA, tryptophan, and anandamide. PEA, a central nervous system stimulant, is thought to help arouse emotions. It occurs naturally in the brain, and occurs naturally at its peak during orgasm. Neurologists and dieticians consider PEA as a strong contender as a possible aphrodisiac. Second on the list is tryptophan. Our brain uses tryptophan to make serotonin. Serotonin can produce feelings of elation. Last is anandamide. Anandamide binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, mimicking the effects of cannabinoid drugs, such as heightened sensitivity, euphoria, and a sense of well-being. Some researchers attest that the amount of anandamide in chocolate is too small to have any effect.

From the article “Fact or Myth: Is Chocolate an Aphrodisiac?": "A team of Italian urologists recently reported that women who eat chocolate feel significantly more sexually fulfilled than those who don’t. The director of Nigeria’s Federal Agency for Food and Medicine recently went as far as to advise Nigerians to forego Viagra in favor of eating chocolate."

Do Women Enjoy Chocolate More Than Men?

Well according to Mr. U.S., it all comes down to sexual repression. He says women consciously or subconsciously eat chocolate instead of acting on their sexual desires. Mr. China believes it is because women need more love than men, while Ms. U.S. offers a slightly less controversial answer: “Women naturally turn to food for comfort more than men. Chocolate seems to be the most popular comfort food. Chocolate also has a unique quality. Women go to it for all different sorts of emotional needs. It’s fantastic when one is joyful, depressed, and all ranges in between.”

Who Makes the Best Chocolate?

According to Mr. Holland, my sole European representative, the best chocolate comes from Switzerland, the Lindt & Sprungli brand specifically. Americans would be more familiar with their Lindt’s Lindor truffle balls, characterized by a hard chocolate shell and a smooth chocolate filling. Ms. U.S. goes against her homeland, calling the beloved Hershey chocolate fake-tasting. “I don't think Hershey's hardly qualifies as chocolate. It has a chalky texture that so many Americans do love, but I cannot find a way to love it.” Ms. U.S. contends that Italy has the best drinking chocolate, not to be confused with hot chocolate. Drinking chocolate is basically liquid chocolate. Most of my respondents say Europe is where it's at when it comes to good chocolate.

What Goes Best With Chocolate?

So far we have learned that sex does, but what else? Mr. Cameroon says Nutella on pancakes. Nutella is a sweet spread sold in over 75 countries. Mr. China says ice cream. Ms. U.S. goes with the classic fruit. Raspberries and strawberries go best with chocolate. Hazelnuts are another favorite of mine, as well as toffee, and pistachios. Finally, Mr. Holland says hazelnut chocolate with milk.

Whether you hate it or love it (most seem to favor the latter), there is clearly an obsession with chocolate. We put it on everything. We make it into everything: cereal, candy, cookies, cake, diet bars, milk, syrup, ice cream. It is sweet, complex like wine, and pretty much universally loved. It is the thing we eat in love and in hate. It is even scandalous enough to possibly be a drug and an aphrodisiac. Even though it is filled with saturated fat, most would agree it is worth every bite.

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About Emily Deck

  • Don’t forget wine and chocolate, the classic twosome!