People are beginning to talk about chocolate the same way they talk about wine.
And that makes sense, since both are among life’s great pleasures – and are being served together by more and more restaurants. Among the more popular pairings: dark chocolate with Port, and chocolate cake with fruit-forward Zinfandel.
Here are a few fascinating facts about chocolate that you can use to impress your friends… over a glass of wine, of course…
* Africa produces 70% of the world’s cocoa crop, most of it from the Ivory Coast.
* 3.6 billion pounds of chocolate candy were consumed in the U.S. in 2007. Allow us to do the math: That’s 12 pounds per person.
* The U.S. ranks 12th in the world in per capita chocolate consumption. The top three are Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Germany.
* Cocoa cultivation has been traced back to the Olmec civilization (1500-400 B.C.) in what is now Honduras. Later, the Mayans and Aztecs used cacao beans as currency and made chocolate into a hot, spicy drink reserved for warriors, nobility and priests.
* Of the people who buy chocolate for themselves, 67% do so because they’re having a chocolate craving.
* Dark chocolate can be healthy for your heart. It contains high levels of flavanoids, antioxidants that can help reduce bad cholesterol and improve blood flow to lower blood pressure.
* Chocolate does not contain much caffeine, contrary to popular belief. The average serving of milk chocolate has less than a cup of decaf coffee. But chocolate does contain theobromine, which is a stimulant.
* Chocolate has not been proven to be an aphrodisiac. It contains tryptophan, which is a building block of serotonin, as well as phenylethylamine, a chemical released when people fall in love. But the amounts in chocolate are too small to have any measurable effect on desire, researchers say. (Hey, nothing is perfect.)