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The Story of Chocolate

  • Author:Tony
  • Release on:2015-12-11
Cultural Importance

While cacao is no longer used as money, it plays a central role in cultures around the world today. Chocolate features in holidays and special occasions and to some extent still doubles as medicine.

And its use is on the rise, with global production of cocoa climbing 2 percent each year-and reaching approximately 3 million tons. For the past century, demand has climbed at 3 percent per year, outpacing production.

Who eats the most?

In 2010, Switzerland led, at 22 pounds per person. Austria and Ireland followed at 20 pounds and 19 pounds. The United States comes in at 11th place, with Americans gobbling nearly 12 pounds apiece each year.

Special Occasions

In the United States, many of the chocolate dollars spent go toward celebrating holidays, to bring home Valentine's hearts or Easter bunnies, Halloween candy, chocolate Santas or Hanukkah gelt.

In Mesoamerica, where humans first ate cacao, ritual use survives. In Mexico, hot chocolate may accompany festive foods for two Christian holidays, the 12 Days of Christmas and Candlemas. Mexicans also celebrate Dia de la Muertos (Day of the Dead) from October 31 to November 2 by giving balls, bars and drinks of chocolate to friends and family and honoring the deceased with chocolate offerings.

In a town in Central Sulawesi in Indonesia, it's easy to see how much the cacao farmers value cacao. They have built a statue that is nearly 20 feet high, simply a pair of hands holding a cacao pod.

In many cocoa farming villages, drying the beans is done as a collective effort, with farming families gathering to turn the beans and visit with one another. (See more about life on a cocoa farm.)

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