Here are a few cocoa confection facts:
1. Do Americans consume more chocolate on Valentine's Day or Easter?
Poor Cupid, the week that houses Valentine's Day is not the biggest week of the year for chocolate sales. Easter historically trumps Valentine's Day with 71 million pounds of chocolate candy purchased. Halloween trumps both of those holidays; more than 90 million pounds of chocolate candy are purchased for the spooky, treat-filled holiday.
2. Procrastinators in Love
Although we all know Valentine's Day falls on February 14th every year, many of us still wait until the last minute to pick up our chocolate bon bons, candy hearts, and truffles. Nielsen reports that the biggest day for chocolate sales during Valentine's week is February 13th. (Maybe it's to ensure they are at their freshest?) And February 15th — as all you bargain-hunters might have guessed — is the second highest day for chocolate sales during Valentine's Day season.
3. Do women really crave chocolate more than men?
Advertising campaigns — like Dove's "We're Only Human," in which women reveal their vulnerable sides and are comforted by unwrapping a piece of solid chocolate — would make you think ladies needchocolate. And clearly the advertising works, as Slate reports that 75 percent of the chocolate purchased this week will be by men buying it for women. But science isn't on board. According to Slate, "Research on whether women like chocolate more than men has yielded mixed results, in part because craving — the term researchers tend to use when talking about chocolate proclivities — is an inherently subjective phenomenon."
4. When did chocolate become synonymous with romance?
Likely it was back during the time of the Aztecs, when chocolate was considered a commodity. Montezuma, emperor at the time, purportedly consumed endless amounts of the sinful stuff as a pre-cursor to his romantic rendezvous. And Cassanova? It's also rumored that Casanova had a predilection for the dark stuff, which he would eat to heat things up in the bedroom.
5. Does chocolate really turn you on?
According to the New York Times, chocolate contains two chemicals that fuel sexual desires: tryptophan, which helps increase serotonin production (the brain chemical that participates in arousal and virility), and phenylethlamine, which the brain releases upon falling in love. But the amounts of these chemicals that chocolate contains may be negligible. A study published in the May 2006 issue of Sexual Medicineconcluded that there were "no significant differences between reported rates of sexual arousal or distress" between those who habitually consumed one serving of chocolate a day versus those who were given three servings per day. But increased amounts of serotonin from endorphin secretions in your brain will make you feel good, and anything that makes you feel good is going to put you in the right mood. Go for chocolate treats that have higher cocoa content.
6. Which country eats the most chocolate?
If you guessed Switzerland, you are correct. According to The National Confectioners Association, Switzerland tops the charts with 22 pounds of chocolate eaten per person each year. We Americans just barely made the top 10.
7. How does temperature affect the growth of the cocoa bean?
The Weather Channel says that chocolate grows most successfully within 20 degrees of the equator. Seventy-five percent of cacao plants grow within 8 degrees of the midline. The cacao tree thrives in very hot weather and high humidity, which generally means tropical climates. But because of pests and fungi, fewer and fewer cacao plants survive in South America, Panama, and the Caribbean. Today most grow in West Africa. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global warming will threaten our chocolate supply. The IPCC states that "lower latitudes, especially tropical regions, would see crop productivity decrease for even small local temperature increases (1-2°C)," reports The Weather Channel. "The plants respond well to high temperatures, but the range has a maximum annual average temperature of 86-90°F. If any farms are already close to that annual maximum, a raise in temperature would be extremely detrimental."
8. There is no chocolate in white chocolate
Science Daily reports that, "White chocolate contains no chocolate liquor, but instead consists of cocoa butter, sugar, dairy products, and flavorings; it must contain at least 20 percent cocoa butter and no more than 55 percent sugar."