Chocolate can be food or a drink. It is typically sweet and is made from ground-roasted cacao beans.
The oldest known chocolate beverage was consumed around 2,400 years ago in Mesoamerica. Mesoamericans, however, drank an unsweetened (sugarcane being an Old World plant and sugar beets not yet existing) and therefore very bitter form of chocolate which would be unpalatable to many lovers of modern, sweet chocolate. However, in the 21st century "100% cacao" chocolate is commonly available in better stocked supermarkets and even old Mesoamerican tastes like cacao and chili are popular once more.
While cacao is a New World plant, it is nowadays cultivated in the tropical regions of all continents, particularly Africa and the Americas. As the cocoa beans when processed sufficiently can be stored for months, chocolate production often has decades or even centuries of tradition in countries where no cocoa grows, for example Switzerland.
Joseph Fry from England, who molded cacao butter into Dutch cocoa, is credited with inventing the modern chocolate bar in 1847.
The first milk chocolate bar was invented by the Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter in 1875.
There are three main types of chocolate bars:
- Milk chocolate: Made with a minimum cocoa solids, some form of milk (powdered, condensed or liquid), and sugar
- Dark chocolate: Has a higher percentage of cocoa, usually no milk, less sugar and contains cocoa butter as a source of fat
- White chocolate: Made up of cocoa butter, milk and sugar.
There are many variations on these three basic types of solid chocolate. All sorts of flavors and concoctions can be added into chocolate bars, including nuts, caramel, nougat, wafers, spices, fruit and cream.
Milk chocolate is favored in the United States. However, in Europe, bittersweet dark and sometimes extremely dark chocolate is favored, both for hot cocoa and solid chocolate, and milk chocolate is considered at least in some European countries, such as Germany, to be only for children (Kinderschokolade).
- 1 Cadbury World, Linden Road, Bournville, Birmingham, United Kingdom. Cadbury's chocolates was founded in Birmingham, and today they have a dedicated theme park.
- 2 Baracoa, Cuba. The east coast of Cuba is a relatively big producer of cocoa, and it's possible to visit local farms there, as well as taste the local chocolate. The chocolate is somewhat raw compared to refined products of the west, but that just adds to the authenticity.
- 3 Brussels, Belgium. Brussels has had a thriving chocolate-making tradition since the 19th century.
- 4 Duékoué, Ivory Coast. Cocoa farming town. The Ivory Coast is the world's largest producer of cocoa.
- 5 Hershey, Pennsylvania, United States of America. Hershey's chocolates are known for their tangy flavor due to the addition of butyric acid in the chocolate-making process.
- 6 Oaxaca, Mexico. Oaxaca is very close to where the chocolate was first invented in Mesoamerica. The city lives and breathes chocolate.
- 7 Osaka, Japan. Home of the GLICO Museum.
- Ritter Sport, Germany. A famous brand of square-shaped chocolates, with two main "destinations": 1 Home of Ritter Sport in Waldenbuch, and a big 2 Ritter Sport museum in Berlin. The somewhat weird name "Sport" comes from the founder being unable to fit standard size chocolate into his coat pocket while out doing sports, so he designed a quadratical piece of chocolate of the same 100 gram weight, giving rise to the German advertisement slogan "Quadratisch, Praktisch, gut". A part of the cocoa is produced in Nicaragua, apparently under organic and "fair trade" conditions, but not certified officially due to the small amount produced.
- 8 San Francisco. A city with a thriving chocolate scene. Home of Ghirardelli Chocolate.
- 9 Rogers Chocolates, 913 Government Street. This company in downtown Victoria (British Columbia) began producing chocolates in 1885 and did very well during the BC gold rush a few years later, partly because it was located close to all the dance halls and other entertainment. They now they have stores in several other cities and a thriving mail order business. Most of their chocolates have extremely rich fillings; it is common to cut them in half because a whole one would be too much.
- Switzerland: The Swiss have a strong rivalry with the Belgians over chocolate and produce some of the most delicious chocolate in the world.