National Dark Chocolate Day on February 1st is a perfect opportunity to celebrate the delicious taste and health benefits of dark chocolate. Even if you don't need a reason to enjoy it, having a dedicated day to honor its history and cultural significance makes it that much sweeter.
National Dark Chocolate Day timeline
Chocolate was first used as a food by the ancient Mesoamerican cultures such as the Maya and Aztecs. The chocolate drink was made from ground cocoa beans, water, and various spices and it was believed to have ceremonial and medicinal properties.
The first time chocolate arrived in Europe, it was consumed as a bitter drink, similar to how it was consumed in Mesoamerica. However, Europeans quickly realized that adding sugar would make it a more palatable treat. This was the first time sugar was added to chocolate, which made it a sweeter and more popular product. Eventually, this sweetened chocolate was used as an ingredient in desserts, pastries, and confections, as well as being consumed as a hot chocolate drink.
Milton S. Hershey was an American confectioner, philanthropist and the founder of The Hershey Chocolate Company. He first purchased chocolate processing equipment in 1894 and started producing chocolate in his Lancaster Caramel Company. His goal was to produce chocolate at a scale and quality that had never been seen before. He began by producing chocolate-covered caramels but later expanded to include a variety of chocolate products such as chocolate bars, chocolate-covered pretzels, chocolate kisses and chocolate-covered peanuts. His company, Hershey's Chocolates, became one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world and his chocolate bars became known as the "Great American Chocolate Bar."
It is difficult to determine the exact date when dark chocolate was first found in bar form, but it is believed to have been developed in the late 19th century or early 20th century. At that time, chocolate makers began to experiment with different recipes and methods to create chocolate bars with higher cocoa content and less sugar. The first instances of dark chocolate bars were likely produced by small, artisanal chocolate makers and it took some time for it to become more mainstream. Nowadays, dark chocolate can be found in a variety of forms and is widely available in supermarkets and specialty shops, and it's a popular choice among chocolate connoisseurs for its richer flavor and health benefits.
National Dark Chocolate Day Activities
1. Find a sweet shop near you
There is no need for an excuse to support your local chocolate shop, but on National Dark Chocolate Day, it's a great opportunity to indulge in the delicious desserts they have to offer. So, why not take a trip and try some of the beautiful creations in the display case.
2. Make a dessert at home
Dark chocolate is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of desserts, whether you're a novice or a seasoned baker. Even if you're not confident in your baking skills, National Dark Chocolate Day is a great opportunity to try your hand at making something delicious with dark chocolate. Recipes such as babka, molten cake, or pain au chocolat offer a fun and delicious way to test your skills. And even if it doesn't turn out perfectly, you can always enjoy eating the evidence.
3. Go to a chocolate-themed restaurant
Many people consider dessert as the best course of a meal, and chocolate-themed restaurants are becoming more popular across the country, offering unique and creative dishes that showcase the versatility of chocolate. These restaurants are dedicated to this sweet treat, and you can find a wide range of options, from savory to sweet, from simple to complex, from classic to new and trendy. These restaurants are perfect for those who want to celebrate National Dark Chocolate Day in a special way, or just want to enjoy a chocolate-themed meal.
5 Facts About Chocolate
Chocolate was originally a fermented beverage
Chocolate was considered by the Aztecs to be a gift from Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom, and it was primarily consumed as a fermented beverage. It was believed to provide strength and energy to those who drank it.
Chocolate gets its name from the Aztecs
The word "chocolate" is derived from the Aztec language of Nahuatl, specifically the word "chocolātl" which means "bitter drink." This reflects the original form in which chocolate was consumed by the Aztecs, which was as a bitter, fermented beverage.
Dark chocolate is a potential superfood
Dark chocolate is considered a potential superfood due to its high percentage of cocoa and lower amounts of sugar and milk. These properties provide numerous health benefits, such as antioxidants, reducing blood pressure, and improving cardiovascular health.
Africa provides most of the world's cocoa
Approximately two-thirds of the world's cocoa is grown in Western Africa, with the Ivory Coast being the largest producer of the crop. This country alone produces over 40% of the world's cocoa. Other major cocoa-producing countries in Western Africa include Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon.
Americans consume 2.8 billion pounds per year
That's over 11 pounds per person.
Why We Love National Dark Chocolate Day
Dark chocolate is good for you
Dark chocolate is not only delicious, but it is also rich in essential vitamins and minerals like potassium, zinc, and magnesium, that the body needs to function properly. Additionally, it contains powerful antioxidants called flavonoids, which have been shown to promote healthy circulation and prevent plaque formation in the arteries. These flavonoids can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. The higher the percentage of cocoa in the dark chocolate, the more flavonoids it contains, making it a healthier choice than milk chocolate or white chocolate.
It makes you feel good
Dark chocolate contains two chemicals, tryptophan and phenylethylamine, that are known to activate the release of endorphins in the brain, which can cause a feeling of euphoria. This feeling is often compared to the feeling of being in love. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps to produce serotonin, which is known to help regulate mood and reduce stress. Phenylethylamine is a naturally occurring chemical that can stimulate the release of endorphins, which can make you feel happy and relaxed. The consumption of dark chocolate can also lead to increased blood flow to the brain which can lead to a sense of well-being and even euphoria.
It is so darned versatile
Dark chocolate's low melting point makes it an ideal ingredient for baking. It can be used in a variety of ways, from making ganache to fudge and many more. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced baker, you can use it to make a wide range of sweet treats. One of the best ways to melt chocolate is by using a double boiler. This method helps to gently melt the chocolate, preventing it from burning or seizing, which can happen if chocolate is melted directly on the stove. With a double boiler, you can easily melt chocolate, and use it in your favorite recipes, whether you're making a chocolate cake, cookies, truffles, or any other chocolate-based desserts.
National Dark Chocolate Day dates