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Chocolate Fascinating Facts

PHILADELPHIA, September 24, 2014

Fascinating Facts about Chocolate
Chocolate: The Exhibition, Oct. 11 – Jan. 24, 2015

Did You Know?

About the cacao tree
The seed pods of the cacao tree grow not on its branches but directly on the trunk.

Each pod is about the size of a pineapple and holds thirty to fifty seeds – enough to make about seven milk chocolate or two dark chocolate bars.

Cacao flowers are pollinated by midges, tiny flies that live in the rotting leaves and other debris that fall to the forest floor at the base of the tree.  Those midges have the fastest wingbeats in the world:  1,000 times per second!

Cacao trees today are endangered by natural threats, such as the witch’s broom fungus and other diseases and pests.  Along with the rest of the rainforest, they’re also threatened by lumber companies, which harvest the taller trees that shelter the cacao and help maintain the population of midges.

Cacao seeds are not sweet.  They contain the chemicals caffeine and theobromine, which give them a bitter taste.

The scientific name of the cacao tree, Theobroma, means “food of the gods.”

Cacao is not related to the coconut palm or to the coca plant, the source of cocaine.

Africa is now the source of more than half the world’s cacao, while Mexico today provides only 1.5 percent.

Chocolate as food and medicine

It takes 4 cacao seeds to make 1 ounce of milk chocolate, and 12 seeds to make 1 ounce of dark chocolate.

Although we tend to think of chocolate as a solid today, for 90% of its history it was consumed in liquid form.

Some of the earliest European cocoa-makers were apothecaries seeking medicinal uses of the plant.

Cacao seeds contain significant amounts of naturally occurring flavonoids, substances also found in red wine, green tea, and fruits and vegetables; flavonoids are connected with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

On the other hand, chocolate carries a heavy load of saturated fats and calories; there are much healthier ways to get the same benefits.

Chocolate contains two stimulants also found in coffee – caffeine and theobromine – but in relatively small amounts.  Fifty M&Ms, for example, have about as much caffeine as a cup of decaffeinated coffee.

Who eats chocolate?

Not Africans.  A great deal of chocolate is grown in Africa, but mostly for export.

Not a lot of Asians.  Although chocolate’s popularity is growing in China and Japan, there’s still comparatively little chocolate culture in Asia.  The Chinese, for example, eat only one bar of chocolate for every 1,000 eaten by the British.

Mexicans consume chocolate more as a traditional drink and a spice than as a candy.  They use it to make the wonderful sauce called mole, and offer chocolate drinks at wedding ceremonies and birthday parties.
U.S. citizens eat about 12 pounds of chocolate per year. The total today comes to 2.8 billion pounds. (2013 statistics)

Definitely Europeans!  As far back as the late 1700s, the people of Madrid, Spain consumed nearly 12 million pounds of chocolate a year.  Today, 16 of the 20 leading per-capita chocolate-consuming countries are in Europe, with Switzerland leading the pack.  (The U.S., as of 2013, is #15.)

For the love of chocolate…the chocolate of love

Does chocolate stimulate the libido?  Chemists can’t prove it, but popular culture is reluctant to give up the belief…

As far back as the 1,000, frothy chocolate drinks were exchanged at weddings in Mesoamerica (southern Mexico and parts of Central America).

Casanova is said to have eaten chocolate to enhance his love-making. 

The Marquis de Sade also was passionate about chocolate, and had his wife send it to him in prison.

Chocolate and its national tour were developed by The Field Museum, Chicago. This exhibition was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation. Chocolate is presented by Mars Chocolate North America. 6ABC is the Academy’s media partner.

chocolate sponsors


About American Heritage Chocolate


In 2003, Mars, Incorporated undertook an extensive global research initiative to uncover the true history of chocolate. A group from Mars led a multi-disciplinary team of more than 115 experts from around the globe who accessed over 200 archives, libraries, museums and private collections to reveal chocolate’s origin and history in the Americas. “CHOCOLATE: History, Culture, and Heritage,” has contributions from 45 authors, including researchers, culinary chefs, food scientists and historians from leading historic institutions and was published in 2009 by Wiley. Out of this research project, the American Heritage Chocolate brand was developed in 2006 by Mars Chocolate North America to help educate consumers about the history of our nation through the engaging story of one of our most beloved foods...chocolate! Fashioned off an ingredient list from 1750, American Heritage Chocolate is an authentic historic chocolate made from ingredients available in the 18th century. The recipe represents a true taste of chocolate the way our ancestors would have enjoyed it. The product line celebrates chocolate’s important role in the lives of Americans during the 18th century. Made with all-natural ingredients and no preservatives, American Heritage Chocolate comes in four unique formats: chocolate sticks, chocolate bites, chocolate baking/grating blocks, and finely grated chocolate drink mix. American Heritage Chocolate is sold exclusively at over 130 fine gift shops at historic sites, museums and historic inns across the USA and Canada. For a complete listing or to purchase online, please visit our website at Learn more about American Heritage Chocolate at, on Twitter @Choc_History and NOW on


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Carolyn Belardo

Director of Public Relations
Phone: 215.299.1043