I’m sure there was panic this week with two stories circulating that seem to indicate that the UK has gone chocolate crazy! Firstly a daring thief staged a ‘Chocolate Bar Heist’ stealing $30,800 (£22,000) worth of chocolate from a haulage company. And then we see the incredible news that a UK doctor wants to TAX chocolate!
The world’s biggest chocolate consumers are said to be Switzerland, Belgium and the UK. So I guess they ate all the chocolate? Surely there must be more than enough to go around even if the Belgians are said to eat 16kg per person every year! But where does chocolate actually come from?
Over 3 million tonnes of cocoa is produced every year, which is an increase of 132% in the last 30 years. The main variety of cacao, that chocolate is eventually made from is called Forastero and accounts for 95% of the world cacao production. The Netherlands actually processes the most cocoa followed by the USA.
All this has made me curious as to which countries actually produce the cocoa bean and below are the figures from International Cocoa Organization showing the country, amount produced and then percentage of the total:
Côte d’Ivoire - 1.3 million tonnes - 37.4%
Ghana - 720 thousand tonnes - 20.7%
Indonesia - 440 thousand tonnes -12.7%
Cameroon - 175 thousand tonnes - 5.0%
Nigeria - 160 thousand tonnes - 4.6%
Brazil - 155 thousand tonnes - 4.5%
Ecuador - 118 thousand tonnes - 3.4%
Dominican Republic - 47 thousand tonnes - 1.4%
Malaysia - 30 thousand tonnes - 0.9%
Cocoa is a seed, from the cacao tree, that is dried and fully fermented and is used to then make chocolate and also cocoa powder, or hot chocolate. The cacao pods are about 3cm thick with tough little skins and are filled with pulp containing further seeds, or beans.
So how did it all begin? Well, the cacao tree is native to the Americas and could have come from the Andes’ foothills in the Amazon and Orinoco basins in South America. It actually still grows wild here (get me on a flight). It could have been introduced into Central America by the Mayas, grown in Mexico by the Olmecs and then by the Toltecs and maybe later yet by the Aztecs.
A curious fact is that cocoa was commonly used as currency across Mesoamerica and the Caribbean, prior to the Spanish conquest.
One guy you’ve got to admire was the original chocolate connoisseur, Montezuma II, emperor of the Aztecs. When this guy dined he drank nothing else other than chocolate! He also added vanilla and spices and whipped it up into a huge froth.
Stories abound that Montezuma II could have had around 50 portions every day, which is surely great news, and a brilliant excuse, for chocoholics? So if the doctor who wants to tax chocolate gets his way, I wonder how much Montezuma II would have had to pay?