On average, Americans wolf down 12 pounds of this sweet stuff each year. How much do you know about how your favorite chocolaty treat goes from bean to bar? Sink your teeth into this quiz to find out.
Cacao (cocoa) beans can be as varied as wine grape varieties.
What a lovely vintage … of beans? There are three main varieties of cocoa beans (Forastero, Criollo and Trinitario), but their flavors and intensities differ depending on where they’re grown.
Most cacao beans are grown in South America.
Can you say "chocolat"? Although cacao beans originated in South America, the number-one producer of them today is the Cote d’Ivoire in Africa.
Cocoa beans are harvested by machines.
Cacao beans are plucked by hand, the pods carefully cut from the tree and split open to remove the beans.
Originally, people drank chocolate as an unsweetened beverage.
It's hard to imagine today, but sugar wasn’t added to chocolate until it reached Europe in the 1500s. And it wasn’t eaten in bar form for a few hundred years after that.
Aztec Emperor Montezuma was rumored to drink as many as 50 cups of chocolate a day.
After meeting Aztec emperor Montezuma II in 1519, explorer Hernando Cortes reported that he drank nothing but chocolate with his meals, out of a golden goblet.
Eating chocolate lowers your risk of diseases like diabetes and cancer.
Kind of a trick question. There is some evidence that eating very dark chocolate may lower the risk of some diseases, but it’s not carte blanche to chow down on the good stuff.
Only chocolate contains flavonoids, compounds believed to have antioxidant properties.
Flavonoids also pop up in many other plants, including tea, citrus fruits, berries and red wine.
Chocolate may be a popular Valentine’s Day gift, but there’s no proof that it’s an aphrodisiac.
Sometimes, a chocolate is just a chocolate. Chocolate contains a chemical called phenethylamine that causes feelings of euphoria. Unfortunately, it’s broken down in the body before it can reach the brain.
A 2006 study found that women who eat chocolate every day have higher libidos than those who don’t.
Close, but no cigar (or rather, chocolate bar). Although this initially seemed to be the case, the daily-chocolate-eating women in the study were also younger than the others, and libidos tend to drop as women age.
If you find white spots on your chocolate, that means it’s gone bad and you need to throw it away.
Known as “bloom”, it's the bane of chocolatiers -- and chocolate lovers -- everywhere. It probably wasn’t stored properly and it may not taste the same, but your chocolate's still fine to eat.
White chocolate isn’t really chocolate.
It depends on what you mean by “really chocolate." White chocolate doesn’t contain any cocoa solids, but it does have a base of cocoa butter.
There are strict rules governing what can be labeled dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate.
It depends on where the chocolate is sold, though. For example, dark chocolate sold in the European Union must contain a minimum of 35 percent cocoa solids.
Chocolate is just crushed, melted cacao beans with some sugar added.
While dark chocolate can have cacao as its sole ingredient, it usually includes many others. Making chocolate also involves much, much more than just crushing up some cacao beans!
You can actually create chocolate from cacao beans at home, in your own kitchen.
While it’s a complicated (and expensive, if you want it to be high quality) venture to make your own chocolate, it can be done.
“Chocolatier” is just another word for “chocolate maker.”
Chocolatiers create delicious candies and confections using pre-made chocolate; chocolate makers make chocolate from cacao beans and other ingredients.
Chocolate-making is still a mysterious process.
We still don’t quite understand what happens during conching, a necessary step in the production of chocolate that involves agitating chocolate liquor for hours.
Chocolate liquor contains alcohol and is used as a mixer or imbibed by itself.
You wouldn't want to confuse these two! Chocolate liqueur is an alcoholic beverage, usually made with vodka. Chocolate liquor is pure, liquid chocolate.
The conche machine used in chocolate-making was named for its inventor, Joseph Conche.
The original conche machine was invented by Rodolphe Lindt in 1879 and looked like the shell of a sea snail called a conch (or conche).
Tempering, a process by which chocolate is melted, reheated and held at specific temperatures, is only done by really high-quality chocolate makers.
Temper, temper. Chocolate has to be tempered. Without this process, the chocolate isn’t glossy, doesn’t last as long and doesn’t have that nice snap when you bite it.
When chocolate cools, the cocoa butter inside it solidifies into small, uniform crystals.
Left to cool at room temperature, the cocoa butter crystalizes into different sizes. Tempering makes the crystals small and uniform, resulting in smooth chocolate.
About HowStuffWorks Play
How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!