There’s no denying it . . . our appetite for chocolate is often accurately described as “insatiable.” World-wide consumption increases annually, as does the variety of chocolate goodies available to us. An industry trade group based in McLean, Virginia states, “Studies have shown that chocolate is the most craved food in the country,” not just because we love the taste and the sensuous pleasure it gives, but because many of us literally NEED the serotonin found in chocolate to calm our nerves and help us relax. At the alternate end of the spectrum, the fats in chocolate are thought to increase the endorphins in our systems, which elevates our moods and makes us happy.
If we want to be really happy, researchers say we can match chocolate with wine. A non-vintage Port is a particularly good pairing. Were you aware that part of our attraction to certain red wines (such as Zinfandels, Cabernet Sauvignons, and other “big reds”) is due to the chocolate components found in them?
Even cigars can resonate with chocolate reflections, especially Cubans which boast a comparable dark, earthy sweetness. Realizing that cigars are described as “chocolaty” is not so farfetched . . . after all, both cigars and chocolate hail from the same area of the world’s Western Hemisphere.
Even more than wine and cigars, however, cocoa beans are most like coffee beans. Unlike the coffee bean that was discovered in Ethiopia, the cocoa tree is said to have its origins in the Amazon and Orinoco (Venezuela) river basins. Both cocoa and coffee beans are now produced widely in South and Central America, as well as the West Indies and the Caribbean. Cocoa trees are also found in New Guinea, Malaysia, Samoa and equatorial Africa. (The Ivory Coast of West Africa and Indonesia are the world’s leading producers.) I, for one, am grateful that more countries are getting involved in the chocolate/cocoa bean arenas. I cannot fathom what it would be like if there was a shortage of chocolate to soothe my nerves and keep me content!