It’s the season of love, or, for some, the season of buying chocolate at a discount on February 15th. Who doesn’t love chocolate? Thankfully it's more than just a tasty treat. It actually has loads of benefits for you. And since cocoa powder is the star of our February Community Bar, we thought we would dig in to some of the benefits of chocolate.
First, a fun fact: our in-house herbalist, Tara, chose to pair Lavender with rich Cocoa in this bar to highlight the indulgent themes of Valentine’s Day (it’s the flowers AND the chocolate). And since Lavender is more food-oriented than other florals, it was a match made in heaven for this gourmand soap!
That may seem like a silly question. But we just wanted to break down a bit of where chocolate comes from.
All chocolate starts in a pod—that can be anywhere from 4-12 inches long and contain upwards of 45 cacao beans—hanging from the Cacao (Theobroma Cacao) tree. Theobroma actually translates to “food of the gods” and the tree dates back to the Amazon some 4,000 years ago. The fat of these beans is actually where ultra-moisturising cocoa butter (just like in our body butters) comes from.
Chocolate as we know (and eat) it happens after the beans are removed from the pod. They’re left to ferment in their pulp which helps bring out the tasty flavours we know and love. The beans are then dried and roasted, further bringing out their yumminess. The roasted beans are then removed from a papery layer and you’re left with cocoa nibs, ready to be turned into chocolate! The bitter nibs are ground into cocoa liquor and mixed with sugar. Milk chocolate is, of course, mixed with milk.
But what’s better than sinking your teeth into a piece of rich, dark chocolate? When you eat dark chocolate, you’re arming your body against free radicals, since cocoa is packed with antioxidants.
Dark chocolate also lowers blood pressure, thanks to flavanols. 70% dark chocolate or higher contains the most flavanols! Studies have also shown dark chocolate to help prevent heart disease (how romantic is that?).
What’s good for your heart is good for your brain! Memory and reaction time improved in a group of young adults two hours after consuming chocolate, according to Harvard University. In the long term, one study found that adults 50-69 performed better on memory tests after taking a cocoa supplement for 3 months.
70% of the world’s chocolate comes from West Africa. That is also where the most widespread child labour on cocoa farms is found. While labels like “Fair Trade” are a good start when shopping for chocolate, that certification can be problematic in itself because farmers have to pay thousands of dollars to obtain it, according to Grist’s guide to ethical chocolate. They recommend looking for the shortest supply chain, bean to bar, wherever possible.
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