Chocolate is among the world’s most popular foodstuffs, and for good reason. It’s tasty, complex, and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. We cook with it, we drink it, but most of the time we consume it in the form of a bar, or perhaps a little foil-wrapped treasure out of a box at Christmas time – Christmas chocolate being a traditional way of indulging over the festive period.
But the ways that we enjoy chocolate in the UK represent just a small fraction of the world’s approach. Let’s take a look at a few under-appreciated aspects of chocolate culture around the world – and see if we might learn a few things.
In just a few short years, chocolate in Japan went from being an unheard-of curiosity to a staple foodstuff. This transition occurred during the years following the Second World War, during which American troops would distribute chocolate bars to groups of Japanese children. The story goes that ‘give me chocolate’ was among the first English phrases learned by Japanese schoolchildren.
In Japan today, there are more different types of chocolate available than anywhere else in the world. They’re far more experimental and open to new ideas – no matter how strange sounding. If you want to sample potato flavor Kit Kat, then you’ll need to head over to Japan!
The southern lowlands of Mexico provide conditions ideal for cacao cultivation – and you’ll find evidence of the stuff if you visit Mayan ruins in the area. Thousands of years ago, people in this part of the world were enjoying chocolate – though this kind of chocolate was a world away from the kind we know today, being a bitter drink rather than a sweet one. Chocolate remains a stable of Mexican cuisine today – a chilli con carne isn’t the same without a piece of ultra-dark chocolate melted into the mix.
The Ivory Coast
Much of the chocolate we enjoy has been created thanks to workers in the Ivory Coast, who cultivate the cocoa in the first place. They aren’t all that well recompensed for this effort, however; the average salary sits just above the $1.90 per day international threshold for extreme poverty. Ironically, though workers in this part of the world are responsible for the chocolate we enjoy, they can’t afford to eat it themselves. This is a challenge for the industry, and for consumers, too.