By Greg Zompolis

There are few words in any language that can conjure such pleasure. It is alluring, seductive and an epicurean delight.

Archeological proof of chocolate beverages dating to 1900 B.C. The majority of Mesoamerican people made chocolate beverages, including the Aztecs and Mayans. The word ‘chocolate’ is derived from the ancient Aztec word choclātl.

Although the cacao seeds have a bitter taste, it was not until Columbus’ fourth voyage to the New World where he commandeered a canoe of cacao beans which he took back to Spain in 1502. Chocolate did not really become popular until 1815 when a Dutch chemist, Coenraad van Houten added alkaline salts chocolate decreasing its bitter taste. About a dozen years later, van Houten created a press to remove half the fat from liquefied chocolate, also known as ‘chocolate liquor’. This invention made chocolate more consistent in quality and also reduced production costs, ushering in the modern era of chocolate. The van Houten company remains in the chocolate business to this day. It was not until 1847 that an English chocolatier (French for “maker of chocolate”) named Joseph Fry discovered a way to make chocolate moldable by mixing the cacao (or cocoa) powder with sugar and melted cocoa butter. In 1866, his factory began mass-production of “Fry’s Chocolate Cream” making it the popular candy it is today.

The range of kinds of chocolate goes from the most affordable candy bar to the insanely expensive. The Dutch, Belgians and Swiss are especially noted for their chocolate production and all three are considered to be amongst the finest in the world.

Chocolates and flowers are the preeminent gifts for Valentine’s Day.

Chocolate is almost an addiction when it activates the pleasure centers of the brain. It is savory and calming. A lot of people reach for the nearest chocolate when stressed. Besides, it is totally legal. No one ever got pulled over by the police for eating a candy bar or drinking a chocolate milkshake.

Greg Zompolis is a freelance author of four books and numerous magazine, newspaper and Web articles. He has traveled to all fifty states and forty two countries. Aside from travel, he is interests include Architecture and American cars of the 1950’s and 60’s. He is a sixth generation Californian.

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