If you want to know what heaven is, indulge yourself with hot chocolate made in a chocolate factory: pure liquid chocolate. Anvers Chocolate Factory is situated in a beautiful Californian bungalow, surrounded by cottage gardens, on the outskirts of Latrobe, in the north of Tasmania. I sat next to a window. The room was cold but the light morning sun shone through, emulating warmth. A waitress approached and I ordered my liquid heaven.
Cocoa originated in the Amazon, at least 4000 years ago. In both the Mayan and Aztec cultures, it was the basis of a cold, unsweetened drink, believed to be a health elixir. Sugar was unknown and so they used different spices to add flavour, even hot chilli peppers.
To the Mayans, cacao pods symbolised life and fertility. They believed that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cacao tree, and that it had nourishing, fortifying and even aphrodisiac qualities. The beans were also used as currency. In 1513, 100 cocoa beans bought a slave, 10 bought the services of a prostitute and four got you a rabbit for your dinner.
In 1528, the Spaniard, Hernando Cortez, who disliked its bitterness, added sugar and its use spread throughout Europe. In the mid 1600s, France’s Louis XIV, organised its manufacture as a new income stream, but also for its capacity to inspire erotic pleasures. It’s well known that Louis, in his 72nd year, was making love to his wife twice a day. Now there’s a thought!
Casanova used chocolate with champagne to seduce his ladies and the well-known nymphomaniac, Madame Du Barry, encouraged her lovers to drink chocolate in order to keep up with her.
Solid chocolate was developed in England in 1830 and smooth and velvety replaced course-grained in 1847. The Swiss added milk in 1875, creating what we indulge in today.
So there you have it. If you want to be healthy and have a good love life, eat chocolate.
This is an excerpt from The Edge of the World, the first book in my travel series, Planning to the ‘Nth’, now available as an Ebook from Amazon.