In the words of Forrest Gump : ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get’ I recently attended a Guild of Food Writers event all about the lovely sweet black stuff and learnt some fascinating facts : • Chocolate was introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus who brought back cocoa beans from the Caribbean islands in 1502 voyage .

• Chocolate is a huge commodity crop and just like good wine, its quality may vary year on year and from one batch to another and the price of cocoa goes up and down according to the quality of beans and how they are dried after harvest.

• A major factor that will determine the ‘snap’ in chocolate is the length of time of chocolate conching. Conching is an important step in the process used to turn cocao beans into chocolate; it kneads and massages the chocolate mixture between 24 – 60 hours. The speed and temperature of the conching process may determine the final texture, flavour and can even mellow any remaining acidic taste.

• The melting point of cocoa butter is just below 98.6 degree F. This is how chocolate so wonderfully melts in your mouth.

• Quality dark chocolate contains flavonoids which help reduced the risk of heart disease.

• Eating a small amount of chocolate is good for you. It is associated with the release of serotonin, the hormone that makes you feel relaxed, calm, and happy.

• Research has shown that allowing chocolate to melt in your mouth produces brain and heart rate activity that was similar to - and even stronger than - that produced with passionate kissing.

For some tasty chocolate recipes check out Or visit the Chocolate exhibition at Vinopolis, London Bridge 15th and 16th October 2011

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