Fun Facts About: Chocolate

Last week I gave my ninth Toastmasters speech. Since the CC#9 project is Persuade with Power, I thought I’d make it easy for myself by picking an easy topic: persuading people to eat more chocolate.

In doing the research for the speech, I found out some cool things about chocolate. Well, I think they’re cool, and since I’m writing this, I get to decide.

  • Carl Linnaeus, the guy who came up with the system scientists use today to name and classify all living things, decided that the name of the cacao plant was not particularly descriptive, so he gave it the name Theobroma, which means in Latin, “food of the gods”. This continues to be its scientific name today.
  • For most of history, chocolate was a drink. This is what attracted it to a bunch of English Quakers, who promoted it as a healthy alternative to alcoholic drinks. The names of some of those Quakers are still well known today: Fry, Rowntree, Terry and Cadbury. Ironically, chocolate only became available as a chocolate bar in the 19th century, courtesy of the inventions of one of them: Fry.
  • An important chemical in chocolate is theobromine, which is present in chocolate in quantities several times that of caffiene. Unfortunately, it is the chemical that makes chocolate poisonous to animals, but in humans it is known to be a stimulant, a better cough-suppresor than codeine, and helpful to asthmatics.
  • While 90% of the world’s cocoa is produced in small farms, the chocolate industry is dominated by major manufacturers such as Hershey’s, Mars and Nestle. To address this imbalance in bargaining position, the Fair Trade system is also applied to chocolate, and Cadbury has recently committed to source all their chocolate for the Dairy Milk chocolate bar in the UK from Fair Trade sources.

Oh, and the speech went well, by the way. Only one more to go before I’ve completed the basic set of projects. The last one will be a bit trickier – it has to be an inspiring speech. Wish me luck…