A survey by the Chocolate Manufacturers Association shows that chocolate in the preferred flavour in the US. This may explain why so many of the gift baskets on our lists feature chocolate either as the main theme or as a sweet addition to the contents list.
The Cocoa tree, from which chocolate is produced, was probably first domesticated in the 5th century BCE by the Maya people of Central America. The Maya processed the cocoa beans to a dark coloured liquid with a very bitter taste which was served to members of the higher classes.
Columbus was the first of the old world to encounter cocoa, during his journey to Honduras. A sack full of cocoa beans fell to his hands as spoils when he intercepted a native boat. However the Spaniards were not deeply impressed by the cocoa bean and were more interested in other riches brought from the new world.
In 1847 an English company presented solid chocolate for the first time. Engineers mixed cocoa butter with cocoa powder, added sugar and then condensed the resulting mixture into a form. During the 19th century chocolate gained popularity among the different levels of society. Today a limited number of large corporations dominate the mass chocolate production market while many small independent manufacturers exist that focus on producing small quantities of very high quality chocolate.
Chocolate’s nutritious value is high and it is considered a high-energy food. Chocolate contains fat, carbs, proteins, minerals and vitamins (mostly B2). Chocolate (mostly dark bitter chocolate) is rich in anti-oxidants which might, according to research, aid in treating problems related to the immune system , the blood and the heart.
As with many other sweets, the consumption of chocolate causes the release of endorphins which are relates to sensations of pleasure delight. Chocolate also contains Phenylethylamine, a substance also known as the”love potion”. This substance, according to recent studies, affects the centre of pleasure in the brain and causes a sensation of ecstasy.
Three main species of chocolate exist. The two main species are Forasterol, accounting for 80% of all cocoa plantations worldwide, and Criollo, whose fine flavoured beans are blended with the Forasterol to enhance its quality. The quality of the beans is directly related to their weight (the more they weigh the higher their quality) and the way they are stored. Humidity damages the beans’ aroma as does the proximity of external odours and flavours. The higher the percentage of cocoa butter in the product the higher the quality. In the highest quality bitter chocolate the cocoa butter percentage can reach 90%. According to standards in some countries, if the cocoa butter percentage is lower that 30% the product cannot bear the name chocolate.
As you can see in our chocolate gift baskets section, chocolate is one of the most popular components of food baskets, especially those related to love or romance, such as valentine’s day baskets, wedding baskets or anniversary baskets. Chocolate can appear in many forms and shapes. Truffles, brownies, cookies, Belgian Chocolate tablets and many other variations are all present in our gift baskets. Feel free to browse our list of chocolate gift baskets to find a gift that is an aphrodisiac, a gourmet delicacy and an addictive treat all in one.