When I go on a trip, I like to bring back a fun souvenir to remind me of the place that I’ve been. Some people collect post cards when they travel, others collect snow globes (my personal favorite!). Ryan Quinn collects chocolates. You might be surprised to know that chocolate isn’t the same all over the world. In fact, many countries have their own unique spin on the world’s favorite treat.
Mexico is considered the birthplace of chocolate. Over 500 years ago, the Aztecs would drink a hot beverage flavored with the seeds of the cacao plant. Today, hot cocoa is still a favorite way of enjoying chocolate in the country. Mexican chocolate is sold in the shape of discs, instead of bars, and melted in warm milk. They even add spices to the drink to enhance its flavor – from sweet vanilla to super-hot chili powder.
The cacao plant that gives chocolate its flavor grows best near the equator. So it’s no wonder that the plants from Ecuador (a country whose Spanish name actually means “equator”) produce some of the highest rated cacao. Ecuador grows over half of the world’s “Fine Aroma” cacao beans and sells them to fancy chocolate makers in over 40 countries.
Although far from the equator, Switzerland has a place in chocolate history as well. In the 1870s, the Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter added powdered milk to chocolate and created the world’s first milk chocolate. Daniel Peter co-founded a company whose name you probably recognize – Nestlé! They still use milk chocolate in the popular candy bars they sell around the world, like Butterfinger, Kit-Kat, and Crunch.
One of the chocolates in Ryan Quinn’s collection is a treat from Japan called Pocky. Pocky is a box of
delicious thin cookie sticks that are each dipped in milk chocolate. Although Pocky started out with only plain chocolate, it now comes dipped in all sorts of unusual flavors like strawberry, green tea, and even grape. I bet the Aztecs never dreamed their beloved cacao drink would one day lead to grape-flavored cookie sticks!
So the next time you go on a trip, take a moment to check out the candy aisle at a local market. Maybe you’ll discover something new and delicious that you can share with your friends (or favorite authors!) when you return home.