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Celebrating National Milk Chocolate Day

Celebrating National Milk Chocolate Day

Americans consume 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate every year. That’s about 11 pounds per person in the United States. With this level of consumption, it’s no surprise that we have a national holiday devoted entirely to milk chocolate. July 28th has been officially declared as National Milk Chocolate Day (with National White Chocolate Day falling on September 22nd and National Dark Chocolate Day falling on February 1st). While white and dark chocolate have their own days, milk chocolate is by far the most popular option for a sweet treat in the US.

Columbia, MO’s Hometown Chocolate Store

The Candy Factory in downtown Columbia is easily the area’s favorite chocolate shop. The shop hand makes all of their fine chocolates, and are known for their fabulous chocolate covered strawberries available in the late winter and spring. For summer, these chocolatiers are busy dipping bananas, raspberries and grapes in different types of chocolate for a sweet July treat. Specialty items include chocolate covered potato chips, artisan chocolates and a wide selection of sugar-free items. Regardless of the time of year, their bestsellers remain their famous katys, sea salt caramels and toffee.

History of Chocolate

The history of chocolate dates all the way back to 350 B.C. in Mesoamerica. Cacao was used in various ways by many ancient civilizations including the Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs. Chocolate was considered a luxury for the wealthy, and also for religious ceremonies. The chocolate used by ancient Mesoamerican civilizations was often bitter, or used in a fermented drink.

Christopher Columbus brought cocoa to Europe in the 16th century after his fourth mission to the Americas. The people of Europe didn’t particularly care for the bitter taste of natural cacao, and gradually added sugar to the mix. Milk chocolate, specifically, wasn’t invented until 1875 when Daniel Peter added powdered milk to ground cacao paste. Chocolate has been so influential in American life that in World War I, it was considered an essential ration for US soldiers.

How is Chocolate Made

Chocolate begins as a whole cacao bean. Pods are harvested from cacao trees, and the beans are extracted from the pods. In order to develop flavor, cacao beans must ferment and be dried. At the manufacturer, the beans are roasted, the shells are removed and the beans are ground with sugar. Roasting the beans changes the molecular structure of the bean and as such the new product is refered to as cocoa. Then the ground cocoa, and any sweeteners or powdered milk, enters a conch machine that kneads the mass to produce a more desirable flavor and texture. The chocolate is then poured into molds or mixed with other ingredients like nuts and fillings.

Types of Chocolate

Chocolate comes in several different varieties classified by the percentage of cacao the final product contains. Unsweetened chocolate, often called baking chocolate, is 99% cacao. Bittersweet, also known as semisweet or sometimes dark, is 35% cacao with added cacao butter and sugar. Milk chocolate contains 10% cacao with 12% milk added. White chocolate technically isn’t chocolate because it contains no cacao and is actually made from cocoa butter and milk.

Regardless of your favorite type of chocolate, take some time to celebrate this ancient treat. Tag us on Instagram @savorcolumbia if you snap a picture enjoying some chocolate for National Milk Chocolate Day.

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