Threatened Cocoa Crop Could Make Chocolate Costly

CAROLING

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Cocoa.

We drink it hot in the winter.

We add sugar and milk, the resulting blended confection is called chocolate.

American chocolate bar manufacturers (including Hershey's) add carnauba wax to their chocolate candy products.

Godiva and other European Union manufacturers do not.

Wax or no, it does not stop us from melting chocolate chips in cookies.

One can buy chocolate skateboard wax, a product I am pretty certain does not have an iota of chocolate in it.

But chocolate derivatives make their way into many products.

The extract oil is used as scent for candles and perfumes.

The cosmetic company GiGi would like to sell you 13.5 ounces of its stubborn hair removal wax. It has "cocoa seed extract (which) acts as an anti-inflammatory agent."

We serve hot chocolate fudge over plain vanilla ice cream, top it with nuts, cherries and whipped cream, and call the result a sundae.

The Wisconsin State Historical Society claims that ice cream parlor owner Edward Berner made the first sundae on a Sunday in 1818. Then, it was illegal to sell soda water on Sunday, so he served a customer ice cream in a cup with chocolate sauce on top.

The Platt and Colt Pharmacy of Ithaca, N.Y. claims to have invented the "Cherry Sunday" in 1892.

As it was topped with cherry, not chocolate sauce, I think Berner wins.

Some folk, wishfully claim chocolate is a vegetable because cocoa, after all, grows in a pod, so that must make it a bean.

Others argue chocolate is a fruit that grows on a tree. (I think that would make strawberries dipped in chocolate redundant which would be a terrible thing.)

In reality, cocoa is not a fruit, but it does grow on "Theobroma cacao" trees in pods.

Purplish seeds, embedded in the pulp of the hand-sized yellow-green pods of the trees, are what, after being harvested, dried and processed, become cocoa.

PMSing women take heed: The Theobroma trees are not doing so well this year.

You may have to pay more for your chocolate delights or find another fix.

In April, ABC News reported that Papua New Guinea's entire cocoa crop is under threat from spreading cocoa pod borer disease caused by egg-laying moths.

Candy giant Mars is concerned because Papua New Guinea produces 17 percent of the world's cocoa.

BBC news reported Oct. 13 that the cocoa plants growing in Ghana and the Ivory Coast are suffering from swollen shoot virus.

Some farmers have abandoned their plantations.

The lack of a cocoa crop will clearly have a negative impact on the economies of both these regions, which is a tough thing -- but that story belongs in a different kind of newspaper.

At the U.S. consumer end of the equation, the price of a bar of chocolate could rise.

Currently a gallon of gasoline is about the price of two or three chocolate bars.

Chocolate originated in South America with the Aztecs. They liked cocoa, too. Theobroma means "food of the gods."

Cocoa beans were money.

Ten beans would buy you a rabbit.

Two more would buy you a courtesan.

Christopher Columbus brought cocoa beans back to Spain, but they didn't catch on until Hernan Cortez brought them again 40 years later (around A.D. 1540).

When the Spaniards realized the beans' commercial value they seeded plantations and monopolized the market for the next century.

"Chocolate drinks were developed in Spain that were seasoned with pepper, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon or mixed with beer or wine," according to thinkquest.org.

Samuel Adams Brewery makes a "chocolate bock" beer that sells for $15 a bottle.

The French touted chocolate as an aphrodisiac and taxed it heavily.

So many chocolate houses opened in England that they threatened the pub business.

(A chocolate latte costs more than a Captain Morgan and Coke these days.)

Henri Nestlé and Daniel Peters created the first milk chocolate bar in 1847.

Hershey's was the first to mass-produce the chocolate bars in 1894.

Americans eat between 10 and 12 pounds of chocolate a year.

If chocolate becomes a scarce commodity, perhaps people (OK, women) who need a chocolate fix can listen to calming V-cast music through the new LG ‘Chocolate' phone. At $130 and up retail, "Chocolate' is the equivalent cost of at least 104 Ghiradelli chocolate bars. That's two rectangular bars per week.

Never forget that round is also a shape!

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