Who says the kids at MIT only learn about quarks, electrons, and semiconductors? Turns out that for the past 6 years, a popular club at the prestigious school has celebrated the science of chocolate! In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, Valentine’s Day, we’re taking a walk on the sweet-side of science to find some decadent facts straight from MIT’s Laboratory for Chocolate Science. Plus – check out the end for a delicious how-to video from the MIT Scientists with all you need to know for tea-infused chocolate truffles!
Chocolate has a rich history. Cultures around the world have enjoyed chocolate in its many forms for millennia. In its earlier days, the Mayans and Aztecs sipped a chocolate beverage during sacred and religious ceremonies. Later, Europeans enjoyed chocolate enhanced by refined sugar and milk as dessert and candies. There are powerful scientific properties and findings that relate to chocolate. From its processing to potential health benefits, here are five fun facts about your favorite treat:
1. Chocolate has no caffeine! Can this be true? Yes! In 1993, biochemists found that processed chocolate, broken down into its chemical elements, showed an undetectable amount of caffeine. Which explains, perhaps, why I can’t handle a single cup of coffee, but can down a LOT of chocolate.
2. Chocolate contains serotonin. We knew chocolate made us feel good, and here’s why. Serotonin, which is the most concentrated of all the neurotransmitters contained in chocolate, according to MIT, and is responsible for feelings of well-being and contentment, as well as curbing anxiety and depression.
3. Chocolate can “bloom.” You know when you open a package of chocolate that’s been sitting on the shelf for awhile and it has some white shmutz on it? This is called “bloom,” and it happens when, over time, fat (cocoa butter) molecules suspended inside the chocolate bar rise to the surface and re-crystallize. “Bloomed” chocolate is not dangerous to eat, but it will be dry and less flavorful than the original product.
4. Chocolate is a “ poly-morph.” No, this doesn’t mean it can take the form of broccoli or 12-grain bread. But it does mean that there are multiple ways – VI, to be precise (they’re given Roman numerals) – to arrange the particles of chocolate in its solid phase. The most desirable is poly-morph V (5), which is stable enough for that pleasant “crack,” but still fluid enough to have that delicious melt-in-your-mouth feeling that we all crave. See this article for more on poly-morphs.
5. Chocolate is cool(er than us). In its optimal form (poly-morph form V), chocolate’s melting point is around 35 degrees Celsius. This is just below the average temperature inside the human body. The slight difference is the scientific reason why chocolate melts in that sloooow, delectable way: it’s warm enough to melt, but not so warm as to liquefy on contact.
Watch the MIT How-To Video here!
Click here to get other FUN recipes from MIT’s Laboratory for Chocolate Science!