Why is chocolate always so lovingly associated with Valentine's Day? What is the attraction to this sweet something? Many believe that chocolate is an aphrodisiac; even the Aztec and Mayan royalty consumed large quantities of cacao before a romantic evening. But why?
Chocolate's aphrodisiac qualities are linked to the simple pleasure of consumption — it tastes good and provides a stimulating melting sensation on your palette. But scientists believe that there might be more to this love addiction with this velvety confection. Chocolate, primarily dark and bittersweet, are made of ingredients that include alkaloids that work as aphrodisiacs. Theobromine increases the brain's serotonin levels and phenethylamine stimulates the nervous system to increase energy much like the excitement of falling in love. And in women, chocolate is known to increase the levels of testosterone just like a first kiss.
Investigating chocolate's seductive history, we explore the romantic secrets of five famous individuals that believed in the aphrodisiac powers of chocolate.
The Aztecs were known as the first to utilize the cacao beans, making hot drinks from these chocolate fruit. They believed it was a drink given to them from the gods. Legend states that Montezuma, the Aztec emperor, would quaff great quantities of the chocolate beverage, stating it was for success with women.
The notorious Italian author, as he wrote in his memoirs, discussed his habit of consuming hot chocolate in order to sustain his lustful exploits. We have this lover to thank for the pairing of chocolate and champagne — as this was how he seduced the ladies.
Ann of Austria & the French Court
As part of the dowry for his daughter Ann, Philip II of Spain introduced cacao to his future son-in-law, Louis XIII of France. This started a long love affair of the French Court with the chocolate concoction. Art and literature became filled with erotic images inspired by chocolate. Madame de Pompadour was advised to use chocolate to enhance her affection for Louis XV and Madame du Barry encouraged her lovers to drink chocolate for stamina.
During the reign of Charles II in London, England a love obsession with chocolate led to the establishment of the first Gentleman's Club. The famed Mrs. White's House was founded by Francesco Bianco at 4 Chesterfield Street. The original chocolate house was seen as hotbeds of dissent including gambling and what-not, but over time became a fashionable and respectable establishment.
Legend has it that the French Emperor carried chocolate morsels with him and ate it when he needed energy. He also always insisted in starting his day with a cup of hot chocolate. It was this elixir, and the wrath of a tossed aside mistress (and mother of his illegitimate son), that was almost the downfall of Napoleon.
Regardless of whether you believe the scientific explanations (or want to follow in the footsteps of famous lovers before you), conduct your own experiment. Give a box of delectable chocolates (and maybe some wine!) to your sweetheart this Valentine's Day and see for yourself how it affects your mood.