Web Wise
Hot Chocolate
Each year, approximately 35 million boxes of chocolate are exchanged around Valentineís Day in the United States. Thatís a lot of chocolate! Depending on where you are, February is also a cool month for sipping hot chocolate made from cocoa powder.

Cocoa is the basis for all chocolate. And, unlike money, it does grow on trees. Called cacao, the beans from the treesí fruits are refined to create everything from your favorite candy bar to baking chocolate. Find out more about cacao trees and how the plants go from beans to bars at the Chocolate Information Center.

Chocolate was first cultivated by ancient American civilizations: Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs, who used cacao beans as currency. European conquerors took treasure troves of the beans back home where dessert chefs experimented and came up with delectable confections. Explore the science and history of chocolate at San Franciscoís Exploratorium Museum site.

For an excellent timeline on chocolate and plenty of other chocolate bits and bytes, click on the Chocolate of the Month Club.

Of course, for kids (and their parents), the most fascinating thing about chocolate is eating it! Discover the history of kidsí favorite chocolate at the Web sites of Hershey and Mars candy makers. Take a tour of the Hershey factory †or get the scoop on the new M&M colors . Youíll find plenty of recipes for using these hot chocolates, too. Keeping the kids busy has its own rewards, especially when itís chocolate.

Don't miss the Web Wise Archive.

From United Parenting Publications, February, 2002.