Chocolate, a love affair

The success of the summertime movie "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" gives CBS News Sunday Morning reason enough to ponder anew the dark beauty of chocolate.

It's an assignment Correspondent Martha Teichner is happy to sink her teeth into.

So here goes.

Cocoa beans come from pulpy pods that grow on the trunks, not the branches of cacao trees. The beans are fermented and dried before being shipped.

Cacao trees only grow in a narrow band around the equator.

Cocoa beans from over a dozen countries arrive at the Guittard Chocolate Company, near San Francisco.

Gary Guittard is the fourth generation in his family's chocolate business, founded in 1868 by his great grandfather. "The inside of the bean is, after we roast them, clean them and roast them, you have what is called the nib. (It's) what chocolate is made of.

"We take those nibs, and we grind them…to a chocolate liquor, which is the base ingredient. Then sugar, and sometimes milk are added. It's kneaded and heated and ground again.

And finally, it's turned into chocolate as we know it.

Guittard supplies Kellogg's and Baskin-Robbins, as well as candy companies and pastry chefs.

Ten-pond bars are often used.

Even the fanciest chocolate makers buy the chocolate they melt and mold, Teichner notes.

The Olmec Indians of Central America were the first known users of chocolate, 3,000 years ago. They drank it, as did the Mayans and the Aztecs, who poured it from one pot to another in order create a froth on top, the part they liked best.

Cocoa beans were also used for money.

Spanish conquistadores and missionaries took the drink back to Europe, where it became fashionable with the aristocracy, who added sugar to it.

The chocolate bar didn't exist until a British company called J.S. Fry and Sons invented it in 1847.

Hershey bars didn't come along until 1894.

Chocolate is a $13 billion a year business in the U.S.

Americans' average annual consumption of chocolate candy is nearly twelve pounds per person, good for eleventh place in that category worldwide. Switzerland consumes more chocolate per capita than any other nation.

And there's no better place to see what's trendy than New York's chocolate show.

Popular at the moment: high cocoa-content dark chocolate.

Also, chocolate companies, seeking to be politically correct, making it known they're working to abolish the practice of cocoa beans being harvested by child slaves in West Africa.

Another trend evident at the show: the new breed of American chocolatiers, who want to produce quality, not quantity; who probably don't even have a shop; and who wouldn't be in business if not for the Internet and delivery services such as the United Parcel Service.

Chocolatiers like husband and wife John Doyle and Kira Baker of Philadelphia, who are expecting their first child in March, and who own Jubilee Chocolates.

"Our philosophy with starting this company wasn't entirely on the chocolate itself," says Baker, "but where we could get ingredients that were harvested in a socially responsible manner."

In plain English, Teichner says, that translates into -- The Mint Project.

Once a week, students at University City High School in Philadelphia fill a standing order from Jubilee Chocolates for the mint they grow. It's part of an educational gardening project sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania.

Steeping the mint in hot cream is the secret to making really minty, mint chocolates, Doyle explains.

He was an investment banker before this. He wants to stay small, but not too small. He relies heavily on sophisticated market data the company needs to thrive. "We found that our customer tends to be female," Doyle says, "within the age of 30 and maybe mid to late 50s…lives in an urban setting, typically is a professional, and typically likes fine food…almost like a foodie."

"That's me he's describing," Teichner reveals, "guilt free and the bearer of the best possible news, that chocolate really can be good for you.

The Mars people, makers of M&M's and Dove bars, have spent the last 14 years doing the research. Among them, chemist, John Hammerstone.

"What we discovered was, there was a group of compounds, flavanols, that were important to flavor but, as it turned out, were also important to cardiovascular health."

Cocoa beans are loaded with flavanols, but normal chocolate making destroys most of them. Mars has figured out how to make chocolate that retains three to four times the flavanols in most commercial chocolate, and is using flavanol-rich chocolate in several of its products now.

Harold Schmitz is director of science for Mars. "We do know that, similar to something like a baby aspirin, one would probably need to consume these flavanol-rich products on a relatively frequent basis in order to maintain the benefit," he says.

Imagine, Teichner suggests, having to eat chocolate every day! "That's almost like having to taste my way through Guittard's new line of varietal chocolates," she exclaims.

Chocolate has been called "the new wine," and has a similar vocabulary, Teicher notes.

Ed Seguine is in charge of research and development for the Guittard Chocolate Company. "Chocolate is not food. Chocolate is passion. It's romance. It's excitement. It's interest," he says.

"No," Teichner adds, "I think the word is -- rapture."