A Different Taste Bud in China


If it is not for Mr. Deng Xiaoping’s Open Door policy in 1978, over 1.3 billion people would not have known chocolate. Over 30 years ago, almost no one had ever tasted chocolate in China, though by that time it has been already existed since 1500-400 BC (Coe, 2013). Major chocolate companies like Mars and Hershey has taken this advantage and entered this “chocolate virgin” (Lawrence L, 2010) nation with preparation to accept challenges as well as the hope to make a fortune, which they had. However, while people were hoping this nation will embrace chocolate, the amount of chocolate sold in China only accounts for, nowadays, less than 2% of the global total assumption (Lawrence L, 2011). Chocolate is not the one to blame, neither was the companies’ fault. The real problem is the two strong and powerful roots of China; one is history, and the other its byproduct; culture. Chinese history created its culture which then made who Chinese are, and they are what made China less interested in Chocolate compare with the rest of the world. This essay will discuss first the history factor and then the culture influences, followed by an introduction of the problems exists in chocolate industry in China and possible solutions.

History Factor

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Within the time period that chocolate started to gain recognition and popularity, China had a closed-door policy which completely banned goods made outside of China. The world was a mystery to most of Chinese, the only exceptions would be those who had the opportunities to study or visit abroad. Therefore, China is at least 2 centuries behind compares with western countries in terms of consuming chocolate. While a European kid was enjoying his/her chocolate bar, a child in China was barely able to have a candy made of only sugar. There were days when they had to use very limited amount of tickets issued by the central government to purchase sugar, and that is when sugar was considered a luxury. Nowadays, two generations have experienced the luxury-sugar era, they are 40-years-old, 50-years-old and seniors. These age groups account for more than 20% of the total population (Nation Master, 2013). They are the group of people who are new to sweets like chocolate. During the luxury sugar era, they have developed a certain eating diet and beliefs of health; sweets are bad for you. Chocolate was introduced into China as a sweet, and due to lack of education, people barely know what chocolate really is. As we review the history of chocolate, the Mayan people used to widely use chocolate as medicines for some common diseases like stimulating digestion and the cacao itself is scientifically proofed to have some benefits for us. People lacking of knowledge misunderstand chocolate. Chocolate is innocent, it is the added sugar made it unhealthy. For younger generations, they are more likely to favor and consume more frequent chocolate for they were born with the existence of chocolate. However, most likely parents would raise them with very generous but limited allowance for having chocolate. Chocolate is often given to their children as a reward especially when they were young. In addition, as mentioned before in the introduction section, whichever company entered the market first would easily define what chocolate is to Chinese people. If we were to ask a person between 30 year old to 50 year old what is chocolate, his/her answer would probably be “Dove” which is a chocolate brand created by the Mars company. As one of the companies that opened the market in this nation, it has successfully left its brand image in people’s mind so that people think chocolate is “Dove”. As a 21-year-old Chinese, I would say my favorite and first experience with chocolate was Dove milk chocolate. This has actually brought problem along. They “miss led” this country which had no chocolate culture before about what chocolate really is. Chinese history that go back thousands years has established a certain uniqueness to China. Unlike the Europeans and Americans, for their colonial history, share many similarities whether in terms of languages, diet habits and etc. Everything not Chinese is new to this nation.

Culture Factor

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Food has always been a major aspect of any culture in every country and it is also the reflection of a country. One of the reasons that chocolate is not consumed as many as people thought it would be is because Chinese have developed their strong savory and salty taste bud. In ancient Mayan community, consuming chocolate as drinks with other ingredients added into it was considered a highly social activity, and it also showed chocolate’s social significance because it was common to see chocolate beverage at weddings, banquets and burials. When occasions like those occur, tea would be the substitute. Because tea culture is so overwhelming in China, no other beverage can compete with it. Another beverage that is closely related to chocolate is coffee. Yet the older generations of Chinese is any close to adapt the taste of coffee. On the other hand, younger generations are much more in favor of coffee. However, they would not consume coffee or chocolate drinks frequently. In addition dessert is never included as a course of an everyday meal. Even with dessert severed on special occasions, most likely it is going to be made of ingredients that are considered health, such as rice power, bean, sticky rice and etc. Also, when it comes to food, health is always on top of everything, dessert has been avoided as much as possible. Chinese people emphasize three main meals of a day. There is usually no snack time. From reviewing the history of chocolate, we know it is been called the “food of Gods” and the Aztec people used cacao beans as currency and later as gifts. Contemporarily, chocolate been sent as a gift is still a very common phenomenon around the world, so does in China. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, chocolate was brought into this country as an imported product, with a little effort of packaging, people would assume chocolate is a high-end good. The most popular chocolate to give as present early years was Ferrero in China before other more expensive chocolate manufacture has entered the market. Moreover, chocolate rituals is still in use by the contemporary Mesoamerican by serving chocolate drinks in the festivals to honor cacao god. In addition, they would also provide cacao seed as another way of using chocolate ritually. Using chocolate as a little treat in weddings is very common to represent love and warmness. The biggest sales of chocolate in a year would be during Valentine’s Day. Other than gifts, it is hard to find an excuse for Chinese to purchase chocolate. Since the food culture is so different there, many alternatives are more popular than chocolate for gift giving. Tea, again, would be a perfect example as one of the alternatives.

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Problem and Solution

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After all, China is still a developing country with a less well developed education system. In addition, because the harvesting and production of cacao is centered outside of China, people have less resources of knowing how chocolate is made of and what is involved in its production. Also, sugar as one of the most important product adds into chocolate production, the history of slavery used in sugar production is not widely known or taken seriously enough. Fair trade has not yet made its way into China. No one there would even know about the problems existing in chocolate industry. For example the use of child labor is barely known in this country. What we need to reinforce is the slavery history of cacao harvesting and sugar production, and promote fair trade. Another major issue exists in China is racism and sexism in chocolate commercials and advertisement. It is so common to find a TV commercial with content of a sexy female figure. Most importantly, the bigger problem is that people do not see the sexism and racism. Due to relatively low level of education and knowledge of the significance of these social problems, no one has pointed out or tried to resolve them. We need to reveal this problem and emphasize the importance of protecting human rights.


Thousand years of history of China has made this nation unique in many ways. Completely different lifestyle and eating habit from western countries has left chocolate very little room to develop. Within the years of closed-door police, no imported goods can possibly make its way into China. No one inside of the country knows about them. The open-door policy did has opened up this gate of China, but it has not really opened up people’s mind. They are less willing to try and accept new things. However the reason it is hard for them to accept is because of their strong culture of food and lifestyle. Chocolate will find its revolution in China as time goes by, newer and newer generation will have more understanding of its history and the true value of chocolate, but right now it has not yet come.


Martin, C. D. (2014 ). Mesoamerica and the “food of gods”[PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B_kGt6Sj1X5bZnNSUEVBekRocW8&usp=sharing

Martin, C. D. (2014 ). Slavery, abolition, and force labor[PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B_kGt6Sj1X5bZnNSUEVBekRocW8&usp=sharing

Martin, C. D. (2014). Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisement [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B_kGt6Sj1X5bZnNSUEVBekRocW8&usp=sharing

Jean, J. S. (2013, August 20). Medical and ritualistic uses for chocolate in Mesoamerica. Heritage Daily. Retrieved from

Staum, N. (2013, October 30). The Great Chocolate of China. Insight into China. Retrieved from http://www.idigest.com.cn/en/2013-10/30/content_6417889.htm

Allen, L. L. (2011, July 1). Chocolate Fortunes. China Business Review. Retrieved from http://www.chinabusinessreview.com/chocolate-fortunes/

[Untitled illustration of Dove Milk Chocolate]. Retrieved May 13, 2015

from http://www.epermarket.com/product/SearchList.aspx?keyword=Milk

[Untitled illustration of Dove Milk Chocolate Commercial]. Retrieved May 13, 2015
from http://www.buybuychina.com/chocolate-chinas-new-health-food/

[Untitled illustration of Cacao God]. Retrieved May 13, 2015
from http://creativeroots.org/2013/08/mexican-chocolate-stout-label-design/

[Untitled illustration of Chinese Tea]. Retrieved May 13, 2015
from http://studyinchina.universiablogs.net/2013/08/22/tea-houses-in-wuhan/

Racism in Chocolate Advertisement


Chocolate, a wonderful sweet that would always comfort us, however, could cause social issues at the same time due to the nature of its color. Many chocolate advertisements have been accused for racism, gender inequality, child labor, and slavery. It is critical to draw clear boundaries while trying to be innovative. Racism is one of the most common social issues found in chocolate commercials. This essay will compare two advertisements for the same product.

Cadbury – Dairy Milk Bliss


“Move over Naomi, there’s a new diva in town”. This is a caption appeared on the advertisement for Dairy Milk Bliss chocolate bar which caused a series of discussion in 2011. Naomi Campbell, an English supermodel felt offended by this advertisement and she said “It’s upsetting to be described as chocolate, not just for me but for all black women and black people. I do not find any humor in this. It is insulting and hurtful.” Many believe that the company did not mean to insult Naomi, instead they were referring to her diva-style (Reed Business Information, 2011) but her skin color. Another key controversy is the use of color purple. Purple is often used to represent wealth and high social standard. Not only the background of this image is purple, the packaging of the chocolate product itself used purple as well. Along with the use of diamond image on the bottom also delivered a sense of elegance. From this prospective, we could see the use of her name is referring to her reputation. However, for those who believe it is racist, the color purple sometimes can be related to black people., moreover with the history of cacao production during 18th century when large African slavery were imported into the harvesting process, the natural color of either cacao or its final product chocolate are often related by some people. Due to cacao’s unique growing condition, until nowadays, cacao production is dependent on Africa American descent people because the majority of those areas were dominant by Africa American people.

Revised Advertisement – Dairy Milk Bliss


The revised version of the advertisement kept the main features of the original poster. On top of the picture appears a line of caption saying “Have a bite of Bliss”, and the purpose of it create a relaxing and persuasive emotion. In the middle left is a lady silhouette which her gesture should deliver a sense of high social status, in other word a sense of diva. The reason for using a silhouette instead of celebrities or any actual human figure is to avoid any inaccurate choices that would potentially being accused for racism, sexism, gender inequality or other issues. On the right is pictures of the product which should be eye-catching. They also present the three flavors available for the product. In addition, the colors on the packaging of the products should also aid to attract attention. On the bottom, it kept partial of the original caption and made some changes to “Be the new diva in town” in order to reflect the high quality.


It is possible for us to sometimes read too much out of the information provided. However, since there are solid historical events and contemporary occurring issues exist or had existed, it is critical to keep them in mind when creating advertisement.


Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Bliss. Advertisement. The Guardian . N.p., 3 June 2011. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/jun/03/cadbury-naomi-campbell-ad&gt;.

“Naomi Campbell’s outrage as ‘racist advert likens her to a chocolate bar’.” The Tennessee Tribune 13 July 2011 [Nashville, Tenn.] : 6A. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://search.proquest.com/docview/876103072?accountid=14214&gt;.

“Cadbury’s Campbell chocolate ad not racist, says UK advertising watchdog.” Reed Business Information June 2011. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://search.proquest.com/docview/929145580?accountid=14214&gt;.



From a luxury to a necessity

Sugar, an everyday commodity in nowadays life, reached its social status through a long revolutionary journey. From 12th century when sugar was first introduced to Britain to 19th century (Mintz, 77) where the consumption of sugar has dramatically changed quantitatively and qualitatively for three main reasons: industrialization, slavery and introduction of other food and knowledge.

Sugar was not available for the majority of the general public until 19th century. It was considered to be a luxury for its high price and limitation of plantation. Before industrialization, agriculture was heavily dependent on human labor. To obtain pure sugar from cane, labor intensive agriculture resulted in a high price that was only affordable by the wealthy and royal family. Sugar was consumed to serve 5 purposes; medicine, spice, decorative material, sweetener, and preservative. Its change in functions can be considered as qualitatively. Its function as medicine was established by physicians throughout Egypt and North Africa in 12th century. Sugar used as a spice were spread in 13th century and reached its peak in 16th century. Historical recipes have proofed the use of sugar in cooking. Around 16th century, sugar started to be used as sweetener which differs from being used as spice in terms of quantity. It was often added in drinks or beverages and as well as pastries or bread. “Sugar’s use as a spice and a medicine declined as its use as a decoration, a sweetener, and a preservative increased” (Mintz, 121). It was used as decorative materials on dessert by the royal families in 19th century, and people learned to use sugar to preserve fruits in 19th century. (Mintz, 1958)

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Industrialization and slavery enabled transforming sugar to be used as a spice and a medicine to a sweetener, a decorative material and a preservative. Industrialization begun around 17th century, where massive labor-intensive agriculture was integrated by technology. With the introducing of slavery, commodities like sugar, tobacco and coffee were able to be massively produced. It also enabled shipping technology. For instance, Barbados one of the major place of sugar production was dependent on its trading with the UK was benefited from industrialization and cheap labor of slavery. “The simplest measure of the relationship between sugar and industrialization is the profitability of the Atlantic triangle” (Austen, Smith, 96). Economic efficiency and availability in quantity transformed the function of sugar from a spice to a sweetener. In addition to industrialization, sugar was enabled as a sweetener by the consumption of tea, coffee and chocolate. Due to the bitterness of these three beverages, people learnt to add sugar in them to balance and enhance the flavor. As modernization of eating habits and diet occurred in 17th century, people started to preserve food in syrup. That was when sugar were started to use as preservative. (David, Engerman, 2000)

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In conclusion, sugar was consumed as five different principal functions. Different functions were overlapped and intersected instead of occurring one after another. However, functions were enabled by industrialization and slavery in a chronological order. The introduction of other commodities also altered the consumption of sugar in both qualitative and quantitative way. Nowadays, sugar is widely available throughout the world and it is still vital to our life.


Austen, Ralph A., and Woodruff D. Smith. Social Science History. Vol. 14. N.p.: Social Science History Association, n.d. 95-115. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1171366 >.

Eltis, David, and Stanley L. Engerman. “The importance of slavery and the slave trade to industrializing Britain.” The journal of economic history 60.1 (2000): 123-44. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.

W, Clark. Ten Views of Antigua. 1823. London. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Digging_the_Cane-holes_-_Ten_Views_in_the_Island_of_Antigua_%281823%29,_plate_II_-_BL.jpg&gt;.

Clark, William. The Boiling House. 1823. Art.

Chocolate From 500 BC to 2015

Until Terry G., an archaeologist, discovered a container with cacao residue in tombs from the Maya era, we know that cacao has been used from as early as 500 BC. Cacao has played a significant role in Maya people’s life. The cacao culture has been inherited by generations and generations till now. Nowadays, we consume chocolate which is a result of processed cacao, and its importance in today’s life can reflect its role back to 500 BC.

The fact that chocolate is nothing that can rarely be found nowadays might have just confused us its importance in our life. One may not be a big chocolate fan, however, there is a great chance that he/she has or will purchase a box of chocolate one day in their life as a gift to someone else. It is so common that people put down chocolate on their holiday shopping lists. Not just holidays; visiting a dear friend, wishing someone good health, and coming back from a trip to Europe can all be the scenarios that people choose chocolate as the present. This social norm of using chocolate as a way of expressing gratitude can perfectly reflect the fact that cacao was once used as currency in the 15th during Aztec era. To have a better understanding, one tomatoes relatively equals to one cacao bean. What we can draw from this is the social status of cacao. There is no need to mention the honor one was receiving when the Emperor Moctezuma II served his guests with cacao drinks. In addition, soldiers come home from victories would be invited by the ruler to the palace and consume cacao drink. Same as early as in the Maya era during the 7th century, cacao was also a symbol of royal blood. Picture below is a portrayal of lady Zac-Kuk. The interpretation of this painting shows she was painted as a cacao tree, which we can see from the top part of her head where the flowers and pods can be found to represent her royal identity.


Other than being used as a trade of currency, cacao also showed its importance through traditions of marriage during Maya era. Picture below illustrates a typical conversation scenario between the boyfriend and the girl’s father. The boyfriend would serve cacao drinks to her father as a respectful way of inviting him to discuss the marriage. The Mayan term associated here is “tac haa” which means “to serve chocolate”. The use of chocolate drink here, again, explained how the Mayans have seen cacao more than just a type of food, but more like a symbolic representation. Fast forward to 2015, when we think about weddings, chocolate somehow would jumps into our mind. Because of its taste of sweetness, not necessarily, chocolate often has been used to represent love. For example, contemporary chocolate companies always implement a great amount of love related elements into their commercials. For instance, the attached link below is a chocolate commercial that give audience a sense of romance, satisfaction and sex. Throughout the commercial we can see how the girl was enjoying the chocolate, thus chocolate also often give people the sense of happiness.

Chocolate Commercial Link:



In conclusion, no matter in which part of our daily life, chocolate has been used to serve a very similar function or purpose through centuries. To say that the modern role of chocolate reflects its cultural history in the Maya era, we must always appreciate the culture our ancestors have brought to us.


1. Maricel, Presilla. The New Taste of Chocolate. N.p.: Ten Speed Press, 2009. 9-40. Print.

2. Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 1996. Print.

3. http://www.criscenzo.com/jaguarsun/charctrs.html

4. https://blogs.stockton.edu/plantsanimals/chocolate-from-the-new-world/

5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwPwQ4S4op8