Chocolate: The Exhibition at the Natural History Museum of Utah is about more than just chocolate and not so much about eating it.

The exhibit's filled with diagrams and pictures, exploring the history and origin of chocolate. On a recent visit, we learned that while people break cocoa pods open for what later results in chocolate, animals often get to it first. They split cocoa pods (as pictured above) and eat the sweet white pulp inside, spitting out our favorite part: the cocoa seeds. This helps spread seeds so more cocoa trees can grow.

The information on the plaques is interesting and easy for kids to read, too. But if you don't take the time to read them, you'll probably get through the exhibit much sooner than you planned. It's definitely worth it to spend the time.

The more interesting parts of the exhibit detail the role of chocolate to ancient peoples. The Aztecs used special obsidian masks, polychromatic tripod bowls and chalices (pictured above) when consuming their favorite beverage. Although their chocolate wasn't like our Swiss Miss, it was bitter and expensive and only the elite could afford it. It so precious, they also used it to pay tribute to their gods.

For a while, chocolate was the drink of the rich in European society as well, with coffee for the working class.

You'll also see the sinister side of chocolate. The 19th century saw the abolition of slavery in the United States, but harsh conditions for chocolate laborers and slaves continued long after in the islands where it was produced. 

The exhibit presents diverse information about chocolate's history and even highlights Utah's own choloate past. Unfortunately, it's only a small part of a large museum. Chocolate tastings could lengthen and enhance the experience, but they are only held specific days and sell out quickly, so reservations are necessary. There is also a small game for kids explaining chocolate production and a giant box of chocolates for photo opps. Of course, there is also the rest of the museum, with tons of human and pre-human history to explore. And cocoa-lovers could always enhance their experiences by visiting the many chocolate shops and dessert stops across the city.

If you want to experience chocolate through the ages, our contest for free tickets will continue through April 18 (detials here). 

Chocolate: The Exhibition will run through June 1 at the Natural History Museum of Utah.