All About Chocolate: For the Chocoholics
The story begins some two millennia ago in the exotic
rainforests of the Americas. Although the cacao tree had
been around for some time, the natives had never used the
beans inside the pods for food. On discovering that the
seeds could be processed and used like a drink, it quickly
aroused the interest of these primitive people. The first
people known to make chocolate in the cacao beans were
the ancient cultures of Central America and Mexico. They
would grind the actual beans and mix all of them with
different seasonings and spices and then whip the
beverage by hand until it was each frothy and spicy.
The Olmec Indians are believed to be the first tradition to
grow the beans as a domestic crop, between Fifteen
hundred and 400 B.D. From 250 to Nine hundred C.E., the
consumption of the beans was restricted to the elite class
of the Mayan tradition. Throughout these years, that coffee was consumed unsweetened.
Apparently the Mayan people valued the beans so highly that they grown them in their personal
landscapes so that they had easy access for them.
Around 600 A.D., the Mayans migrated into the north regions of South America and began the
earliest recorded plantations of cacao trees in the Yucatan. They used the beverage they made in
betrothal and marriage ceremonies.
Once the Aztec culture was able to abscond with some from the beans and learn how to make the
beverage from them, they used them for medicinal reasons and in ceremonies such as weddings
and religious rites. They believed that the beans were a present from their gods. They are also the
first known culture to tax the actual beans. Their name for the actual beverage that they made had
been "xocalatl", translated to warm or bitter drink. The coffee beans also began, at that time, to be
used as currency by the Mesoamerican ethnicities. They were not used to make chocolate until
they were too worn to be used as currency.
The first Western to learn of chocolate was Captain christopher Columbus. He encountered a
huge Mayan buying and selling canoe piled high with the valuable beans. When the Spaniards
penetrated the Yucatan in 1517 and South america in 1519, they quickly caught on to the
monetary value of the valuable beans. They were not fond, however, of the warm, bitter as well as
unsweetened drink which they received from the local people. It took some time, but they learned
to adapt their own taste buds to the drink as well as began to enjoy it.
The most popular tale of the introduction of chocolate to Europe is that which credits Dominican
friars with taking a delegation of Mayan nobles to the court of Knight in shining armor Philip of
Spain. As one of the many gifts which the nobles presented to the Prince, they gave him several
jars of already processed cocoa which was ready-to-drink. The Spaniards did not, however, share
this much loved beverage with the rest of Europe for nearly a century!
Sometime during the 16th century, the Spanish people began including flavoring like vanilla as
well as sugar cane to the chocolate drinks. Thus, sweetened chocolate was created. And recorded
history shows that the popularity of the beverage grew to the point that regular deliveries began
from Veracruz, Mexico to Seville, Spain in 1582.
The records are not completely clear on exactly how chocolate was introduced to the rest of
European countries. It's thought that quite possibly it had been distributed through monasteries
and convents which were linked with Latin America. Jesuit Culture members were major
customers of the drink and had turn out to be cocoa traders as well. The French Cardinal
popularized the beverage in France and when Louis XIV married Maria Theresa of The country in
1615 she, chocolate lover that they was, began a customized that spread like wild fire among the
The actual English were introduced to the actual cacao bean through Uk pirates who targeted
Spanish ships in the last half of the 1500s. They saw no use for the odd looking freight and even
burned several deliveries before someone found out what the beans were good for making. It took
about a hundred years for the chocolate to start making its mark in British background. Once it did
though, it was not just reserved for the aristocracy. Anyone in England who could afford it was
able to indulge. While it was more expensive than coffee, it was cheaper that tea. "Chocolate
houses" began to develop up, with the first 1 being opened by a Frenchman in 1657. At that time,
chocolate was 10 to 15 shillings for each pound. So it was instead costly.
During the 16th as well as 17th centuries, the demand for chocolate grew so large that the cacao
plantations had enslaved Mesoamericans to plant, grow, crop and process the cocoa beans. By
the end of the 17th century, only ten percent of the Native Indian population survived. It was then
that slaves had been transported from Africa to Ecuador, Venezuela, Paraguay and Brazil. For
over 220 years, enslaved people and wage laborers were used to meet the actual demand for the
About 1730, the price of cocoa has fallen to around $3 per pound. This made it more affordable to
others besides the very wealthy. In 1732, a French inventor developed a desk mill for grinding the
actual chocolate. This simplified the process and made it possible to churn out larger quantities at
lower cost. Therefore production naturally grew.
Within 1765, Irish chocolate maker John Hanan imported cacao beans from the West Indies in
order to Massachusetts in the American colonies. He teamed up with Dr. James Baker. They built
the first chocolate mill in the Hives and by 1780, that mill had been producing the famous Baker's
chocolate that is still widely used today.
Another revolution in production occurred in 1795 when Dr. Joseph Fry of Bristol, England used a
vapor engine to power the actual grinding wheel used to help to make chocolate. This catapulted
the production process forward tremendously.
The person who is considered the leader of Swiss chocolate making, Francois Callier, opened the
first Swiss chocolate factory in 1819. And in 1828, a Dutchman named Conrad Van Houton
invented the cocoa push. His invention helped much more with cutting the price of chocolate by
improving the quality of it by squeezing out cocoa butter thus making the consistency of the
beverage smoother. Mr. Truck Houton patented his invention in Amsterdam and his process
became referred to as "Dutching".
In 1847, another innovation is made by Joseph Fry & Boy when they discovered a way to then add
of the cocoa butter back to the actual Dutch chocolate, add sugar and make a paste which could
be shaped into a bar and...Voila! the modern chocolate bar was born. Doctor. Fry and his son
teamed up with the Cadbury Brothers to display chocolates for eating at an exhibit in Birmingham,
England within 1849. In 1851 Americans got their first taste of bonbons, chocolate lotions,
caramels and "boiled sweets" (hard candies) at Prince Albert's Exposition in London.
In 1861 Richard Cadbury created the very first known heart shaped box for Valentine's Day and
seven years later in 1868, John Cadbury mass produced and marketed the first boxes of
chocolate chocolate. In 1876 Daniel Peter, of Europe, introduced milk chocolate for drinking - a
project that he worked on for eight years prior to he perfected it. In 1879 he paired up with Henri
Nestle, formed the Nestle Company and they gave us a chocolate mix to which all one had to add
was drinking water and sugar.
Also in 1879, Rodolphe Lindt of Bern, Switzerland invented a brand new machine which heated
and rolled the chocolate to perfect it. The process was called "conching". After the chocolate was
"conched" for seventy-two hrs and had cocoa butter added to this the product was much softer
and creamier and could be created into more tasty goodies. Lindt Chocolates are still widely
known and acclaimed around the world today.
Here is another little tidbit associated with chocolate history to chew on...the actual chocolatier
accredited with bringing mass production to the chocolate making market is Milton Hershey of
Pennsylvania, United States. Mister. Hershey was nicknamed the "Henry Ford associated with
Although slavery was eliminated in 1888, the use of slave work continued into the early 20th
century. In 1910, William Cadbury became a leader in boycotting those plantations that misused
and abused their own workers. He invited additional English and American chocolate
manufacturers to join him in his marketing campaign. That same year, the U.S. Congress enacted
a formal ban on any cocoa which proved to be produced using slave labor. These efforts did
cause problems on the plantations to improve. Exactly the same year that the chocolatiers came
together in their formal protest against the harshness found on cocoa plantations, a Canadian by
the name of Arthur Garong introduced the first nickel chocolate bar.
In 1913, Swiss chocolatier Jules Sechaud gave the chocolate industry a piece of equipment
process for filling hollowed chocolate covers. Then in 1926 Joseph Draps, the Belgian chocolate
manufacturer, opened the doorways of Godiva Chocolates.
Today, most cacao is grown as well as harvested by hand. But gone are the days when cruel
plantation owners used slave labor to satisfy the world's need for chocolate. Today's cocoa is
produced by independent growers or cooperative groups around the world.
While there are a few companies which produce handmade chocolates, the majority of the
production is done by machine. It is more cost effective and allows the companies to sell their
product for less than those who handcraft their products.
To this day there are still cultures who believe that chocolate is for use as a form of currency and
for medicinal and religious purposes. In fact the cacao bean has a chemical called theobromine
which is used to treat hypertension, because it enlarges blood vessels. So it is used even in
modern medicine. And cocoa butter is used in some beauty aids such as lotions and cream to
treat skin. It's well known for its rich formula which moistens and softens. It's also great for treating
sunburn. Plus, cacao butter is used to coat pills so they go down one's neck more easily.
There you have it...a little history, a few fun facts...are you craving chocolate? I am! So we'll wrap
this up here. Go grab some chocolate, unwind and appreciate the history which has brought us
this delightful treat.
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