The Chocolate History takes us back to Mesoamerica as the tasty secret of the cacao tree was discovered in the tropical rainforests of the Americas about 2000 years ago. The ‘Chocolate’, the roasted, fermented and ground beans of the Theobroma cacao, is traced back to the Mokaya Country in Central America, with evidence of cacao beverages which dates back to 1900 BC.
The Aztecs during 1200 BC recognized that the cocoa plant was created by their god Quetzalcoatl who had come down from the heaven on a beam of the morning star carrying a cocoa tree which was taken from paradise. The Mayan and the Aztec cultures cocoa was the basis for a thick, cold, unsweetened drink called “Xocoatl” and believed it to be a health elixir. The Aztecs used the cacao bean for a drink. They experimented by adding vanilla, flowers and honey to their drink.
In the 1500’s the chocolate history had taken a unique turn, as chocolate had started becoming recognized in the European countries due to Columbus and Cortes. In 1502, Christopher Columbus first tasted Xocoatl on his fourth voyage to America. Even though he did disliked the drink he took some of the cacao beans back to his homeland as an unusual item to show the people at home.
During the 1519, Hernan Cortes a famous Spanish explorer arrived at the great court of the Aztec king, Montezuma. Later he conquered the Aztecs and began building settlements in the New World, they adapted many traditions and the dining habits of the natives, including chocolate. He later started many plantations in Haiti, Mexico and Trinidad. Cacao was one of the main crops he grew. Legend has it that it was Cortes who first cultivated cacao in West Africa on one of his many travels between Spain and the New World.
Cocoa Fact: In 1657, the first ever chocolate selling house is opened in England by a Frenchman. The chocolate cost around 6 to 8 shillings per pound. It was a drink not for the poor.
In 1828, a Dutch chemist discovered a unique way to make powderized chocolate by extracting half the natural fat (cacao butter) from the chocolate liquor, pulverizing what remained and treating the mixture with alkaline salts to cut the bitter taste. It soon led to the manufacture of solid chocolate. And a few years later in 1847 the first manufacturer of chocolate in England creates the first chocolate bars. Their shop is called J. S. Fry & Sons. Not many people liked this because of its bitter taste.
In 1875, Daniel Peter found a way on how to mingle milk and cocoa powder to create milk chocolate. Peter and Henri Nestlé, later started a company that quickly became the world’s leading maker of chocolate “Nestle“.
Cocoa Fact: Rodolphe Lindt in 1899 sold his secret formula for making fondant chocolate to David Sprüngli for 1.5 million Swiss francs.
The 20th century also saw a rapid growth of chocolate consumers and also the confectionery wars. Mars and Hershey battled for the chocolate supremacy title since the 1940s in the United States, with many counterparts like Rowantree and Cadbury’s duking it out overseas. Industrial espionage was such a huge problem in the chocolate industry in the 1960s that it was parodied in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.