The history of chocolate begins in Mesoamerica. Chocolate, can be traced to the Mokaya and other pre-Olmec people, with evidence of cacao beverages dating back to 1900 BC. The Europeans sweetened and fattened it by adding refined sugar and milk, two ingredients unknown to the Mexicans.
Milk chocolate is the best-selling variety of chocolate in the world today. In 1875 Swiss chocolatier, M. Daniel Peter, perfected the production of milk chocolate, which is sweeter and smoother than dark chocolate. Peter's main obstacle in producing milk chocolate was the effect of water. Adding water to chocolate caused the chocolate shrink, separate and generally fall apart. However when Peter visited Henry Nestle, inventer of evaporated milk he came up with the idea of mixing sweetened condensed milk with chocolate.
For thirty years Peter's company, Peter, Cailler, Kohler used Nestlé for milk and relied on it for marketing expertise. Eventually, in 1929, the inevitable happened and the two companies merged when Nestle took control of Peter, Cailler, Kohler.Milk chocolate quickly became the chocolate variety of choice. With companies like Nestle and Lindt producing it in Switzerland, Stollwerk making it in Germany and Cadbury's manufacturing it in Britain it quickly became the number chocolate product of Europe and quickly spread to the the United States. Its popularity remains to the present day.
The British company Fry, trading as J. S. Fry & Sons, is commonly given credit for making the first solid chocolate. Fry took cocoa powder, extracted cocoa butter and sugar and mixed them to produce the first solid chocolate in 1847. Fry's sold 'chocolat delicieux a manger' in 1847 and Cadbury Brothers, another British Chocolate manufacturer, were selling a similar product only two years later. After producing the first ever edible chocoalte bar, Fry's expanded their production and began manufacturing the Chocolate Cream bar in 1866. In the decades that followed over 220 products were introduced, including, in 1914, the Fry's Turkish bar.
The modern era of chocolate making began in 1828 when Van Houten patented his method for removing most of the cocoa butter from processed cacao, leaving a powdered chocolate. Untreated cocoa mass, or “liquor,” the end result of grinding cacao beans, contains about 53% cocoa butter. Van Houten invented a hydraulic press which reduced the amount to about 27%, leaving a cake that could be pulverized into a fine powder, which we know as cocoa. To improve this powder’s ability to mix with liquid, Van Houten treated it with alkaline salts, which came to be known as “Dutching.”
Even before they declared their independence from England, the American colonists were making chocolate. Physician Dr. James Baker and Irish immigrant John Hannon opened New England’s first chocolate factory in 1765 at a water-powered mill in Massachusetts. Chocolate was considered a staple, and it was made in America. The colonists imported only the raw materials, cocoa beans, from the West Indies. After the Townshend Acts of 1767 levied taxes on shipments of tea, drinking chocolate became patriotic. During the Revolutionary War, Americans also copied the ancients’ practice of using cacao as food for its fighters, including it in rations.
Chocolate was a European symbol of wealth and power. Because cacao and sugar were expensive imports, only those with money could afford to drink chocolate. In fact, in France, chocolate was a state monopoly that could be consumed only by members of the royal court.Like the Maya and the Aztecs, Europeans developed their own special protocol for the drinking of chocolate. They even designed elaborate porcelain and silver serving pieces and cups for chocolate that acted as symbols of wealth and power.
Wealthy 16th and 17th century Europeans drank hot chocolate for reasons of health. When the Spanish introduced chocolate to Europe, the native Mesoamerican “food of the gods” became a drug, a treatment prescribed in the humoral medical system of the day.
The Spanish nobility quickly took to this new and exciting beverage, as did Catholic priests in Spain, who used the high-energy drink to sustain themselves during religious fasts. But it seems the Spanish wanted to keep the chocolate discovery from the rest of Europe. For close to a century, Spain hid the secret of the cacao beans, restricting their processing exclusively to monks hidden away in Spanish monasteries.
Indeed, the secret was so well kept that when English pirates boarded what they thought was a Spanish treasure ship in 1579, they mistook its huge cache of cacao beans for a worthless load of dried sheep's droppings. In frustration, the pirates torched the whole ship, not realizing that they were destroying a cacao trove that would eventually be worth a king's ransom in their homeland.
Indigenous peoples provided labor for landowners in the Americas. In Spain, people couldn’t get enough of this new drink, which had never been tasted before outside the Americas. Keeping up with the demand for chocolate required the labor of millions of people to tend, harvest, and process both sugar and cacao. From the early 1600s until the late 1800s, enslaved people provided most of this labor—the most inexpensive way for plantation owners to produce large quantities. The first people enslaved for the sake of chocolate were Mesoamericans. The Spanish didn’t like the bitter flavor of chocolate. At first, Cortés and his men weren’t thrilled by chocolate’s taste. To spice up the brew a bit, they began heating the beverage and adding a variety of ingredients.
Chocolate, prepared as a beverage, was introduced to the Spanish court in 1544 by Kek'chí Maya nobles, brought from Cobán, Guatemala, by Dominican friars to meet Prince Philip. The first load of beans arrived to Sevilla, Spain in 1585. (Coe and Coe 1996). Within a century, the culinary and medical uses of chocolate spread to France, England and elsewhere in Western Europe. Demand for this beverage led the French to establish cacao plantations in the Caribbean, while Spain subsequently developed their cacao plantations in their Philippine colony (Bloom 1998, Coe and Coe 1996, Knapp 1930). Cacao subsequently flourished in the 1880s after introduction as a commercial crop to the English Gold Coast colonies in West Africa.
Contact between Spaniards and Aztecs opened a gateway for the exchange of ideas and technology—and a new European market for foods like cacao.The Spanish carried cacao home with them. In 1521, Cortés led his forces against Montezuma’s warriors and defeated them in battle. The Spanish soldiers demanded that Aztec nobles hand over their treasures or be killed. Cacao, a treasured treat and a form of Aztec money, became one of the spoils of war. Spanish soldiers claimed the Aztec’s supply of cacao and began to demand it from the same peoples from whom the Aztecs had demanded tribute. Before long, cacao and chocolate made their way to Spain.
Christopher Columbus may have been the first Old World explorer to come across cacao beans. In his fourth and final voyage to the New World, Columbus, along with his son Ferdinand and their crew, happened upon Mayan traders in two large canoes. Among the canoe's contents were fine clothes, weapons, even a copper bell, as well as a large number of unfamiliar beans. Columbus showed no interest in a load of what to him seemed worthless beans, but Ferdinand did note that when any of these beans fell to the ground, the natives would scramble to retrieve each one "as if an eye had fallen" from their heads. Columbus didn't bother bringing any of these strange beans back to Europe.
Both the Mayans and Aztecs believed the cacao bean had magical, or even divine, properties, suitable for use in the most sacred rituals of birth, marriage and death. According to Chloe Doutre-Roussel's book The Chocolate Connoisseur, Aztec sacrifice victims who felt too melancholy to join in ritual dancing before their death were often given a gourd of chocolate (tinged with the blood of previous victims) to cheer them up.
The Aztecs couldn’t grow cacao, so they traded for it.The cacao tree will not flourish in the dry highlands of central Mexico, at one time the seat of the Aztec empire. So the Aztecs traded with the Maya and other peoples in order to receive a steady supply of seeds for chocolate.
Chocolate was made from roasted cocoa beans, water and a little spice: and it was the most important use of cocoa beans, although they were also valued as a currency [in pre-modern Latin America]. Cacao beans were worth transporting for long distances because they were luxury items. In Mayan times, one of the privilege of the elite (the royal house, nobles, shamans, artist, merchants, and warriors) was to drink chocolate.
Mayan Merchants often traded cocoa beans for other commodities, and for cloth, Jade, Obsidian and ceremonial feathers.
We know that at the time of the Spanish Conquest, there were a number of written records describing the importance of cacao by the Aztec and Maya (Millon 1955; Gasco 1987; Coe & Coe 2004). But, very little data exist, chemical or otherwise, for the origins of cacao use in Mesoamerica. In 2002, researchers revealed that the Maya Lowlands may have been one of the first areas in which cacao cultivation and the custom of chocolate drinking occurred.
Many modern historians have estimated that chocolate has been around for about 2000 years, but recent research suggests that it may be even older.In the book The True History of Chocolate, authors Sophie and Michael Coe make a case that the earliest linguistic evidence of chocolate consumption stretches back three or even four millennia, to pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica such as the Olmec. Last November, anthropologists from the University of Pennsylvania announced the discovery of cacao residue on pottery excavated in Honduras that could date back as far as 1400 B.C.E. It appears that the sweet pulp of the cacao fruit, which surrounds the beans, was fermented into an alcoholic beverage of the time.
Etymologists trace the origin of the word "chocolate" to the Aztec word "xocoatl," which referred to a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. The Latin name for the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, means "food of the gods."