OriginsThe Olmecs (1500-400 BC) were almost certainly the first humans to consume chocolate, originally in the form of a drink. They crushed the cocoa beans, mixed them with water and added spices, chillies and herbs. They began cultivating cocoa in equatorial Mexico. Over time, the Mayans (600 BC) and Aztecs (400 AD) developed successful methods for
For these civilizations, cocoa was a symbol of abundance. It was used in religious rituals dedicated to Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god responsible for bringing the cocoa tree to man, to Chak ek Chuah, the Mayan patron saint of chocolate and as an offering at the funerals of noblemen.
Cocoa production advanced as people migrated throughout Meso-America but consumption of the drink remained a privilege for the upper classes and for soldiers during battle. By this time, the re-invigorating and fortifying virtues of cocoa were becoming widely recognized and embraced.
By 1400, the Aztec empire took over a sizable part of Mesoamerica. The Aztecs traded with Mayans and other people for cocoa and often required citizens and conquered people to pay their tribute in cocoa seeds— a form of Aztec money.
Like the earlier Mayans, the Aztecs also ate their bitter chocolate drink seasoned with spices—sugar was an agricultural product unavailable to the ancient Mesoamericans.
Drinking chocolate was an important part of the Maya and Aztec life. Many people in Classic Period Mayan society could drink chocolate at least on occasion, although it was a particularly favored beverage for royalty. But in Aztec society, primarily rulers, priests, decorated soldiers, and honored merchants could partake of this sacred brew.
Chocolate also played a special role in both Maya and Aztec royal and religious events. Priests presented cacao seeds as offerings to the gods and served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies. All of the areas that were conquered by the Aztecs that grew cacao beans were ordered to pay them as a tax, or as the Aztecs called it, a "tribute".Pueblo people, who lived in an area that is now the U.S. Southwest, imported cacao from Mesoamerican cultures in southern Mexico or Central America between 900 to 1400. They was used in a common beverage consumed by everyone in their society.
The first chocolate house opened in London in 1657. In 1689, noted physician and collector Hans Sloane developed a milk chocolate drink in Jamaica which was initially used by apothecaries. At the end of the 18th century, the first form of solid chocolate was invented in Turin. This chocolate was sold in large quantities from 1826 by Pierre Paul Caffarel. In 1819, F. L. Cailler opened the first Swiss chocolate factory.
In 1828, Dutchman Coenraad Johannes van Houten patented a method for extracting the fat from cocoa beans and making powdered cocoa and cocoa butter. Van Houten also developed the so-called "Dutch process" of treating chocolate with alkali to remove the bitter taste. This made it possible to form the modern chocolate bar. It is believed that the Englishman Joseph Fry made the first chocolate for eating in 1847, followed in 1849 by the Cadbury brothers.
Daniel Peter, a Swiss candle maker, joined his father-in-law's chocolate business. In 1867, he began experimenting with milk as an ingredient. He brought his new product, milk chocolate, to market in 1875. He was assisted in removing the water content from the milk to prevent mildewing by a neighbour, a baby food manufacturer named Henri Nestlé. Milton Hershey used a process called conching to make chocolate even more popular by mass producing chocolate bars on the cheap.
The industrial era led to fundamental changes for chocolate and cocoa, impacting everyone from grower to end consumer. Spain, the first exporter of chocolate, opened the first chocolate factory in 1780 in Barcelona, followed shortly thereafter by Germany and Switzerland in the inexorable, relentless march towards full industrialization of cocoa.
The origins of cocoa also gradually changed. Europeans began increasingly to colonise Africa, and they brought the cocoa tree with them. Cocoa was successfully planted in Sao Tome and Principe and then migrated as plantations spread throughout the African continent. The industrial epoch led to the slow decline of production in South America, despite its expansion from its original growing areas to the Amazon River and saw a new cocoa empire emerge on African soil. In effect, since the start of the 20th century, Africa has taken the lead and has become the biggest cocoa producer.
Industrialization has had a marked democratizing effect on chocolate, transforming it from a rare delicacy reserved for royals, to a widely available and readily affordable treat for the masses. Not surprisingly, a plethora of new chocolate products began appearing as it became more popular, including chocolate with dried fruits, with liqueurs, Chocolate Fondue, Chocolate Mousse, praline, stuffed chocolates, powdered, spreads, frostings, pastes, hard candies, chocolate milk shakes and many, many others. Either hand-made or as a fast food, it is now an established part of the world’s vocabulary and diet. Many improvements have been made since its ancient origins as a drink.
Chocolate followed the French and American infantry into the trenches of the First World War, and effectively all US chocolate production was requisitioned for the military during the Second World War. In France, chocolate sweets appeared between the wars, and French pralines (chocolates filled with almond and other nut based fillings) were considered the most fashionable. This inspired chocolate producers to experiment with new flavors, such as almond paste, cherries in aqua vitae, nougat, caramel and many more.
France, 1776 -Doret invents a hydraulic process to grind cocoa beans into a paste, facilitating the first large-scale production of chocolate.
Holland, 1828 -Chemist Coenraad van Houten invents a process for extracting cocoa butter, allowing for the extraction of cocoa powder. This makes chocolate more homogenous and less costly to produce.
England, 1847 -Solid chocolate is offered to the general public for the first time, by the English company Fry and Sons (prior to this time, solid chocolate was available exclusively within royal courts).
Switzerland, 1830-1879 -Chocolate flavored with hazelnuts is followed by milk chocolate, developed by Daniel Peter and Henri Nestlé respectively. During the same period, Rodolphe Lindt develops the chocolate fondant (fondu).
United States, 1893 -Sweet maker Milton Hershey spots chocolate making equipment at the Worlds Fair in Chicago and begins production at a factory in Pennsylvania.