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The history of chocolate


The history of chocolate starts with the first chocolate being drunk rather than eaten. The chocolate residue found in an ancient Maya pot suggests that Mayans were drinking chocolate 2,600 years ago, which is the earliest record of cacao use. The Aztecs associated chocolate with Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility, believing that cacao seeds originated in paradise and would bless anyone who ate them with spiritual wisdom, energy and enhanced sexual powers. The Aztecs discovered that roasting and grinding cocoa seeds made a nourishing paste that could be dissolved in water. In the New World, chocolate was consumed in a bitter and spicy drink called xocoatl, (pronounced ‘shock-ohwattel’) often seasoned with vanilla, chilli pepper, and achiote, (which we know today as annatto). Xocoatl was believed to fight fatigue, a belief that is probably attributable to the theobromine content. Chocolate was an important luxury good throughout pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, cocoa beans were often used as currency and only the highest levels of Aztec society could partake of this sacred beverage and chocolate continued to be a privilege of the elite until the early 1700’s.

Although it was said to be an acquired taste, Christopher Columbus was the first European to bring cocoa beans to show Kind Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, but it was Hernán Cortés who introduced it to Europe in the early 1500’s. The Spanish guarded the secret of chocolate from their European neighbours for almost 100 years, during which time they planted cocoa in their overseas colonies, setting the scene for what was to become a major world commodity.

History shows the first recorded shipment of chocolate to the Old World for commercial purposes was in a shipment from Veracruz to Sevilla in 1585. It was still served as a beverage, but the Europeans added sugar and milk to counteract the natural bitterness and removed the chilli pepper, replacing it with another Mexican indigenous spice, vanilla. Improvements to the taste meant that by the 17th century it was a luxury item among the European nobility. The first form of solid chocolate was invented in Turin by Doret in the 18th Century. 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. Rodolphe Lindt invented the process called conching, which involves heating and grinding the chocolate solids very finely to ensure that the liquid is evenly blended.

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