Chocolate is made from cacao beans. People have cultivated cacao trees for a very long time. But chocolate as we know it today is a relatively new discovery. Here is a brief history of chocolate and cacao and the various discoveries about them.
Cultivation of Cacao
The Mesoamericans or ancient Native Americans were the first to cultivate cacao. The Olmec Indians would grow them and harvest the seeds as early as 1,500 BC until their demise in 300 BC. From there the cacao became a prized drink among the Mayan and Azec nobilities. This drink is not like the modern chocolate drink. It was bitter and strongly flavored. In fact, the word “chocolate” derives from a Nahuatl term for “bitter water.”
What’s in Chocolate
All Mesoamericans made chocolate drink in basically the same way. First, the cacao beans were fermented. Then they were dried and the shells removed. The nibs were then ground and turned to a liquid, the fermented chocolate.
Modern chocolate is sweeter than traditional Indian chocolate. This is due to a change in the ingredients. Originally the chocolate liquid contained both cacao butter and cacao solids. Nowadays chocolate often has sugar and milk added to it. White chocolate hasno cacao solids in it, so it isn’t real chocolate.
Rediscovery of Chocolate
Christopher Columbus did not find much gold when he first came to America. But he sure found something that was nearly as good—chocolate. Columbus is credited wit being the first European to import cacao beans. The chocolate drink became an instant hit in Spain.
Popular Consumption of Chocolate
Just like in the Americas, chocolate was the privilege of the rich at the time. A French-owned coffee shop in London named The Coffee Mill and Tobacco Roll was the first to offer it to the general public. But it was so expensive that few could afford it.
People found more and more things to do with chocolate. By the late 1600s, bakers were using it to flavor their breads, cakes and rolls.
Who discovered the chocolate bar?
Perhaps the most recognizable form chocolate has today is the chocolate bar. A Frenchman had previously discovered how to grind chocolate. Now an Englishman named Joseph Fry made a steam engine to grind cacao beans. This machine allowed for the mass production (and lower cost) of chocolate. Fry later founded a company, Fry & Sons. It merged with Cadbury and they made the first chocolate bars.
Chocolate as a treat continued to evolve. Richard Cadbury, son of the Cadbury founder, also invented the first heart-shaped chocolate box popular for Valentine’s Day. Milk chocolate was discovered by Daniel Peters of Switzerland.
Today everyone can enjoy chocolate as a drink, snack or flavoring for all kinds of desserts. It is one of the most enjoyable discoveries ever made by civilization.