The History of Chocolate – A Gift From the Gods!

History of Chocolate

Who doesn’t love Chocolate? A velvety, decadent, and heavenly treat that has been a source of comfort, indulgence, and even currency for centuries. Prepare to satisfy your sweet tooth and feed your curiosity as we discover the history of chocolate: from its mystical beginnings as a sacred elixir considered a gift from the gods to its transformation into the sweet, irresistible delicacy we know today.

Cacao vs Cocoa

Let’s begin by establishing the difference between Cacao and Cocoa, two related terms usually used interchangeably.

Cacao refers to the plant in its raw unprocessed product. The cacao tree produces pods containing cacao beans. Cacao powder is made by cold pressing raw cacao beans to remove the cacao butter and then grinding it into a fine powder.

Cocoa refers to the cacao beans that have been processed, usually roasted and ground to remove the cacao butter resulting in the cocoa powder used for baking and making hot chocolate.

Cacao – Ancient Beginnings

The origins of chocolate can be traced back to ancient Mesoamerican civilizations where the cacao tree was first cultivated. The Mayans and Aztecs believed the cacao fruit had supernatural qualities and therefore considered it a gift from their gods. Roasted cacao beans were ground to a paste-like consistency and mixed with hot water and spices including chili peppers and vanilla to make a bitter beverage that would be consumed only by the elites of their society.

This drink was called “xocolatl” which translates to bitter water. Xocolatl held spiritual significance and was used in ceremonial offerings and rituals. The Aztecs held cacao in such high regard to the point of using the beans as currency for trade and tribute. They also believed it had medicinal properties and used it to treat ailments like fever cough and even indigestion. Emperor Montezuma II was known to indulge in copious amounts of chocolate daily, he believed it to be an aphrodisiac.

Chocolate arrival in Europe

Christopher Columbus is credited with bringing cacao beans back to Europe after his fourth voyage to the Americas in 1502. However, it wasn’t until the Spanish conquistadors with Hernan Cortes invaded Mexico in the early 16th century that cacao began to gain popularity in Europe. Hernan Cortes and his fellow conquistadors were fascinated by the Aztec cacao preparations and introduced it to Europe upon their return. The Spaniards discovered the potential commercial value of the cacao beans and began adding sugar and other flavorings to create a sweeter version of the original bitter cacao beverage.

The Spanish kept their chocolate drink recipe a secret for many years, allowing them to maintain a monopoly. Chocolate became popular among the elites in Europe, and eventually, the love for chocolate spread across the continent, reaching France, England, and beyond.

The Chocolate Bar

In 1828, Conrad Van Houten developed a hydraulic press that separated cocoa solids from cocoa butter, creating cocoa powder. This made it easier to produce chocolate in solid form.

Milk chocolate was created in 1875 by Daniel Peter in Switzerland, who used Henri Nestl√©’s powdered milk. This invention marked the beginning of the creamy and smooth chocolate bars we savor today.

In 1879, Rudolf Lindt invented a machine that mixed and aerated chocolate, giving it a smooth, melt-in-your-mouth consistency.

Chocolate Today Around the World

Chocolate can be found in every corner of the world, and every country puts its own spin on this sweet treat. In Switzerland, chocolate is often made by smaller, artisanal chocolatiers that prioritize quality and purity. Belgium is world-renowned for its chocolate-making techniques used for truffles and pralines. Mexican chocolate is still made from coarsely ground cacao, granulated sugar, and cinnamon, and in some cases, chiles, nuts, and spices are also added into the mix, for a complex and intense flavor.

Types of Chocolate

Today you can find many types of chocolates to choose from. Dark chocolate has become famous for its health benefits. Milk chocolate is a sweeter chocolate that contains less cocoa solids and more sugar and milk. White chocolate is made from cocoa butter rather than cocoa solids and has a distinct creamy flavor. Other types of chocolates include baking chocolate, sweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, and couverture chocolate.

The History of Chocolate is nothing short of fascinating. From being considered a gift from the gods to a luxury reserved for the elite to a popular treat for all, the story of chocolate spans across different cultures and eras. While we may not use it as a form of currency or believe that it has magical healing properties anymore, it’s safe to say that chocolate will continue to be a beloved treat for generations to come.



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