Discover How Chocolate Came to Be

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History of Cacao

While cocoa has been enjoyed and incorporated in a wide array of products around the world, this delicacy has an equally rich and interesting history.

Cocoa, the main ingredient in making delicious chocolate, is made out of cacao beans from Cacao trees. While the history of cocoa has started thousands of years ago, it has been noted that the Mayan civilization has worshiped the Cacao tree and even provided the name Cacao, which means ‘Food of the Gods.’

How Chocolate Production Started Out

According to historians, it was the Olmecs who first discovered that the cacao fruit was edible, as they have observed rats eating the fruit with eagerness. Later on, they realized that the tree produced a fruit that is not only tasteful but also offers various uses.

In 1500 to 400 BC, the Olmecs were considered the first people to make and eat chocolate in the form of a beverage. In making their chocolate drink, the crushed the cocoa beans and mixed the beans with water. They also added chilies, spices, and other herbs.

They started out by cultivating cocoa in Mexico. In the later years around 600 BC to 400 AD, the Mayans and Aztecs respectively developed successful methods in cultivating Cacao trees.

Also, the cocoa bean was utilized as a monetary unit as well as a measuring unit, 400 cacao beans are equivalent to a Zontli while 8000 cacao beans are equivalent to a Xiquipilli. During this civilization’s wars, the preferred method of levying taxes in conquered areas was in the form of cacao beans.

Cocoa as a Symbol of Abundance

For the Mayan and Aztec civilizations, cocoa was considered a symbol of abundance.

The cacao beans were utilized in religious rituals that are dedicated to the Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl, who was believed to be responsible for bringing the Cacao tree to mankind. In addition, cacao beans were also used to honor the Mayan patron saint of cocoa, Chak Ek Chuah.

Lastly, the beans were also used as an offering during funerals of the noble people.

During the Meso-American era, cocoa production has significantly increased. However, the consumption of the cocoa drink remained a privilege for those people who belong to the upper classes. Also, soldiers were privileged to have the drink during battles.

The Commercialization of Cocoa

The true importance of cocoa was not fully recognized until Hernando Cortez, a Spanish Conquistador, drank the cocoa drink with Montezuma, an Aztec emperor. Also, it was Cortez who brought cocoa to the Spanish court along with all the necessary equipment for brewing this rich drink in the year 1528. However, not all people are able to envision the ultimate importance of cocoa as a world commodity.

After winning the war against the native tribes of Aztecs, Cortez has increased the cultivation efforts of the Cacao tree in New Spain, with the sole purpose of developing a lucrative with European regions.

As the years went by, the Spanish court soon fell in love with the exotic drink and even adapted it to their taste, as they added vanilla, sugar cane, cinnamon, and pepper to the drink. Initially, Spain kept cocoa a secret and exclusively used cocoa.

It was in 1585 when the first cargo containing cocoa beans arrive on the Iberian Peninsula from the port of New Spain. At the same time, the trade in cocoa was launched. During this time, the first chocolate shops were established and lead to the rapidly increasing demand for cocoa from the new world.

Chocolate and Its Popularity All Over the World

After a century of holding cocoa trade, Spain lost it control over the European chocolate market.

As the years passed by and around the middle 1600s, cocoa had gained a widespread popularity over other regions, especially in France. The cocoa drink was renowned for being a delicious and healthy drink that was enjoyed by people who belong to the upper class.

In the 1700s, a Frenchman opened the first hot chocolate shop in London. Today, chocolate houses, as they are referred to, are quite a common sight in England.

Advancements in Technology and the Growth of the Chocolate Market

During the 18th century, every country from Austria to England was producing pastries and goodies out of cocoa. At the same time, the invention of steam engine has mechanized cocoa bean grinding, resulting in the reduction of production costs and more affordable chocolate products.

Chocolate-making was revolutionized when the cocoa press was invented. This machine can squeeze fatty cocoa butter from the roasted beans, which leaves behind a dry cake that is pulverized into a fine powder. This fine powder can be mixed with liquid or other ingredients. The mixture can be poured into molds and are left to harden into edible and easily digestible chocolates as we know it.

This revolutionary innovation has brought about the modern era of chocolate making which made it easy to use as an ingredient in many pastries and desserts.

It was in 1847 when the first chocolate bar was created by mixing cocoa butter, sugar and cocoa powder. This delicious goodness was created by JS Fry and Sons, which is a British chocolate company.

In 1879, the conching machine was invented and the creation of a chocolate with superior taste and velvety texture was made possible. Other advancements in technology have allowed the mass production of creamy mild chocolate products.

In fact, family owned chocolate companies like Cadbury, Hershey, and Mars have contributed to the chocolate boom in the late 1800s and early 1900s

Chocolate as We Know It Today

Today, people from around the world enjoy chocolate in different forms. In fact, it has been estimated that more than 3 million tons of cocoa beans are consumed annually.

Throughout the course of the development of chocolate, people have always loved the taste of the ‘food of the gods’ and has constantly adored it tasteful flavor. Today, both children and adults consume chocolate not only because of its rich flavor but also because of its other healthful benefits.

References:

http://www.worldagroforestry.org/treesandmarkets/inaforesta/history.htm

http://www.medicinehunter.com/brief-history-cocoa

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-chocolate-21860917/

http://www.wilburchocolate.com/chocolatelore/history/

 

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