Chocolate has long been a confection enjoyed around the world. It was first eaten in Mesoamerica, but probably tasted nothing like it does today. It was prepared by roasting, fermenting, or grinding the cacao beans as early as 1900 BC. Chocolate was important to Aztec and Mayan cultures and was used in religious ceremonies. Chocolate drinks were also presented by priests as offerings to the gods. Chocolate was also served as a thick porridge or in powder form.
Chocolate began to take its modern form in Europe as people added sugar and milk to the cacao mixture. Prior to the addition of sweeteners and fats, chocolate was mainly pure cacao and had a bitter taste. In the 19th century, John Cadbury created a process by which solid chocolate could be formed into a bar. Today, Cadbury chocolate is still a popular brand.
During the travels and explorations of Christopher Columbus, chocolate was used as currency. He brought the beans to Spain, but chocolate was not widely accepted in the country until years later around the mid-1500s.
Chocolate as a Gift
During the mid-1600s chocolate gained popularity in France. Louis XIV was given an engagement gift of chocolate, making it more than just a
treat, but something to be viewed as en vogue for the time. Throughout the 1600s chocolate was popular in Paris and viewed as an aphrodisiac, and was included in literature and art.
The process for making chocolate stayed relatively the same until the Industrial Revolution. During this period, mechanical mills were created that removed cocoa butter to create the hardened chocolate and the first official chocolate factory appeared in the United States in 1755. Following the development of these large chocolate making mills, commercial chocolate began production and the chocolate market began to develop into what we know it as today. The cocoa press was invented in 1828, making it easy to create chocolate beverages that had a smoother taste. ‘
Modern Milk Chocolate
Further developments in the field of chocolate included milk chocolate and filled chocolates. It took nearly a decade, but Daniel Peter of Switzerland perfected the technique of making milk chocolate and it was in 1875 when the creamy confection was introduced to the market. In 1923, the Chocolate Manufacturers Association of the United States was organized and fifteen years later the government began offering chocolate to soldiers in battle. Today, rations include three chocolate bars per soldier.
Cadbury is no longer the only producer of chocolate in the United States. Other popular chocolatiers include Ghiardelli, Hershey, and Nestle. Milton Hershey’s Hershey Company has been so successful there is an entire city in Pennsylvania dedicated to the production of chocolate. An amusement park filled with chocolate themed attractions is located in the center of the town and visitors can tour a model factory to learn about the process and history of chocolate making. Today, chocolate is one of the world’s most loved confections. There has been a return to more pure forms of chocolate, due to the proven health benefits of cacao, but many still love the creamy sweetness of milk chocolate.