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The History of Chocolate

Updated on October 24, 2009

Cocoa and chocolate were known to the Indians of Mexico, Central America, and South America long before the arrival of the Spanish. Among the Mexican Aztecs, cacao beans were used for money and also to make cocoatl, a highly spiced beverage that was the favorite drink of royalty.

Cocoa beans were first brought to Europe in 1494 by Columbus, but he did not realize their value. Cocoa products did not become popular in Europe until after 1520.

Cortez, who conquered Mexico in 1519, noted the fact that the Aztecs, believing that it was a gift to man from the gods, consumed large quantities of a preparation made from the roasted and ground bean. Montezuma, the Aztec emperor, and his court were said to use fifty jars a day. It was beaten to a paste, flavored with spices and taken cold.

Hernando Cortez showed the Spaniards how to make the Aztec beverage by mixing ground roasted beans with hot water and flavoring the mixture with vanilla and spices. The method of preparing the chocolate drink was kept secret by the Spaniards for about 100 years.

Eventually the secret was discovered by other Europeans, however, and the use of the beverage spread to France, England- and other countries.

In 1657 a Frenchman opened a 'chocolate house' in Bishops-gate, London. During the latter half of the 17th century chocolate houses sprang up all over London and became resorts of politicians, wits, gamblers, and literati. At one, White's in St James's Street, a center for reckless gambling, was founded the first club.

High import duties were imposed on cocoa beans. It was not till 1853 that, by imposition of a uniform penny a pound on imported colonial and foreign beans, the price was brought within reach of the less well-off. Fry's are the oldest cocoa and chocolate firm in the world, having developed from a small concern established in 1728. When chocolate as a sweetmeat was introduced is not certainly known, but as late as 1842 a leading English manufacturer listed only one line' of eating chocolate. Modern drinking cocoa was invented about 1828 by van Houten, the Dutch maker, who expressed part of cocoa butter, but it was not until the 1860s that it was introduced into England by Cadbury's. Hitherto cocoa had been mixed with farinaceous substances in order to counter-balance high fat content. The new process of making cocoa by creating a supply of. cocoa butter enabled more palatable eating chocolate to be made. Sir Hans Sloane prepared a milk chocolate for drinking in the late 18th century. Peter, the Swiss maker, introduced milk chocolate for eating in 1876.

The first chocolate factory in North America was established in Dorchester, Mass., in 1765. Cocoa powder and solid chocolate were not manufactured until the 19th century. Milk chocolate was first made in Switzerland in about 1876.


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    • Longtail profile image

      Longtail 8 years ago

      It's nice to find out the background of the things we LOVE.

    • Patti Ann profile image

      Patti Ann 8 years ago from Florida

      Wow - I sure didn't know all this. I am an avid chocoholic!!