The History of Chocolate

The History of Chocolate

Cocoa Beans date back to 5,000 years ago, with the Cacao plant originally being enjoyed as a drink by the Mayo-Chinchipe culture. This bitter liquid chocolate evolved over the years to become a delicious enjoyed across the world, but how did it end up as a sweet treat loved by many?

Chocolate confectionery has a rich history and we are going to delve into it.

The Ancient Origins of Cocoa Beans

The Cacao Tree is native to Southern America and the Olmecs, considered the 'mother culture' of Mesoamerica, were among the first civilisations to cultivate the tree in this region. There is evidence to suggest they consumed Cocoa as early as 1900 BCE, where it was used in ceremonies and rituals as drinking chocolate.

In 600 BC. the Maya migrated to northern South America and established the first cocoa plantations in what is now Yucatan. Hieroglyphs and artifacts depict cacao's importance in Maya society, where Mayan chocolate was consumed as a bitter beverage in religious rituals, as a ceremonial drink and at social gatherings. The society of the Maya considered chocolate to be the food of the Gods.

Inherited from their predecessors, the Aztecs elevated Chocolates status in their culture. Cocoa beans were used as currency used for trading for goods and services. Chocolate drinks were made from roasted cocoa beans were consumed by their nobility and warriors as it was believed to impart strength and vitality.

The Aztecs, also used to believe that the god Quetzalcoatl, who came on Earth on the ray of the morning star, brought a cocoa tree as a gift to people and taught them how to roast and grind its fruits and prepare a nutritious paste from which you can make a chocolate drink.

Ritual and Cultural Significance of Cacao

Intertwined with religion, social customs and economic systems - Cocoa held a sacred place in the Mesoamerican society.

Divine Connection

For the Mesoamerican society, Chocolate was more than just a food. It was a divine substance that had a lot of spiritual significance. The Cocoa Bean was used in rituals that symbolised fertility, rebirth and the cycle of life and death. This food was offered to Gods and ancestors as a form of gratitude.

Social Currency

Among the Mayans and the Aztecs, Cocoa beans were a form of currency in trade networks. The wealth and power of the elites was often measured by the quantity of Cocoa beans they possessed.

Early Chocolate Preparation Techniques

The journey from cacao pod to chocolate beverage was a labor intensive process. Cacao beans were harvested, fermented, and dried before being roasted to develop their rich flavour. The roasted beans were then ground into a paste, which could be mixed with water, spices, and other ingredients to create a frothy chocolate drink.

Mesoamerican artisans used stone metates and manos to grind cacoa beans into a smooth paste. These handcrafted tools, passed down through generations, played a vital role in the preparation of chocolate beverages and were central to Mesoamerican culinary traditions.

European Encounter

A pivotal moment in history, chocolate was introduced to Europe and it forever altered the culinary landscape.

Christopher Columbus

In 1492, Christopher Columbus's voyage to the Americas encountered the cocoa bean. Despite initially misunderstanding the significance, Columbus brought it back to Europe as an exotic curiosity.

The arrival of this bean in Europe sparked curiosity among the Spanish elite. It was not until the early 16th century that the secrets of cocoa and how it was consumed were known.

Spanish Conquest

A pivotal moment in the global spread of chocolate was Hernan Cortes's conquest of the Aztec Empire in 1519. One of the many treasures bought back to Spain were Cocoa Beans, and most importantly the knowledge of how to prepare the chocolate drink the Aztecs consumed.

Cacao plantations were established in Spanish colonies, particularly in the Caribbean and Central America, to meet the growing demand for chocolate in Europe.

Spanish chocolate made its way to other European countries, including France, Italy, and England, as merchants and explorers traversed the continent, spreading the taste of chocolate far and wide.

Chocolate's Transformation

What was initially consumed as a spicy, frothy drink, chocolate was not the kind of sweet treat that was enjoyed in Europe - so it had to undergo a gradual transformation to suit the tastes of this continent.

Sugar, honey and sweet spices such as cinnamon and vanilla transformed the taste of chocolate. It became fit for the Royalty of Europe. By the 17th century, fashionable chocolate houses were a popular meeting place for the rich and upper classes to socialise and enjoy sweet chocolate.

The Industrial Revolution

A new era of chocolate production was marked by the Industrial Revolution when it was completely transformed into a mass market sensation that revolutionised the way chocolate was consumed.

Mechanisation of Chocolate Production

The game changer was the mechanisation of chocolate production. This lowered costs, increased efficiency and expanded accessibility further that those of nobility. New machinery that was powered by steam engines and later electricity, meant that the stages of making chocolate such as processing, grinding, the chocolate press, and refining chocolate liquor was made easy in the chocolate industry.

One of the most significant advancements was the invention of the cocoa press by Dutch chocolatier Coenraad Van Houten in 1828. The cocoa press enabled the extraction of cocoa butter from roasted cacao beans, resulting in the creation of cocoa powder.

A Popular Consumer Good

As the production of chocolate was made easier and quicker, what was once considered a treat for the rich and Royal, became accessible to the masses. People from all walks of life were able to begin consuming chocolate.

The affordability and availability of chocolate sparked a surge in demand, leading to the establishment of chocolate factories and the proliferation of chocolate brands.

Chocolate Mass Production

Joseph Fry produced the world's first solid chocolate bar in 1847 by mixing cocoa powder with sugar and cocoa butter. This breakthrough of the first chocolate bar laid the foundation for the modern chocolate bar as we know it today. Fry and Sons was the largest chocolate manufacturer in the world during the late 19th century.

John Cadbury, the founder of the Cadbury chocolate company that we all know and love today, capitalised on the technological advancements of the Industrial Revolution to meet the demands and needs for chocolate.

Cadbury's unique marketing strategies such as chocolate boxes for gift giving helped popularise chocolate as a symbol of love and affection.

Real chocolate has always been considered a luxury. Until the first cafe serving chocolate was opened in London in 1657. Mass production had begun!

Modern Era of Chocolate

The world eats 600,000 tons of chocolate annually, which makes chocolate production the one of the most popular food industries. It's enjoyed in many different forms from hot chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, milk chocolate, bars, deserts, and chocolate delivery is a huge trend. From hampers, gift baskets, chocolates from around the world Chocolate is delivered to peoples doors every day!

People are even no combining products and bars are made to look like flower bouquets! Check out our gorgeous chocolate bouquets to see what we mean.

Chocolate is one of the few products that has transformed from a bitter drink to an exquisite dessert of the nobility and a wide range of mass consumption products. In addition to its taste and commercial value, chocolate has the ability to cheer up and give strength.

Companies in every part of the world are utilising this favourite products to make huge ranges of gifts for people of every age. Kids can enjoy classic bars like Freddos, adults can enjoy luxury chocolate hampers which include brands like Ferrero Rocher and Lindt. And the elderly can reminisce with chocolates from when they were younger as most of the companies still exist to this very day. 

Innovations in Chocolate Manufacturing

Technology has advanced, which has meant that there has been many innovations in the history of chocolate manufacturing across the world. New and exciting chocolate products have made their way to our shelves - from 3D printed bars to personalised bars - the chocolate world is fulled with creativity.