early history of chocolate... The earliest record of
chocolate was several thousand years ago in the South American
rain forests, around the Amazon and Essequibo rivers, where
the tropical mix of high rain fall combined with high year
round temperatures and humidity provide the ideal climate
for cultivation of the Cacao Tree.
The tree was worshipped by the Mayan civilisation who believed
it to be of divine origin, hence it's generic Latin name meaning
‘Food of the Gods’. Cacao is a Mayan word corrupted into 'Cocoa'
by Europeans meaning "God Food" The Maya brewed a drink by
roasting and pounding cocoa beans with maize and Capsicum
peppers and letting the mixture ferment, for use in ceremonies
as well as for drinking by the wealthy and religious elite,
they also ate a Cacao porridge.
The beans were also prized by the Aztecs who came after the
Mayan's, they used them as currency, 100 beans could buy a
slave or a Turkey. Tribute to the Aztec emperors was made
in cocoa beans, but because their civilisation was further
north and at higher altitudes, the climate was not suitable
for cultivation of the tree, so they acquired the beans through
trade and the spoils of war. Nor was it chocolate as we know
it today, at that time it was enjoyed only as the beverage
fermented - or otherwise - from the raw beans, drinks which
featured prominently in both Mayan and Aztec ritual. The Aztecs
Emperor, Montezuma - who is quoted as saying: "The divine
drink, which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup
of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day
without food" - regarded chocolate as an aphrodisiac and
reputedly drank it fifty times a day from a golden goblet.
In fact, because Taxes and Tribute was paid in them, huge
quantities of cocoa beans (his Treasury) were found in his
palace by the Spanish conquistadors after he was defeated
by Cortez in 1519.
The history of chocolate in Europe...Chocolate was
brought to Europe by Cortez in 1528, by this time the conquistadors
had learned to make the drink more palatable to European tastes
by mixing the ground roasted beans with sugar and vanilla.
The first chocolate factories soon opened in Spain and by
the early 17th century chocolate powder - from which the drink
was made - was being exported to other parts of Europe. The
Spanish kept the source of the drink - the beans - a secret
for many years, so successfully in fact, that when English
pirates boarded what they thought was a Spanish 'Treasure
Galleon' in 1579, only to find it loaded with what appeared
to be 'dried sheep's droppings', they burned the whole ship
in frustration. If only they had known, chocolate was so expensive
at that time, it was worth it's weight in Silver, treasure
The Cocoa beverage made from the powder became popular, first
in Italy then France, the Netherlands, Germany and finally
- in about 1520 - it arrived in England. The first Chocolate
House opened in London in 1657 followed rapidly by many others.
Like the already well established coffee houses they were
used as clubs where the wealthy and business community met
to smoke a clay pipe of tobacco, conduct business and socialise
over a cup of chocolate.
Back to America...Event's went full circle when, in
the early 1700's English colonists carried chocolate (and
coffee) with them to England's colonies in North America,
destined to become the United States of America and Canada,
they are now the worlds largest consumers - by far - of both
Chocolate and Coffee.
Chocolate as we know it...Chocolate was first eaten
in solid form when bakers in England began adding cocoa powder
to cakes in the mid 1600's. In 1828 a Dutch chemist, Johannes
Van Houten, invented a method of extracting the fat or "cocoa
butter" from the roasted ground beans, his aim was to make
the drink smoother and more palatable, however he unknowingly
paved the way for chocolate as we know it.
Chocolate as we know it today first appeared in 1847 when
Fry & Sons - founded 1728 in Bristol, England - mixed Sugar
with Cocoa Powder and Cocoa Butter to produce the first solid
chocolate bar then, in 1875 a Swiss manufacturer, Daniel Peters,
found a way to combine (some would say improve) cocoa powder
and cocoa butter with sugar and dried milk powder to produce
the first milk chocolate - the rest, as they say, is history....
Written By: Janet Vine - Aphrodite Handmade Chocolates.
the Aphrodite web site for handmade Chocolates, Truffles,
Liqueur Marzipan, Liqueurs and Fine Coffee Gifts - Online