The History of Chocolate
We may think that chocolate is a relatively modern invention but the fact is that chocolate has been around for centuries - the chocolate bar may be a new deal in terms of history but not the cacao bean itself! Let’s take a look at some of its historical highlights!
- Chocolate wasn’t always a sweet treat - centuries ago the ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures (among the first people thought to use chocolate) used cacao beans to make a type of chocolate drink. But, with the addition of flavourings such as chilli the chocolate drunk here was more savoury than sweet!
- Cacao was so valued in ancient civilisations that it was often used as a form of currency. When it eventually made its way to Europe it was such an expensive commodity that ordinary people couldn’t afford it and it could still be used to buy you other goods.
- Chocolate came to Europe via the Spanish when they conquered Mexico. They brought cacao back to Spain where they first started to make it a sweet beverage by adding sugar and sweet spices.
- In the 1830s the Fry company were held to produce the first bar of solid chocolate to eat rather than to drink.
- The first milk chocolate is believed to have been made by a chocolatier in Switzerland.
- Mass produced chocolate that could be eaten in a bar (and purchased by everyone) didn’t really appear until the Industrial Revolution when machines were invented that could process beans cost effectively and quickly. The conche machine, for example, gave a piece of chocolate that melt in the mouth texture.
- Chocolate has long been included in ration packs for the armed services as it gives an immediate energy boost - it’s even been sent into space for astronauts to enjoy!