Who doesn’t love chocolate? It makes the perfect snack, the perfect dessert, and the perfect gift for anyone. But have you ever thought about where it actually comes from? Read on for some fun facts on the 4000-year history of the world’s favourite sweet treat.
You’ll be surprised to hear that chocolate used to be drunk as a bitter mixture with boiled water rather than being eating as a sweet the way it is today.
It was first created by cultures predating the Olmecs around 1900 BC. They fermented and roasted beans from the cacao plants cultivated in the rainforests. These cacao beans were then ground into paste form, then mixed with water, spices, vanilla and honey to create the chocolate drink.
The Olmec and Mayan civilisations believed that chocolate had spiritual and mystical properties. They found that it enhanced their mood and left them feeling more invigorated. Chocolate was saved for priests and high warriors at sacred ceremonies because this civilization even boasted a cacao god.
In the 14th century, the Aztecs craved cacao beans but couldn’t grow it in central Mexico as the conditions in the highlands were too dry. They managed to get their hands on some by trading with the Mayans.
At this point in history, cacao beans were so highly desired they were actually used as currency - in the 1500s a turkey hen could be purchased for 100 cacao beans!
In the 16th century, the Aztecs also considered the cacao beans as an aphrodisiac. The emperor Montezuma consumed three gallons every day as he believed it would help increase his libido.
Chocolate was widely considered to be a symbol of wealth, most commonly consumed by elites and royals.
In the 1500s, Spanish travellers returned from Mexico with chocolate. Shortly after, the popularity spread to many other European courts. Many believed that it had health benefits. They loved it so much in Europe that they built plantations in regions with suitable climates for growth.
For many decades, chocolate continued to be enjoyed as a drink primarily by aristocrats. In 1828 the world of chocolate was revolutionised by Coenraad Johannes van Houten who was a Dutch chemist. He invented the cocoa press, which turned roasted cacao beans into a solid edible chocolate. The invention led to lower production costs, which meant that chocolate became affordable enough the masses.
In 1847, the first chocolate bar was produced by British chocolatiers J.S. Fry & Sons, using cocoa powder, sugar, and cocoa butter. Over the years it evolved into the smoother and creamier milk chocolate that we know and love today.
The chocolate brands that we regularly consume these days such as Cadbury, Hershey and Mars were created in the late 1800s to early 1900s. With the advent of these companies, the popularity of chocolate continued to rise.
In current times, chocolate is consumed by pretty much every country all around the world, and chocolate gifts are commonly exchanged on many of the major holidays such as Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day.
Lovers of chocolate, take note. If you’re looking for gift ideas, we offer UK delivery for all chocolate gifts such as the divine selection in the Chocolate Lover Deluxe Box.
(Photo - A Maya lord forbids an individual from touching a container of chocolate)