History Of Chocolate Timeline: Chocolate is firstly invented approximately 4,000 years ago, around the year 1900 B.C., pre-Olmec cultures living in present-day Mexico. In that zone grows a very special plant, the cacao plant. The cacao plant develops cacao beans which are used to make chocolate. The Olmecs didn’t use the cacao beans to make chocolate bars. Rather, they roasted the beans, ground them up, mixed the paste with some spices and perhaps a little bit of honey, and then consume it as a warm beverage.
This cacao beverage may sound a sample like hot chocolate, but it tasted much disparate. Without sugar, cacao beans can be very bitter. So why exactly would the Olmecs want to drink something that tasted bitter? For the Olmec people, cacao was regarded as a food of the gods. It was used to strengthen a person’s mood, and only a handful of people, such as rulers, priests, and warriors, were actually granted to use it. Over time, the Mayan people also discovered cacao. Around the year 600 A.D., the Mayans began cultivating cacao beans on large industries in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.
Through industry, chocolate became popular with the Aztecs, too. Their word for chocolate was xocalatl which kind of sounds a bit like the word we use today. In fact, cacao beans were so valued that the Aztecs used it as a form of currency. You could actually buy things with chocolate beans!
1,500 BC: The people of Central America begin to drink chocolate
1500 AD: The Aztecs drink chocolate
1500: The Spanish bring chocolate to Spain. Later chocolate drinking spreads to other parts of Europe.
1657: A chocolate house opens in England where you can buy a drink of chocolate
1765: The first chocolate factory in America opens
1795: Steam engines are used to grind cocoa beans making chocolate cheaper
1847: The first chocolate bar is made
1849: The first box of chocolates is made
1875: Milk chocolate is invented
1899: Queen Victoria sends every one of her soldiers fighting in the Boer War a chocolate bar
1905: Dairy Milk is introduced
1908: Toblerone goes on sale
1910: Walnut Whip goes on sale
1915: Milk Tray goes on sale
1920: Flake goes on sale
1921: Fruit and Nut goes on sale
1923: Milky Way goes on sale in the USA
1929: Crunchie goes on sale
1930: Snickers and Freddo go on sale
1932: Mars Bar goes on sale. So does Terry’s Chocolate Orange and All Gold.
1933: The whole Nut goes on sale. So does Black Magic.
1935: Aero and Kit Kat are introduced
1936: Maltesers and Blue Riband go on sale. Dairy Box and Quality Street also go on sale.
1937: Smarties, Rolo and Milky Bar go on sale
1938: Cadbury’s Roses go on sale. Ruth Wakefield invents chocolate chip cookies
1951: Bounty goes on sale
1957: Munchies goes on sale
1958: Picnic goes on sale
1959: Caramac goes on sale
1960: Galaxy goes on sale
1962: Topic goes on sale. After Eight goes on sale.
1963: Toffee Crisp goes on sale
1967: Twix goes on sale
1971: Yorkie, Double Decker, and Lion Bar go on sale
1983: Wispa goes on sale
How Chocolate Is Made
Chocolate is made from the beans of cacao trees, which are homegrown to Central and South America. The fruits are called pods and each pod contains around 40 cacao beans. The beans are drained and roasted to create cocoa beans. It’s uncertain exactly when cacao came on the scene or who invented it.
According to Hayes Lavis, cultural arts director for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, ancient Olmec pots and vessels from around 1500 B.C. were discovered with vestiges of theobromine, a stimulant compound found in chocolate and tea. It’s assumed the Olmecs used cacao to create a ceremonial drink. However, since they kept no written history, point of view differ on if they used cacao beans in their mixtures or just the pulp of the cacao pod.
Cacao Beans as Currency or Aztec
The Aztecs lifted chocolate adoration to another level. They trusted that cacao was given to them by their gods. Like the Mayans, they enjoyed the caffeinated kick of hot or cold, spiced chocolate beverages in magnificent containers, but they also used cacao beans as currency to buy food and other goods. In Aztec culture, cacao beans were considered more valued than gold.
Aztec chocolate was mostly an upper-class extravagance, although the lower classes used it occasionally at weddings or other celebrations. Maybe the most notorious Aztec chocolate lover of all was the potent Aztec ruler Montezuma II who supposedly drank gallons of chocolate each day for power and as an aphrodisiac. It’s also said he preserved some of his cacao beans for his military.
The Olmecs doubtless passed their cacao philosophy on to the Central American Mayans who not only consumed chocolate, they honored it. The Mayan written history remarks about chocolate drinks being used in celebrations and to settle important affairs.
Despite chocolate’s value in Mayan culture, it wasn’t reserved for the wealthy and powerful but freely available to almost everyone. In many Mayan households, chocolate was enjoyed with every meal. Mayan chocolate was heavy and bubbly and often mixed with chili peppers, honey, or water.
- The word chocolate is derived from the Mayan word ‘Chocol,’ meaning a hot drink. The bitter, hot drink was called ‘Xacoatl’ by the Aztecs.
- Chocolate was once considered more valuable than gold dust. Imagine that!
- The scientific name of the cocoa plant is Theobroma cacao, where Theobroma means ‘food of the Gods’.
- A real chocolate river was created using water, chocolate, and cream for the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It stunk after a few days!
- White chocolate is not chocolate because it contains no cocoa solids.
- Ruth Wakefield created the first chocolate chip cookie in 1930, by accident. She gave the recipe to Nestle` in return for a lifetime supply of chocolate.
- During the revolutionary war, a few soldiers were paid in chocolate!
- Montezuma, the Aztec emperor, consumed 50 goblets of chocolate every day.
- Do you know why chocolate melts in your mouth? Because it is the only food that melts at 93 degrees Fahrenheit, below the average human body temperature.
- The Aztecs and the Mayans used chocolate drink as a stress reliever, way before the term ‘stress’ was coined!
- A tiny chocolate chip can give you enough energy to walk 150 feet.
- The smell of chocolate is enough to relax you! Probably, the scent of chocolate increases theta brain waves that aid in relaxation. No wonder people tend to eat chocolate when they have problems.
- The shape of the cacao pod looks similar to a football, and it grows straight out from the branches.
- Chocolate contains an enzyme called phenylethylamine, which releases the ‘pleasure’ hormones in the brain, a feeling akin to being ‘in love’.
- The world’s biggest chocolate bar weighed 12,770 lbs.
- Chocolate-dipped potato chips exist, for real!
- Chocolate can be fatal to dogs and cats.
- Belgium issued limited edition chocolate-flavored stamps in 2013.
- An average American consumes almost 4.5kg of chocolate every year.
- Cacao trees can grow as old as 200 years, but they produce marketable kinds of cocoa beans only for the first 25 years of their life. In one year, a cacao tree produces around 2,000 pods.
- After the farmers pick the beans from the tree, they ferment and dry them. The process may take up to several weeks. After the seeds turn completely dry, the seed reaches the factory site where the manufacturers prepare chocolate through the specific recipe.
- Once the chocolate reaches the factory site, the beans are properly cleaned, sorted, and weighed. Each of the different producers uses a different amount and type of beans to prepare different kinds of chocolate. Sometimes, the producers may even require ten to twelve varied kinds of beans to make some specific variety of chocolate.
- The entire process of producing a chocolate candy or bar may take almost a week.
- Chocolate plants grow richly in Central and South America, but for commercial needs, producers also grow the trees throughout the tropical region.
- The pods develop slowly throughout the different times of the year. If the pod shows sticky and whitish, the seeds are very bitter in taste.
- Ivory Coast manufactures 40% of the world’s cocoa (cacao?) supply.
- Around 400 cacao beans are used to make 1 bar of chocolate.