A BRIEF HISTORY
Olmec Indians are believed to have grown the first crop of cocoa beans.
250- 900 AD
The Mayans adopt many of the Olmec traditions, including the consumption of “xocoatl” as an unsweetened drink. The cocoa bean also assumes an important role as a currency.
The Mayans pass along their knowledge of cacao to the Aztecs who call it “cacahuatl” and flavor it with such spices as chile, cinnamon, pepper, and vanilla. The Aztecs also believe it is a gift given to them from the god Quetzalcoatl.
On his fourth visit to the New World, Christopher Columbus is offered cacao beans by the locals and brings them back to King Ferdinand.
Explorer Hernando Cortés sets foot in Mexico and finds the Aztecs drinking a red, bitter drink made with cocoa called Xocoatl.Recognizing its value, both medicinal and monetary, he builds a cocoa plantation and begins sending it back to Spain.
Spanish monks create the first sweet chocolate drink, adding honey, vanilla and sugar to it so as to better fit with Spanish tastes.
Italian Antonio Carletti, upon visiting the Spanish Colonies, discovers this wondrous bean and brings it back to Florence where it soon spreads to Venice, Turin and other major cities.
France discovers cocoa when Spanish Princess Maria Theresa marries Louis XIV and gives him an engagement gift of chocolate. It is consumed as a hot drink among the aristocracy and upper classes.
Germany learns of chocolate when scientist Johann Voldkammer discovers it in Naples and brings it home where it becomes popular as a bedtime drink.
The English are introduced to the cocoa bean when the first chocolate house opens its doors in London, serving an “excellent West India drink.”
In Boston, Dorothy Jones and Jane Barnard successfully petition the city “to keepe a house of publique Entertainment for the sellinge of Coffee and Chucalettoe.”
The Fry family sets up the first chocolate factory in the UK, using hydraulic machinery and equipment to process and grind cocoa beans.
Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus gives cacao its scientific name of “theobroma,” which in Greek means “food of the gods.”
Dutchman Coenraad Van Houten invents a revolutionary cocoa press which separates cocoa solids from cocoa butter. The defatted powder is easily dissolved in liquids.
Joseph Fry creates the first chocolate bar, known as “eating chocolate,” by adding back melted cacao butter.
British merchant Richard Cadbury introduces the first-ever heart-shaped box of chocolates, especially for Valentine’s Day.
Switzerland’s Daniel Peter creates the first milk chocolate by adding in a milk powder.
Another Swissman, Rodolphe Lindt, invents the “conching” machine, which improves chocolate’s taste and texture.
Milton Hershey sells his caramel business to focus on chocolate and a few years later creates the “Hershey Kiss.”
In Belgium, Jean Neuhaus fills a chocolate shell with cream and nut pastes – and thus the praline is born.
Canadian children stage a broad boycott after discovering that the chocolate bar’s price had risen from 5 to 8 cents.
In the post-war period, chocolate sees a massive growth in consumption, becoming a part of many people’s regular eating habits.