4000 Years Of Chocolate History

Kakawa uhanal: “food of the gods”. The pre-Columbian American tribes that first had cultivated cocoa, had given this extraordinary plant a great religious and economic value: the stimulating qualities of cocoa beans made it a precious good, as well as an exclusive ingredient for drinks reserved only to the highest classes of the society. 4000 years ago the chocolate history has begun in Central America between the countries today known as Mexico, Peru, and Panama. A pre-Colombian civilization, the Olmecs, discovered the cocoa plant hidden in the wind forests and calls it Kakawa. Not far away from the Ulua River, cutlery and pottery thought for the preparation of the chocolate drink have been discovered. The Maya, after the pre – Colombian populations, introduced cocoa as a social element that was always present during religious ceremonies and considered a precious value exchange.

This cocoa drink described as spicy, bitter and frothy, disgusted Cristoforo Colombo the first time; however, the explorer decided to bring to Spain some of those exotic cocoa beans destined to remain unknown till then. Only sometime later, the conquistador Hernan Cortez had the intuition of the great potential and wealth treasured in the cocoa beans and decided to introduce this resource to the royal family in Madrid. The first cocoa cargo disembarked on the Spanish coast in 1502, increasing the trade between the Old and New World. In order to make the American “Xocoatl” more appealing for the European taste, the King Charles V entrusted the monks in the monasteries with the honour of elaborating a new recipe for this mysterious drink, which was then blended and sweetened with aniseeds and vanilla and then mixed with milk. The “chocolate drink”, cocoa and leche (milk), became very trendy among the noble families from Madrid to Paris. Many also considered chocolate as reliable medicine for several diseases perhaps as a legacy of Maya beliefs.

In fact, chocolate is still known as a good stimulator for body and mood functioning thanks to its high energy intake.
In the seventeenth century, the trade and consumption of cocoa reached other European countries and chocolate popularity spread now even among the middle classes; the Netherlands quickly became the main cocoa market in the world, while in England the so-called “chocolate drinking houses” started to be a new business investment and in Italy, classy coffee shops in Turin and Venice served the fragrant beverage too.

hot chocolate

With the arrival of the Industrial Revolution era, new commercial chocolate machines became able to process cocoa more efficiently, and at the beginning of the nineteenth century in England, the steam machines were used also in the milling of cocoa beans. In Holland, Van Houten invented a machine to extract cocoa butter from the beans and at the end of the century, the Swiss Daniel Peter added condensed milk to the chocolate. In the same years, Rudolph Lindt (I’m sure you recognize this name 😀 ) invented the conching process still, and he gave life to the first tablet of dark chocolate.

Today, the chocolate we can find on the market can vary a lot depending on the processing, its pureness and ingredients combined with cocoa butter. Chocolate is the result of a long process meant to transform the cocoa butter then mixed with ingredients and aromas, like dried fruit, spices and more. Both the artisan and industrial versions of chocolate represent a passion shared by everyone.