The History Of Chocolate

The Latin name of cocoa is "Cacao Theobroma" or "Food of the Gods". This accurately describes cocoa in its earliest form as it was the Mayan Indians who are believed to first discover and use it in 250 A.D. The ancient Aztec Indians were fans as well and even used cacao beans as currency. It has been documented that an Aztec could buy rabbit at the cost of four cacao beans, while a slave would bring the price of one hundred beans.

The beans were first used as a bitter beverage, by milling them without the use of sweeteners. Since the beans were currency, they were only consumed only by the wealthy as they were literally drinking their money. The chocolate beverage was primarily used in royal and religious events as offerings to the gods, as well as during sacred ceremonies for royalty, clergy & decorated soldiers.

Europe's first encounter with chocolate was in 1521 during the conquest of Mexico. The Europeans brought cacao beans back to their countries with them and thought to add cinnamon and sweeteners to the drink. While this got the ball rolling for modern chocolate, throughout the 1500's chocolate was still used mainly for medicinal purposes & as aphrodisiac.

By the 1600's they refined cocoa butter and added it to the mixture to make a solid chocolate, more like the chocolate bars we know today. Fry & Sons are credited with producing the first chocolate bar 1847. This company has since been bought by Cadbury.

Today, the cacao bean grows as it did in ancient times, only in tropical climates (rainforests) where rainfall, temperature and humidity are high year round. The beans will only grow ten degrees north or south of the equator in locations like: Yucatan Peninsula, Brazil and Ivory Coast Africa. The Big Island of Hawaii is the only place in the United States suitable for growing cacao beans. Despite that fact, Americans still eat over three billion pounds of chocolate each year, which accounts for over half the world's production of chocolate.

Fruit pods grow on trees which are harvested, milled down to cocoa nibs or beans then fermented, roasted and ground into a thick paste known as chocolate liquor. Chocolate liquor with additional cocoa butter, sugar and milk makes what we know as modern day "chocolate".