Chocolate! The name brings memories of a sugary and scrumptious sweet in your mouth. Each and every person in the world, whatever be his age or his sex, loves the delicious sin. In fact, chocolate is one of the most preferred gifts on every occasion, birthday or anniversary, Valentine’s Day or Christmas, wedding or farewell. Whether it is your wife or your boyfriend, your kids or your in-laws, you can present chocolates to almost everyone. While eating a chocolate, have you ever thought how it came into being? If you are ignorant about the origin of chocolate till date, use the interesting information on its background, given below.
History of Chocolate
The oldest records related to chocolates date back to somewhere around 1500-2000 BC. The high rainfall, soaring temperatures and great humidity of Central American rain forests created the perfect climate for the cultivation of the Cacao Tree. During that time, the Mayan civilization used to flourish in that region. Mayan people worshipped Cacao Tree, believing it to be of divine origin. They also used to roasted and pounded seeds of the tree, with maize and Capsicum (Chilli) peppers, to brew a spicy, bitter sweet drink. The drink was consumed either in ceremonies or in the homes of the wealthy and religious elite.
It is said that the word ‘Cacao’ was corrupted by the early European explorers and turned into 'Cocoa'. Even the Aztecs, of Central Mexico, are believed to have acquired the beans through trade and/or the spoils of war. In fact, Cacao beans were considered to be so prized by Aztecs that they started using it as a type of currency. They also made a drink, similar to the one made by Mayans, and called it ‘Xocolatl’, the name which was later corrupted to 'Chocolat', by Spanish conquistadors. The further corruption of the word, which finally gave it its present form ’Chocolate’, was done by the English.
Entry in Europe
Xocolatl, or Chocolate, was brought to Europe by Cortez. It was here that sugar and vanilla were added to the Aztec's brew, to offset its spicy bitterness. The commercialization of chocolate started in Spain, where the first chocolate factories were opened. Spanish treasure fleets brought back dried fermented beans from the new world, roasting and grounding them to make chocolate powder. This powder was used to make European version of the ‘Aztec’ drink and then, exported to the other countries in Europe.
Within a few years, Spain’s drink become popular throughout the continent and it was around 1520 that it came to England. However, it was only in the year 1657 that the first Chocolate House of England was opened, in London. The popularity of the drink led to a string of other Chocolate Houses. Since cocoa was so expensive, the houses started serving as elite clubs, where the wealthy and business community met to smoke a clay pipe of tobacco, conduct business and socialize over a cup of chocolate.
It’s America Again
Chocolate came to the place of its birth once again. This time, it was the English colonists who carried chocolate, along with coffee, with them to the colonies in North America. These colonies later consolidated into the United States of America and Canada. Despite the changes in the territorial boundaries, chocolate continued to be a favorite of all the Americans, of every age, sex, group, and so on. Till date, the status quo has not changed and hot chocolate is still one of the favorite drinks of the Americans.
The chocolate of today, in the sold form, took its roots in England. It was around mid-1600, when English bakers started adding cocoa powder to cakes. Seeking to make chocolate drink smoother and more palatable, Johannes Van Houten, a Dutch chemist, invented a technique of extracting the bitter tasting fat (cocoa butter) from the roasted ground beans, in 1828. With this, he paved the way for the chocolate in its present form.
It was in 1847 that solid chocolate, as we know of today, was made by Fry & Sons of Bristol (England), by mixing sugar with cocoa powder and cocoa butter. The first milk chocolate was made in 1875, by Daniel Peters, a Swiss manufacturer, by mixing cocoa powder and cocoa butter with sugar and dried milk powder. The rest, as they say, is history! Today, chocolate is made across the globe and liked by almost every person in this world.