A very short history of chocolate…..

Considering how many cultures have contributed to chocolate and the many steps in its manufacture, it’s small wonder that a substance dating back several millennia has been consumed as a food for only about 150 years. First harvested and used by the ancient Maya, chocolate was initially a beverage, and not a particularly sweet or smooth one. A Spanish missionary said of it in the 16th century:

“Loathsome to such as are not acquainted with it, having a scum or froth that is very unpleasant to taste.”

The bitter blend of ground cacao beans, water, and other local ingredients (including chillies, pimento, and vanilla) was tough to swallow. No one is completely sure about the derivation of the word chocolate. While some dictionaries cite it as Aztec in origin, other experts believe that the Spanish coined the word from the Mayan chocol, the Mayan haa (water), and the Aztec atl (water). However, the Mayan verb chokola’j, meaning “to drink chocolate together,” is another source

Despite its off-putting taste and name, the chocolate drink was intriguing enough to bring back to Europe. While Columbus did discover cacao pods, their appeal was recognised only in 1510 by Hernán Cortés, who brought three chests of pods back. The first commercial shipment of cacao to Europe occurred in 1585 from Veracruz, Mexico, to Seville, Spain and Dutch growers relied heavily on slave labour to cultivate crops. One Dutch chocolate manufacturer made a very important discovery in the history of chocolate as food: In 1828,a fellow named Conrad J. van Houten patented a method for pressing the fat from roasted cacao beans, which meant that the cocoa powder and cocoa butter could be separated. Different treatments for the two resulted in the seemingly endless varieties of delicious confections we now enjoy today.

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