ChatterLog February 2009

A Short History of Chocolate

© Adriana Mullen 2009

According to Archaeological records the Mayans of Central America were consuming cocoa as far back as 600 B.C. or earlier. The Emperor introduced Cortés to cocoa when he conquered the Aztecs. But the cocoa consumed by the Mayans and later the Aztecs was not like our modern chocolate. Cocoa itself is bitter tasting and the Mayans and Aztecs consumed it as a drink in which dried cocoa was mixed with water and possibly some chili peppers.

When cocoa reached Spain, the Spanish began experimenting by mixing cocoa with sugar and vanilla to make a sweeter drink. The result was a “hot chocolate” type of drink, which soon became popular among the upper classes, as they were the only ones who could afford it, in Europe. By the first half of the eighteenth century cocoa production had increased and the price had fallen to the point where it became affordable to the general population of Europe and the European colonies in the New World.

In the 19th century, the Dutch invented a process to refine cocoa powder and if any of you have ever experienced their Droste’s cocoa, you know what I’m talking about! People also began mixing cocoa with warm milk, which became known as hot coca while the traditional mixture of cocoa and hot water continued to be known as hot chocolate. Another big advance came in 1876 when a Swiss chocolate seller invented a process for making candy out of milk chocolate and another Swiss company named Nestlé picked up the idea to become the global chocolate producer we know today. While another Swiss chocolate maker created the first chocolate candy with cream and other fillings – and so the modern soft centered chocolate candies were born and they joined the ranks of flowers and jewelry in men’s courtship arsenal.

Some of my favorite chocolate websites:
 – my own personal addiction. Their Organic Dark Chocolate with Dried Cherries is quite simply a thing of beauty! – a client of mine sent me some of this award-winning chocolate from The Chocolate Fetish in Asheville, NC. They make these “rounds” that are out of this world – the size of a large cookie but made entirely of dark chocolate with toppings like roasted almonds & dried raspberries – OMG! – more like an art gallery than a chocolatier, she is known for her trademark and exquisite hand-painted gems with a signature blue & brown collection reminiscent of Tiffany’s. And their famous hot chocolate is to die for and a must on a cold Winter’s day! – boasts a roster of 47 chocolatiers from all over the world, with fun items such as the “Chocosphere Emergency Kit” and build-your-own gift bags. – from the familiar to the obscure – scroll down and recognize your favorites by label or by country. – if you like filled chocolates and truffles – this is one for you to check out. Other notables are their chocolate slabs and Chocolate Dipping Adventure.

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