The history of chocolate is a long and complicated one, with many different cultures contributing to its development. The history of chocolate begins with the ancient Maya and Aztecs, who revered cacao as a sacred gift from the gods. The Mayans were one of the first civilizations to cultivate cacao plants, and they used the beans to make a bitter drink called xocolatl. You could argue that the Mayans invented chocolate, but not necessarily the chocolate most people are used to today. This drink was highly prized by the Mayans, and it was often used in religious ceremonies. Chocolate was seen as a source of strength, power, and energy, and was thought to be able to cure ailments both physical and mental. From the Mayans, the use of cacao spread to the Aztecs, who also used it to make their own bitter drink. Cacao beans were so valuable that they were used as currency and only nobles and royalty were allowed to consume them.
In 1528, Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes arrived in Mexico and discovered this bitter chocolate beverage. Cortes was impressed by the deliciousness of the drink and brought some back to Spain where it quickly became a favorite among European nobility. The Spanish added sugar and milk to the xocolatl, making it more palatable for European tastes. Most people would consider the Spanish the true inventors of modern chocolate. Chocolate quickly became a popular treat among European royalty. In the 1600s, chocolate houses began to appear in London, and chocolate soon became a staple of British culture. In France, chocolate was served in fine porcelain cups with elaborate silver spoons. It was also customary to add spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg to enhance the flavor.
Modern day chocolate as we know it has been around for centuries and its production has undergone a major transformation over time. In the early days of chocolate-making, the cacao beans were ground by hand and the resulting paste was used to make a variety of different dishes. However, as demand for chocolate grew, new methods of production were developed. The introduction of the steam engine made it possible to grind the cacao beans on a large scale, and this led to the development of new techniques for making chocolate. As chocolate became more popular, it began to be mass-produced in factories.
The first chocolate factory was built in 1764, in England. At that time, chocolate was a rare treat that was only enjoyed by the wealthy. However, over the next few decades, production methods improved and the price of chocolate began to fall. This made it more accessible to the general public, and it quickly became a popular treat.
In 1847, a British chocolate company called J. S. Fry & Sons created the first chocolate bar. This new form of chocolate was immediately popular, and it soon became one of the most popular sweets in Europe.
The invention of milk chocolate in 1875 by Swiss confectioner Daniel Peter paved the way for even more innovation, and chocolate soon became one of the most popular sweets in the world. White chocolate was first invented in the 1930s by Nestle. It was originally created as a way to use up the leftover cocoa butter from the production of other chocolates.
In the early 1900s, new technologies allowed chocolate to be made in a variety of different forms including powders, coatings, and liquids. Through greater efficiency of production and processing, chocolate prices eventually fell far enough that it was widely available to all consumers.
In the 21st Century, chocolate has had another renaissance moment with the proliferation of “bean-to-bar” companies emerging who focus on purity and incredible flavor, the invention of ruby chocolate, and focus on eliminating slavery and exploitation from the chocolate supply chain.