The History of Chocolate–Part III

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The Modern Era

Thanks to the ancient Mesoamericans, cacao made a grand entrance into Europe.  But relatively little development occurred for over 200 years.  As cacao became more commonly available, people began experimenting with new ways of using it. But it wasn’t until 1828 that the “modern era” of chocolate making and production began.

Cocoa Powder is Born

In 1828, Dutch chocolate maker Conrad J. van Houten, a Dutch chemist, patented an inexpensive method for using alkaline salts to press the fat from roasted cacao beans. This not only helped reduce prices even further, but more importantly improved the taste and quality of the chocolate by squeezing out about half of the cocoa butter thereby making the chocolate less bitter and more digestible. The resulting chocolate “cake” could be pulverized into a fine powder known as “cocoa.”  This product is still called “Dutch-processed” cocoa powder.

The introduction of cocoa powder not only made creating chocolate drinks much easier, but also made it possible to combine chocolate with sugar and then remix it with cocoa butter to create a solid. The 19th Century saw two revolutionary developments in the history of chocolate.

Finally a Chocolate Bar!

The first innovation leading to the creation of chocolate bars occurred in 1795 when English chocolate maker, Joseph Storrs Fry, patented a method of grinding cocoa beans using a steam engine.    This was the first example of factory production of chocolate products.   In 1847, his sons molded the first ever chocolate bar by combining melted cocoa butter, sugar and cocoa powder.  In the following years, the company produced over 220 products and became the first registered private company in 1866.

And Milk Chocolate

The second development occurred in 1876 in Switzerland when Daniel Peter, a Swiss chocolate manufacturer, who with the assistance of Henri Nestlé successfully pursued the idea of using milk to make a new kind of chocolate, milk chocolate.

In the U.S., the production of chocolate proceeded more quickly than anywhere else in the world. In 1765, the first chocolate factory was established. During WWII, the U.S. government recognized chocolate’s role as nourishment and morale for the Allied Forces. Today, the U.S. Army’s Ready to Eat Meal contains chocolate bars and chocolate candies, and chocolate has been taken into space as part of the diet of U.S. astronauts.

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