Who Invented Chocolate: The Sweet History Of Chocolate

who invented chocolate

You glance around, debating whether you should give in to your uncontrollable urges. Yum! It is like heaven on your tongue. You take a second nibble and exhale.

Chocolate! There is nothing like it.

You wonder how you would survive without such delicious goodness in stressful moments. How was the world before its discovery? And who came across this tempting and blissful treat first?

There is nothing like it.

The History Of Chocolate

Many suppositions have been made about where chocolate comes from and who discovered it.

However, this delicious treat was not considered quite so thousands of years before. Neither was it of edible value to anyone, because it was used as currency at some point.

Even, when Europeans tried it, they disliked it, because it was bitter.

But when chocolate met sugar, all that changed.

Let us go back many thousands of years to the earliest times, to learn who invented chocolate.

In Latin America Around 1000 BC

chocolate with cocoa

We have to travel to Latin America to get a better understanding of the history of chocolate. It is there that you will find many wild cacao trees.

Yes, chocolate comes from the cacao bean.

Mexico was home to the Olmecs, and it is said that they were the first to use it, in southwest Mexico. Back in 1000 BC, they called it cacao, “kakawa.”

It is not until around 250-900 AD that we learned a bit more about the use of the cacao bean.

The Mayans Around 250 AD

chocolate bar printed with mayans

The history of chocolate and understanding who invented chocolate becomes clearer with the Mayans around 250 to 900 AD.

They lived in the same area as the Olmecs.

The Mayans used chocolate more than anyone else did at that time.

Cacao Beans As Currency

hands holding cacao

It is probably hard to imagine. We use paper as currency, not for food. But back then, the cacao was the currency of those people.

And just as we have counterfeiters now, they had them too. They made their currency out of clay to fool people.

But these beans stayed the currency of that region for a very long time. It was only replaced in the 19th century.

How Was Cacao Used?

a sack of cacao

Apart from having a cacao god, and using the bean as currency, they used it in religious rituals too.

When people were getting married, they exchanged cacao.

Nonetheless, it is the rich people were we find the consumption of the cacao truly becoming popular. Think about it. Would you eat a dollar bill today, especially if you had money issues?

Probably not!

They made it into a drink, not for eating. The way they prepared it was also vastly atypical of how it was done now.

They started the process by reaping, fermenting and later drying out the cacao. After that, they roasted the beans and took off the outer shell. Then they grounded it out to a paste.

This was then blended with flowers, honey, allspice, annatto, vanilla, chili spice and hot water.

To get the froth, they poured it continually between two containers. Yes, the Mayans agreed even then, frothing was a good thing and the best part of the drink.

The Aztecs Loved Chocolate Too

white and dark chocolate bar

When the Aztecs conquered the Mayans, they kept cacao beans as currency and also enjoyed drinking chocolate.

Even though they ruled from the capital city, Tenochtitlan, it could not be grown there. So they imported it. This lead to taxes.

The one difference between the Aztecs and the Mayans is that the conquerors had the drink both warm and cold.

Columbus In 1502

So you may ask what Columbus has to do with chocolate. Well, not much. He never saw or understood the value of it. Even when he was stealing a canoe filled with the supplies from the Aztecs and some spilt. The locals nearly went crazy trying to retrieve the beans.

But Columbus was only concerned with conquering civilizations.

Cortez In 1519

However, Cortez tried the drink on his visit to the Aztec capital. Needless to say, Europeans do not like bitter drinks.

But, the Aztec ruler, Montezuma, was said to have a billion beans hidden away in 1519.

It was during Cortez’s travels and conquering of the Caribbean islands that sugar brought a new spin on the old preparation of chocolate.

Someone added sugar to chocolate, and it became the most popular drink, well certainly after liquor.

The Church And Chocolate As Medicine

The history of chocolate continues in Spain. The Spaniards did not want anyone learning about their liquid gold.

So they primarily used it for health purposes. Doctors advised patients to have it when they had pain, digestion issues or fevers.

The Church gave the go-ahead for its attendees to take it even while they fasted. They considered it a nutritional supplement.

In time, the secret was out. All of – wealthy – Europe was demanding their fill of chocolate. People were having this for many years before they started drinking tea and coffee.

Back then, the Europeans used a molinillo, which is a little stick to froth their chocolate beverage. So when you look at who invented chocolate in those days, the Spaniards led the trend in Europe.

London In 1657

Many years later, London was home to the premier chocolate house in 1657. Again, the rich people would congregate and socialize with a drink of coffee. They talked politics, played card games and brokered deals.

It was there that the preparers of this drink started adding milk and cinnamon to the chocolate beverage.

So, if you wonder about who invented chocolate, using milk, that started in London’s chocolate house.

The Popularity Of Chocolate

Chocolate became increasingly more popular in Europe as time passed.

Around that time, slavery became prevalent as well, as the Europeans tried to find a way to fill the demand for chocolate. They constructed plantations, both at home and in the Caribbean Islands.

Global Chocolate Plantations And Slavery

plantation of cacao

The Dutch, English, Spanish and French moved feverishly to conquer more island territories. They had many battles, wars and enslaved people from Africa.

They also went to Central America, South America, Africa and created more plantations in these regions to fill the need.

An easy to grow but substandard cacao bean called forastero was sent to these territories. But the ones that came from Mexico and the Caribbean were criollo cacao beans.

Because of this, the forastero cacao bean makes up 90% of cacao today.

Chocolate Becomes Affordable For The Common Folk

man holding a chocolate bar

As you might have guessed when supply increases, prices drop. As such, more and more people could afford chocolate.

This is where chocolate exploded in its popularity.

The Inventions Of Coenraad Van Houten

Coenraad Van Houten

And so, one inventor took cacao to another level.

A Dutchman, around the time of the early 1800s, invented a cocoa press. Coenraad Van Houten’s invention was able to squeeze the fat out of the cocoa bean.

This fat is referred to as cocoa butter.

So you can thank his cocoa press for giving us one of the best and most curative lotions.

Coenraad Van Houten also developed a procedure to use an alkali solution to wash the cocoa. After which, it is easier to mix with water.

More Integral Moments In Chocolate History

solid chocolate bar

There are a couple more dates when man and chocolate ingenuity collided.

Solid chocolate came about in 1850. Thanks to Joseph Fry, an Englishman who experimented with the right mix of hot water and cocoa butter. He included more cocoa butter combined with sugar as well as cocoa powder, to give us the chocolate bars we know today.

Condensed milk was added to the mix by Henri Nestle and Daniel Peter In 1875. It was they who invented the milk chocolate bar.

Four years later, Rodolphe Lindt, a Swiss, designed a machine called the conch, to turn and mix chocolate until it gained a perfect silky evenness.

Then Milton Hershey took chocolate manufacturing to a new level in 1907. His factory was producing over 33 million Hershey’s kisses every day.

With electric marketing, advertising, and World War rations including chocolate, the popularity of chocolate went beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

The One Who Invented Chocolate Should Be A Billionaire

Now, the chocolate industry is a multibillion-dollar industry. More than three billion tons of cacao beans are moving around.

Anyone who pioneered the various chocolate brands and inventions is a part of the billionaires club.

Lindt and Hershey are just a few of these brands.

But, unfortunately, just as it did back in the day, chocolate has created an opening for modern slavery to thrive. Child labor contributes to production as well.

People are still clearing precious rainforests to grow cacao trees.

This should never be the case. But the tide is changing slowly. People are becoming more educated about these atrocities, and there are efforts to minimize the prevalence of the inferior quality Forastero beans.

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