The history of chocolate

From the drink of royalty to the favourite of the masses.

“Theobroma cacao” is the cacao tree, which originally comes, like its name, from Central America. “Cacao” was in the vocabulary of the Olmec as long ago as 1000 BC.3,500 years ago they were the first to prepare the original form of drinking chocolate. Later, the Mayas and Aztecs adopted this culture.

The cacao tree was holy to them, and the privilege of drinking cocoa was reserved for the upper nobility, warriors or priests. Both peoples preferred to drink it bitter, often heavily spiced. 

Olmecs

In 1519, thanks to the conquistador Hernán Cortés' landing off the coast of Mexico, the Spanish also came across the use of the cocoa bean. He was also the one to bring these precious beans to Europe, where this original form of drinking chocolate did not, however, enjoy any great popularity. It was not until the Spanish came across the idea of sweetening it with cane sugar that it had its great breakthrough and soon became a permanent fixture of Spanish courtly ceremony.

For more than 100 years, the Spanish held a trading monopoly on cocoa beans, with chocolate remaining the privilege of the wealthy and noble in every country. It was only when the bourgeoisie broke the rule of the monarchy in Europe in about 1850 that the era of chocolate as a fashionable aristocratic drink came to an end. 

 

Cocoa beans

Its final development from a chocolate drink for the few to a chocolate bar for all is thanks to the inventions of some great public figures: In 1828, Van Houten first provided a means of manufacturing cocoa powder. In 1847, Fry & Sons produced the first chocolate bar. Finally, in 1875, Daniel Peter's milk chocolate heralded the triumph of chocolate. To manufacture it, he used powdered milk, which had been invented only a few years before by Henri Nestlé. And, thanks to the principle of conching, developed by Rodolphe Lindt in 1879, every piece of chocolate today melts on your tongue.

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