Chocolate is (and always will be) one of humanity’s best inventions. But when it was invented, do you know? In fact, it has been a long, long time since cocoa has been a part of our lives. Studies claim that already in the era pre-Olmec, even before 1200 BC, in the Mesoamerican region, cocoa was used in the manufacture of beverages. However, historians believe that these drinks were alcoholic and made from the fermentation of the cocoa pulp, and not from its seeds.
source: Cnnturk – top photo: Flourishing Foodie
About 500 years later, the next civilization began to use cocoa beans. Olmecs, as they are known, in addition to using cocoa powder as money, produced a non-alcoholic drink from its beans. Chocolate was born.
The Mayan and Aztec civilizations followed the tradition of drinking chocolate, as they believed it to be an invigorating and aphrodisiac drink. Cocoa, this time in the form of grains, continued to be used as currency by these civilizations. Historical records report that around 1500, 100 cocoa beans were enough to buy a slave or a turkey.
Interested in cultivating “money”, the conqueror of Mexico, Hernando Cortez, decided to plant cocoa trees on the islands of Spanish power. Later, Cortez himself took utensils and recipes to make the drink in Spain.
The Spaniards adapted the chocolate to their taste by adding sugar and other spices, such as cinnamon and vanilla. In 1615, the princess of Spain, Ana de Austria, married Louis XIII of France and brought the custom of drinking chocolate to the country. The delicacy became known in European courts, where chocolate was synonymous with lust and power.
Gradually, the “food of the gods” spread and was redesigned in different countries in Europe. In 1657, the first chocolate shop opened in London.
Holland marked the history of chocolate in 1828, when the chemist Conrad van Houten he discovered that it was possible to extract the cocoa butter from the roasted beans and obtain a dough, which in turn could be pulverized and mixed with liquids or other ingredients. This discovery was important because it reduced the cost of manufacture, making chocolate more accessible, and allowed the ingredient to be used in confectionery.
But the first chocolate bar was only born in 1847, when the company JS Fry & Sons mixed cocoa butter, cocoa powder and sugar. Later, in 1875, the Swiss Daniel Peter added the condensed milk created by Heinrich Nestlé (our famous Leite Moça hehehe) to chocolate. I had no chance of going wrong: from this combination, milk chocolate was born.
Four years later, Rodolphe Lindt created the “Conching”, which mixes the chocolate to create that velvety and creamy texture – typical of your brand’s chocolates.
In 1912, the American company Walter Baker & Company created a sweet made from cocoa butter, sugar and vanilla. Despite not containing cocoa solids, the candy became known as “white chocolate”.
Thanks to the cocoa plantations in southern Bahia, Brazil was a major cocoa exporter in the early 20th century. Our first chocolate factory, Neugebauer, was founded in 1891 in the state of Rio Grande do Sul by a family of Germans of the same name. It was almost a century of great national chocolate production until in 1990 a plague called “witch’s broom” ended the cocoa plantations. The plague generated a strong crisis in the sector and our country is still chasing the loss.
source: Poa urban generation
Also during the 20th century, only in the Old World, thanks to renowned chocolatiers, countries like Switzerland and Belgium gained prominence and became famous for the quality of their chocolates. However, it was low-cost products, with much more sugar than cocoa, manufactured and distributed by large companies, that continued to be market leaders.
In the 2000s, different studies began to point to the health benefits of dark chocolate, such as preventing heart disease and bowel cancer, among others. In addition to increasing the consumption of chocolates with a high cocoa content, chocoholics began to become more aware of the origin of the beans and the ingredients present in the bars, as well as the working conditions of cocoa producers. This is changing the history of chocolate and forcing large companies to review their work policies! Still, much remains to be improved.
The origin bars made by small manufacturers, who are concerned with the quality of the beans and paying a fair price for cocoa, are much more expensive. Anyway, the well-informed consumer pays for this chocolate because he knows that this money is not only helping the manufacturer, but also the small producer.
Many authors believe that this is the future of chocolate: to become a luxury item again. In my opinion, I believe that the chocolate market is huge and that it fits everyone. Undoubtedly, I hope that this new trend will increase the price of cocoa and make big companies stop focusing only on profit, but also keep in mind the origin of the beans. That is, they stop buying from producers that use child, slave or cheap labor and start to encourage a sustainable cocoa cultivation.
The history of chocolate is very long, so much that it even whet my appetite! I think after that I will go there to replenish my energy with a bar hehehe!
Source: École Chocolat, “The True History of Chocolate” by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe, Galileu Magazine and Super Interesting Magazine.