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The History of Chocolate

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Whether it's white, milk or dark chocolate, giving up even the tiniest little piece is very difficult... and if you can't imagine your life without chocolate, you're lucky you weren't born before the 16th century! Until then, chocolate only existed in Central America in a form quite different from what know it as. Traditionally, cocoa was roasted, ground, mixed with water and, finally, whisked until the drink Xocoātl—a bitter yet invigorating frothy mixture—was obtained.

If you think that chocolate is something you can't do without, just think that the Maya and Aztecs actually believed that cocoa was a divine gift, so much so that they called it the "Food of the Gods" (Theobroma cacao). The Aztecs used cocoa beans as a form of currency (which was considered more valuable than gold), drank chocolate at royal banquets, gave it to soldiers as a reward for winning battles and used it in rituals.

The origin of chocolate

 The first Europeans to encounter chocolate were Christopher Columbus' men, although it was actually introduced in Europe around 1520, when Hernán Cortés visited the court of Montezuma in Tenochtitlan and brought a shipment of cocoa given to him by the Emperor back to Spain.

Initially, due to its bitter taste, it was used as a medicine against certain ailments, but later on, a number of Jesuit friars, who were experts in creating mixtures and infusions, began replacing the ingredients originally used (corn, honey, chilli and pepper) with cane sugar and vanilla, creating a sweet, tasty drink from which the hot chocolate we enjoy today derives. In the late 1500s, it was a popular treat at the Spanish court, and Spain began importing cocoa in 1585.

When chocolate first became popular in Europe, it was a luxury only the wealthy could enjoy. Suffice to say that in 1615, the French king Louis XIII married Anne of Austria, daughter of the Spanish king Philip III, and to celebrate the union, she brought some chocolate samples to the royal courts of France.

Following France's example, chocolate soon arrived in Britain through special "chocolate houses". As the trend spread throughout Europe, many nations established their own cocoa plantations in countries along the equator. At the time, chocolate was still made by hand, which was a slow and laborious process. But with the industrial revolution around the corner, things were about to change.

Who invented chocolate?

In 1828, Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten discovered a way to treat cocoa beans with alkaline salts to form a cocoa powder easier to mix with water. The process became known as "Dutch processing" and the chocolate produced was called cocoa powder or "Dutch cocoa". Later, he created the cocoa press, which separated cocoa butter from roasted cocoa beans, enabling the user to produce cocoa powder—the base ingredient for all chocolate recipes at the time—in an easy and cost-effective way.

Both Dutch processing and the chocolate press helped make chocolate affordable for everyone. The powder was then mixed with liquids and poured into molds, where it solidified to form edible chocolate bars.
Joseph Fry is attributed to creating the first modern chocolate bar. In 1847, he discovered that he could make a moldable chocolate paste by adding melted cocoa butter to cocoa powder. And so, the modern era of chocolate began...