Chocolate is the most popular and widely loved treat in the entire world! On your happy days, not so happy days, celebrations and special occasions, chocolates are always the perfect companion. But have you wondered how it all began? Where did chocolate come from? And how did it grow to such immense popularity throughout the years? Here is a brief history of this irresistible delicacy.
Chocolate was born over 4,000 years ago in Mesoamerica, present-day Mexico, where it was consumed as a drink. This drink was served as a bitter liquid, brewed from cocoa and mixed with spices. It was said to have medicinal properties, relished especially during rituals and other special occasions.
The origin of the word chocolate can be traced back to the Aztec word ‘xocoatl’, the name for a bitter drink made from cacao beans.
Mesoamericans were the first people to recognize the value of chocolates in the tropical rainforests of the Amazon basin. Then Aztecs and Mayans praised chocolate as a heavenly gift, and cherished it so much that it started being used as a currency. Money literally used to grow on trees.
The Aztec drank their chocolate much like the Mayans, although they sometimes liked it cold. One chocolate history legend has it that the Aztec God Quetzalcoatl brought cocoa to earth and was cast out of paradise for giving it to man. Apparently, only the gods were fit to drink chocolate!
All this while, chocolate was seen as a bitter luxurious drink and had nothing to do with sugar. Once sugar was added to chocolate, it took a whole other turn.
When chocolate entered Spain, it was considered medicinal. Doctors prescribed it to cure fevers, cool body temperature, aid in digestion and as a painkiller.
However, it was soon realized that chocolate was too good to be used just as a medicine. It was the first caffeine to reach Europe, even before coffee and tea.
As chocolate spread through Europe, the demand took off. To keep up with the demand, plantations sprung up, and thousands of people were enslaved to produce cacao. This is where it took a really dark turn.
In the 1850s, Englishman created the world’s first solid chocolate by adding more cocoa butter, rather than hot water, to cocoa powder and sugar. This is when chocolate, as we see it today, was finally born.
Today, over 3 billion tons of cacao supplies a 35 billion dollar chocolate industry.