Chocolate. We love it, you love it and every day, millions of people enjoy it in all its delicious forms. But where does it come from and how did it get to be so popular? In this short history of chocolate, we’ll look at how a simple, rather bitter-tasting little bean was transformed into one of the best loved foods in the world.
According to the research, the Mayans of Central America are believed to be the first to discover cocoa and to make this frothy chocolate drink out of the cocoa beans which become a treasured Mayan treat followed by many cultures including the Aztecs, and the Europeans for several centuries. This drink was held in such high esteem that the Mayans used to call it the “food of the gods.” It is said that even the word ‘chocolate’ was derived out of the Mayan word ‘Xocolatl’ which means ‘bitter water.’
During the Aztec period, after them conquering the Mayans, cocoa beans were very valuable that it was even considered equivalent to currency as it became the force of the Aztec economy. They used the beans as money and as far the Aztecs were concerned, money really did grow on trees.
It was much later when Hernan Cortes landed in the Aztec homeland and took the beans from there and introduced it to Spain. He not only introduced the bean but he also took the recipe and the equipment necessary to make the frothy chocolate bitter drink that was all the rage in the Central America. Although Cortes was amazed at how much this drink valued to the Aztecs, personally, he did not enjoy the drink much and that made him warm up the drink which tasted better and thus hot chocolate was born.
Spain kept cocoa a secret for a very long time, but as the Spanish cooks started experimenting with the recipe by sweetening it to make it taste better, its popularity quickly spread to other European countries as well. Soon cocoa found its way to France and in a few years, the first chocolaterie was opened in Paris where they followed the same method of preparing the drink as Mayans and Aztecs did.
Chocolate soon made its jump to the Great Britain where it was received with much enthusiasm and respect that it soon opened up so many English chocolate houses, much like our coffee shops.
It was in the 1700s, owing to the industrial revolution there were so many equipments and machines invented for the grinding of the beans, mass production of cocoa and also the cocoa press that was used to squeeze the cocoa butter out of the bean leaving the butter and the cocoa powder separate. And, all of these inventions especially the cocoa press helped in making the chocolate tastier, smoother and creamier leading to the formation chocolate bars, milk chocolates or cocoa powder for baking.
At last in the 1800s the Fry Company of Bristol in England made the first ever edible chocolate after a 1000- plus- year history of chocolate as a beverage and the rest became history.
It’s true that today chocolate is a high-end industry in itself and technology has played a huge role in its success as well. But there is always something about the good old artisan way of chocolate making where everything is handpicked and handmade which has a niche of its own. And, it’s a wonderful experience to connect with your creations especially when you’re making some lusciously delicious artisan chocolates. To have a hands-on experience in such a creation, join Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland offers Professional Diploma in Swiss Pastry & Chocolate Arts.