The History of Chocolate
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The tasty secret of the cacao (kah KOW) tree was
discovered 2,000 years ago in the tropical rainforests of the Americas. The pods
of this tree contain seeds that can be processed into chocolate. The story of
how chocolate grew from a local Mesoamerican beverage into a global sweet
encompasses many cultures and continents.
The first people known to have made chocolate were the ancient cultures of
Mexico and Central America. These people, including the Maya and Aztec, mixed
ground cacao seeds with various seasonings to make a spicy, frothy drink.
Later, the Spanish conquistadors brought the seeds back home to Spain, where new
recipes were created. Eventually, and the drink’s popularity spread throughout
Europe. Since then, new technologies and innovations have changed the texture
and taste of chocolate, but it still remains one of the world’s favorite
Introduction: Chocolate’s History at a
Chocolate’s Roots in Ancient Mesoamerica
tend to think of chocolate as a sweet candy created during modern times. But
actually, chocolate dates back to the ancient peoples of Mesoamerica who drank
chocolate as a bitter beverage.
For these people, chocolate wasn’t just a favorite food—it also played an
important role in their religious and social lives.
The ancient Maya grew cacao and made it
into a beverage.
first people clearly known to have discovered the secret of cacao were the
Classic Period Maya (250-900 C.E. [A.D.]). The Maya and their ancestors in
Mesoamerica took the tree from the rainforest and grew it in their own
backyards, where they harvested, fermented, roasted, and ground the seeds into a
When mixed with water, chile peppers, cornmeal, and other ingredients, this
paste made a frothy, spicy chocolate drink.
The Aztecs adopted cacao.
the Aztec empire dominated a sizeable segment of Mesoamerica. The Aztecs traded
with Maya and other peoples for cacao and often required that citizens and
conquered peoples pay their tribute in cacao seeds—a form of Aztec money.
Like the earlier Maya, the Aztecs also consumed their bitter chocolate drink
seasoned with spices—sugar was an agricultural product unavailable to the
Drinking chocolate was an important part
of Maya and Aztec life.
Many people in Classic Period Maya
society could drink chocolate at least on occasion, although it was a
particularly favored beverage for royalty. But in Aztec society, primarily
rulers, priests, decorated soldiers, and honored merchants could partake of this
Chocolate also played a special role in both Maya and Aztec royal and religious
events. Priests presented cacao seeds as offerings to the gods and served
chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies.
Cacao Becomes an Expensive
Europe’s first contact with chocolate came during the conquest of Mexico in
1521. The Spaniards recognized the value attached to cacao and observed the
Aztec custom of drinking chocolate. Soon after, the Spanish began to ship cacao
seeds back home.
An expensive import, chocolate remained an elite
beverage and a status symbol for Europe’s upper classes for the next 300 years.
Sweetened chocolate became an
international taste sensation.
Spanish brought cacao home, they doctored up the bitter brew with cinnamon and
other spices and began sweetening it with sugar.
They managed to keep their delicious drink a Spanish secret for almost 100 years
before the rest of Europe discovered what they were missing. Sweetened chocolate
soon became the latest and greatest fad to hit the continent.
Chocolate was a European symbol of
wealth and power.
cacao and sugar were expensive imports, only those with money could afford to
drink chocolate. In fact, in France, chocolate was a state monopoly that could
be consumed only by members of the royal court.
Like the Maya and the Aztecs, Europeans developed their own special protocol for
the drinking of chocolate. They even designed elaborate porcelain and silver
serving pieces and cups for chocolate that acted as symbols of wealth and power.
Cacao farming required lots of land and
and sugar were labor-intensive agricultural products. To keep up with the demand
for chocolate, Spain and many other European nations established colonial
plantations for growing these plants.
A combination of wage laborers and enslaved peoples were used to create a
Chocolate Meets Mass
Production and Machinery
centuries, chocolate remained a handmade luxury sipped only by society’s upper
crust. But by the 1800s, mass production made solid chocolate candy affordable
to a much broader public.
To meet the demands of today’s global market, chocolate manufacturing relies on
both ancient techniques in the field and new technologies in the factory.
New inventions and ingredients improved
chocolate’s taste and texture.
Industrial Revolution witnessed the development of an enormous number of new
mechanical inventions and ushered in the era of the factory. The steam engine
made it possible to grind cacao and produce large amounts of chocolate cheaply
Later inventions like the cocoa press and the conching machine made it possible
to create smooth, creamy, solid chocolate for eating—not just liquid chocolate
Cacao growing hasn’t changed much since
processes and machinery have improved the quality of chocolate and the speed at
which it can be produced. However, cacao farming itself remains basically
People grow cacao in equatorial climates all around the world today using
traditional techniques first developed in Mesoamerica. Cacao is still harvested,
fermented, dried, cleaned, and roasted mostly by hand.
We use cacao for more than just making
additional steps in the processing of cacao help create a variety of new flavors
and forms for chocolate candy.
But cacao is more than a source for calories and confections. The chemicals and
substances in cacao can be extracted and incorporated into cosmetics and
medicines. And the by-products of cacao can be used as mulch or fodder for
Chocolate: A Mesoamerican Luxury
Before chocolate was a sweet candy, it was a
spicy drink. Some of the earliest known chocolate drinkers were the ancient Maya
and Aztecs of Mesoamerica.
They ground cacao seeds into a paste that, when mixed with water, made a frothy,
rather bitter beverage. Drinking chocolate was an important part of life for the
Classic Period Maya and the Aztecs.
Take a more detailed look below at the different ways the Maya and Aztec people
obtained, made, and used cacao.
250-900 C.E. [A.D.]
An Ancient MAYA Crop
Many anthropologists consider the
ancient Maya to be the first people to have made chocolate. The first evidence
of chocolae in glyphs and actual remains in ancient vessels come from the height
of Mayan civilization, the Classic Period (250-900 C.E. [A.D.]).
The Maya shared a common culture and traded with each other over long distances.
Their territory covered the countries that we know today as southern Mexico,
Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and part of El Salvador.
The MAYA GREW it.
Ancient Maya artifacts often show people
collecting cacao for chocolate.
Archaeologists aren’t sure exactly how the Maya first learned the tasty secret
of cacao—a tree that grew in the tropical rainforests of their homeland.
But one thing is for sure: chocolate was a treasured Maya treat. Many Maya
artifacts are painted with scenes of people pouring and enjoying chocolate.
The ancient Maya grew cacao in their own
In 1976, a bulldozer unearthed an
ancient Maya village in El Salvador. There, archaeologists found the remains of
cacao gardens near Maya homes. Many clay dishes also contained preserved cacao
Apparently, the Maya people valued chocolate so much that they gathered cacao
seeds from rainforest trees and planted cacao in household gardens.
The Classic Period MAYA made chocolate into a SPICY DRINK
The Maya of this period probably processed cacao much
like we do today.
After gathering the cacao pods, people
would have to ferment and dry the seeds found inside. Then, they would roast
these seeds in a griddle held over a fire.
Next, the shells would have to be removed and the seeds ground into a paste by
crushing them with a small stone (called a mano [MAH no]) against a large
stone surface (called a metate [meh TAH tay]).
Maya chocolate was a frothy, bitter drink.
The ancient Maya didn’t eat their
chocolate; they drank it. First, they ground cacao seeds into a chocolate paste
that they mixed with water, chile peppers, cornmeal, and other ingredients.
Then, they poured this bitter concoction back and forth from cup to pot until it
developed a thick foam on top. (Sugar wasn't available in Mesoamerica, so any
sweetener probably came from a bit of honey or flower nectar.)
MAYA people of ALL RANKS drank chocolate for SOCIAL and RELIGIOUS reasons
Chocolate found favor with rich and poor
Among the ancient Maya from the Classic
Period, everyone—no matter their status—could occasionally enjoy a chocolate
drink. But the wealthy drank their chocolate from elaborate vessels decorated by
specially trained artists.
In fact, the paintings on these vessels tell us much about chocolate’s place in
Maya life. Some show images of kings, or even gods and animals, drinking
Maya writing tells us much about chocolate’s use.
We know these containers held chocolate
because the written symbols painted on them say so. These symbols, called
"glyphs," are actually the Maya written language. The word for chocolate has its
own special glyph.
In addition, Maya historical documents typically contain both pictures and
glyphs and reveal much about chocolate’s role in society.
Cacao and chocolate were used for ceremonial
A particular favorite of Maya kings and
priests, chocolate played a special part in royal and religious events. Maya
couples even drank chocolate as part of their betrothal and marriage ceremonies.
The Maya believed that one of the most sacred offerings was that of blood.
Images from ancient religious text sometimes show Maya priests dripping a blood
offering onto cacao pods.
An AZTEC Import
By the 1400s, the Aztecs were gradually gaining
control over a huge expanse of Mesoamerica. Their territory ranged all the way
from northern Mexico to the Maya lands in Honduras.
Cacao quickly became key to the Aztec’s vast trade empire—not only as a luxury
drink, but also as money, offerings to the gods, and payment to rulers.
The AZTECS TRADED for it and DEMANDED it as TRIBUTE
The Aztecs couldn’t grow cacao, so they traded for
The cacao tree will not flourish in the
dry highlands of central Mexico, at one time the seat of the Aztec empire. So
the Aztecs traded with the Maya and other peoples in order to receive a steady
supply of seeds for chocolate.
In Maya lands south of their own, Aztec traders filled woven backpacks with
cacao. Then these men hauled their precious cargo on foot to the Aztec capital
city, Tenochtitlan (ten noch teet LAN), today the site of Mexico City.
The Aztecs also demanded cacao as tribute.
Aztec rulers required ordinary citizens
and conquered peoples to pay a tax, also called “tribute.” Because cacao was so
valuable, conquered peoples who lived in cacao-growing areas paid tribute with
Cacao cups, ocelot skins, feathers, greenstone beads, and many other goods were
just a few of the items people could use to pay tribute.
The AZTECS DRANK chocolate, and sometimes colored it for SACRED RITUALS
The Aztecs processed cacao into chocolate just like
the ancient Maya.
To make the seeds lighter during
transport, Aztec merchants most likely traded for cacao that had already been
fermented and dried.
Once these seeds were obtained, the Aztecs then roasted and ground the cacao
using a griddle and a mano and metate, just like the Maya.
The Aztecs flavored their chocolate drink
with a variety of seasonings.
Like the Maya, the Aztecs made their
chocolate into a frothy, bitter beverage and mixed it with cornmeal, chile
peppers, vanilla beans, and black pepper.
Different ingredients changed the texture, flavor, color, and purpose of the
brew. To turn the chocolate a deep, blood-red shade for ritual use, the Aztecs
added achiote (ah chee OH tay), the seed of the annatto tree.
Only AZTEC NOBILITY, MERCHANTS, and PRIESTS drank chocolate, but EVERYONE used
cacao seeds as MONEY
Drinking chocolate was a luxury few Aztecs could
In the Aztec world, cacao seeds were
worth a fortune—for paying tribute to rulers, for buying things in markets, and
for making offerings to the gods.
Only the Aztec elite (rulers, priests, decorated warriors, and honored
merchants) held the social status and economic position to savor the drink.
Chocolate was the Aztec food of the gods.
According to one Aztec legend, the god
Quetzalcoatl (ket sal koh AH tul) brought heavenly cacao to Earth.
Eventually, Quetzalcoatl was cast out of paradise for the blasphemous act
of giving this sacred drink to humans. (The gods felt that only they should have
access to chocolate.) Priests often made offerings of cacao seeds to
Quetzalcoatl and these other deities.
In Aztec markets, cacao seeds served as cash.
When Aztec people went shopping, they
used cacao seeds to buy and sell everything from cooking pots to clothes and
food. The seeds were valuable and easy to carry—like having a pocket full of
Cacao was valuable partly because the Aztecs couldn’t grow it themselves and had
to import it from far away. And for this reason, cacao wasn’t for sale in
markets—merchants kept the seeds locked up like money in a cash register.
Chocolate: A European Sweet
Until the 1500s, no one in Europe knew anything
at all about the delicious drink that would later become a huge hit worldwide.
Spain’s search for a route to riches led its explorers to the Americas and
introduced them to chocolate’s delicious flavor.
Eventually, the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs made it possible to import
chocolate back home, where it quickly became a court favorite. And within 100
years, the love of chocolate spread throughout the rest of Europe.
Take a more detailed look below at the different ways Spain and the rest of
Europe obtained, made, and used cacao.
A SPANISH Conquest
Although it's likely that other early explorers
encountered cacao in the Americas, it wasn’t until Hernán Cortés conquered
Mexico in 1521 that the Spanish began to learn about the delicious flavor of
Contact between Spaniards and Aztecs opened a gateway for the exchange of ideas
and technology—and a new European market for foods like cacao.
The SPANISH DEMANDED it from CONQUERED PEOPLES
The Spanish carried cacao home with them.
In 1521, Cortés led his forces against
Montezuma’s warriors and defeated them in battle. The Spanish soldiers demanded
that Aztec nobles hand over their treasures or be killed.
Cacao, a treasured treat and a form of Aztec money, became one of the spoils of
war. Spanish soldiers claimed the Aztec’s supply of cacao and began to demand it
from the same peoples from whom the Aztecs had demanded tribute. Before long,
cacao and chocolate made their way to Spain.
Indigenous peoples provided labor for landowners in the Americas.
In Spain, people couldn’t get enough of
this new drink, which had never been tasted before outside the Americas. Keeping
up with the demand for chocolate required the labor of millions of people to
tend, harvest, and process both sugar and cacao.
From the early 1600s until the late 1800s, enslaved people provided most of this
labor—the most inexpensive way for plantation owners to produce large
quantities. The first people enslaved for the sake of chocolate were
The SPANISH DRANK chocolate with CINNAMON and SUGAR and blended it with a
The Spanish didn’t like the bitter flavor
At first, Cortés and his men weren’t
thrilled by chocolate’s taste. To spice up the brew a bit, they began heating
the beverage and adding a variety of ingredients.
Once the drink migrated to Europe, someone eventually got the idea to add sugar,
cinnamon, and other spices to the mix—and sweet, hot chocolate was born.
The Spanish introduced a new tool to chocolate
Spain didn’t really change the way raw
cacao was prepared and processed into chocolate. The native peoples still did
all the work of harvesting the pods and fermenting, drying, cleaning, and
roasting the seeds.
However, the Spanish did bring one new tool to the trade—the molinillo (moh
lin EE oh). A wood stirring stick, the molinillo made the job of
whipping chocolate into a smooth foam much easier.
Only WEALTHY SPANIARDS and CHURCH OFFICIALS could afford to drink chocolate
Spanish priests introduced the Spanish court to
Legend has it that, in 1544, a group of
Dominican friars took a delegation of native peoples to visit Prince Philip in
Spain. These captives gave his majesty his first taste of chocolate, which
quickly became the fashionable trend in the Spanish court.
Because of its early colonization of the Americas, Spain held a monopoly on
chocolate for many years. Only the wealthiest and most well-connected Spanish
nobility could afford this expensive import.
The Spanish Catholic Church drank chocolate for
The Spanish recognized chocolate’s
restorative and nutritional properties immediately. (Cacao is naturally high in
calories and contains caffeine and a similar chemical called theobromine.)
As a result, during the 16th century, chocolate became known as a clerical
fasting beverage. After much debate, the Catholic Church allowed people to drink
liquid chocolate as a nutritional substitute during fasting periods (when solid
foods are taboo).
A EUROPEAN Obsession
Nearly 100 years passed before other European
countries caught the chocolate craze. Were the Spaniards trying to keep
chocolate to themselves? And how did news of chocolate spread? We’re not sure.
Eventually someone let the secret slip, and chocolate became the latest and
greatest fad to hit the royal courts of Europe—a trend that lasted until the
Industrial Revolution made chocolate available to a much broader public.
EUROPEANS GREW it on PLANTATIONS
Many countries established cacao-growing colonies.
The English, Dutch, and French also
colonized cacao-growing lands near the equator. The British planted trees in
Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The Dutch established plantations in Venezuela, Java, and
Sumatra. And the French focused on the West Indies.
Soon, these countries were shipping cacao back home to keep Europe well stocked
Plantations struggled with labor issues.
Many of the products coming out of the
Americas at this time were labor-intensive crops. Colonial landowners needed a
large workforce to meet European demand for sugar as well as indigo (dye),
tobacco, cotton, and cacao itself.
After so many Mesoamericans died from European diseases, growers needed a new
labor force. European colonial landowners turned to Africa to supply them with
the necessary labor. For over two centuries, a combination of millions of wage
laborers and enslaved peoples were used to create a large workforce.
EUROPEANS ground cacao using MILLS and some DRANK their chocolate with MILK
Chocolate mills helped Europeans grind large amounts
Like the Spanish, most other Europeans
had their plantation workers harvest, ferment, and dry the seeds for overseas
shipping. Once they arrived in European ports, these seeds would have to be
ground by hand.
But eventually, to produce larger amounts of chocolate more quickly, people
began grinding their cacao using wind-driven or horse-drawn mills.
Europeans drank their chocolate with sugar and milk.
As with the Spanish, most Europeans
liked their chocolate sweetened with sugar, another expensive and exotic import
from faraway plantations.
And in the late 1600s, Sir Hans Sloane, president of the Royal College of
Physicians, introduced another culinary custom: mixing the already popular
chocolate drink with milk for a lighter, smoother flavor.
In France, chocolate was a state monopoly.
According to legend, the French court’s
love of chocolate was sealed when its new, self-confessed chocoholic queen, Anne
of Austria (daughter of King Philip III of Spain), married Louis XIII in 1615.
Chocolate became an instant status symbol, and by decree, no one but members of
the French aristocracy were allowed to drink it.
In England, anyone with money could drink
The first chocolate house opened in
London in 1657. Like coffee shops, which became popular much later, chocolate
houses were places to enjoy a hot drink, discuss politics, socialize, and
Many chocolate houses admitted only men. Others were open to anyone who could
afford the entrance fee.
Wealthy Europeans used special dishes for
Europeans preferred to drink their
chocolate from ornate dishes made out of precious materials and crafted by
Like the elaborate ceramic vessels of ancient Maya and Aztec rulers, these
dishes were more than serving pieces. They were also symbols of wealth.
Chocolate: A Contemporary Confection
For hundreds of years, the
chocolate-making process remained relatively unaltered. But by the mid 1700s,
the blossoming Industrial Revolution saw the emergence of innovations that
changed the future of chocolate.
A steady stream of new inventions and advertising helped set the stage for solid
chocolate candy to become the globally favored sweet it is today.
Take a more detailed look below at the different ways people obtained, made,
and used cacao in the recent past and in the present.
An INDUSTRIAL AGE Innovation
From Prehispanic times until the
dawn of the Industrial Revolution, chocolate was largely a handmade product.
Time consuming and expensive to produce, chocolate was available only to the
wealthy as a beverage.
But new machinery of the industrial age made it possible to create solid
chocolate and mass-produce this candy in enormous quantities at a fraction of
the original cost. For the first time, most of the general public could afford
this tasty treat.
EUROPEANS and AMERICANS PURCHASED cacao and sugar from PLANTATIONS
Hardships continued long after slavery’s
For more than two centuries, enslaved
people had labored to produce crops in lands colonized by European nations.
Although slavery was abolished in all countries by 1888, the need for labor to
meet the demand for products like sugar and cacao continued.
In some tropical countries, harsh labor conditions prevailed long after the end
Some activists in the world of chocolate worked to improve conditions.
In 1910, William Cadbury (the famous chocolate manufacturer) invited several
English and American chocolate companies to join him in refusing to buy cacao
from plantations characterized by harsh working conditions until things
That same year, a United States Congressional hearing resulted in a formal U.S.
ban on any cocoa shown to be the product of slave labor from these plantations.
EUROPEANS and AMERICANS used MACHINERY to process cacao into SOLID CHOCOLATE
Machines made chocolate a mass-produced treat.
In the early 1700's, a Frenchman named
Doret invented a hydraulic machine to grind cacao seeds into a paste. Not long
afterward, another Frenchman by the name of Dubuisson, created the steam-driven
These mechanical mills relieved people from the labor-intensive process of
grinding cacao. It became possible to grind huge amounts of cacao and
mass-produce chocolate inexpensively and quickly.
New innovations improved chocolate’s texture and
Before the Industrial Revolution,
chocolate was a gritty, rather oily paste usually dissolved in water or milk and
made into a beverage. But the invention of new machines made it possible to
create smoother, creamier chocolate in the form of an edible candy bar.
One of the most important inventions was the cocoa press, created in 1828 by the
Dutch chemist Coenraad Van Houten. It squeezed out cocoa butter (leaving the
powder we call cocoa) and made cocoa both more consistent and cheaper to
New ingredients also improved chocolate’s texture
In 1815, Van Houten added alkaline
salts to powdered chocolate, which helped it to mix better with water and gave
it a darker color and milder flavor.
And in 1875, Daniel Peter and Henri Nestlé teamed up to introduce condensed milk
to chocolate. Their smooth, creamy “milk chocolate” rapidly became a popular
In EUROPE and AMERICA, eventually solid chocolate for EATING became affordable
to a MASS MARKET
Expensive handmade chocolate gave way to
affordable mass-produced sweets.
For hundreds of years, chocolate
remained a pricey luxury for the upper classes. But new technologies made
chocolate affordable to a much broader segment of society and opened up
opportunities for culinary experimentation.
Chocolate began to appear not only in its candy bar form, but also became much
more popular as an ingredient in other confectionery sweets, such as cakes,
pastries, and sorbets.
Advertising boosted public consumption of
While inventions made chocolate easier
to produce, advertising made it something people craved.
As chocolate products became cheaper to make and buy, advertisers introduced
marketing campaigns aimed at more people, particularly women and children.
Breakfast chocolate became a part of many people’s diets. And nibbling on
chocolate bars was encouraged as a way to sustain energy, cure lethargy, and
improve a host of other medical conditions.
Today’s GLOBAL Treat
During the early part of the 20th
century, new machinery, new lands for cacao-growing, and even the two world wars
helped spread chocolate’s popularity.
Today, although cacao farming hasn’t changed much, chocolate manufacturing has
become a blend of art and science. Thanks to trade and technology, cacao seeds
and chocolate are part of a global market economy that includes most countries
around the world.
TODAY, TRADERS move cacao between SMALL FARMERS and MANUFACTURERS
Cacao comes from farms around the world.
In the past century, chocolate’s
popularity grew so astonishingly that, at times, cacao became scarce. As a
result, throughout the world many equatorial countries that had never grown
cacao before began to cultivate it.
A few manufacturers today still own their own cacao farms, but the colonial
plantations once controlled by Europe and America are gone. Most cacao is now
produced by independent farmers or cooperative groups in unexpected places like
Africa and Indonesia—far away from cacao’s original home in the tropical
rainforests of the Americas.
Cacao is still grown by hand.
While machines have made chocolate
faster to produce and cheaper to buy, they haven’t changed the way in which
cacao is grown.
Chocolate manufacturers must still purchase cacao from farmers who tend,
harvest, ferment, dry, and pack the seeds by hand.
Cacao is traded as a global commodity.
Cacao farmers sell their product to
chocolate-processing companies through traders at the Coffee, Sugar, and Cocoa
Exchange (similar to a stock exchange).
Chocolate manufacturers, cacao importers and exporters, trade houses, and
producers all buy and sell contracts for cacao crops before those crops are even
WE use MACHINERY in FACTORIES to process cacao
Chocolate is mostly machine-made, not handmade.
Converting cacao seeds into chocolate
has now evolved into a complex and time-consuming mechanized process that
includes several steps.
In assembly-line fashion, varieties of cacao from around the world are blended,
roasted, cracked, winnowed, ground, pressed, mixed, conched, refined, and
tempered into rich, creamy candy bars.
Chocolate factories operate like science labs.
Most large-scale manufacturers run
their chocolate-making factories like laboratories. They devise special blends
of exotic cacao seeds and create unique recipes for chocolate that hold the
secret to brand success.
Precision instruments track temperature and moisture levels and regulate the
timing of automated processes within the factory.
Hundreds of new chocolate factories and flavors
have come and gone.
Over the years, many creative confectioners
developed lots of new varieties and flavors of chocolate. A few icons of the
early 1900s still survive today.
Hershey got his start making chocolate-coated caramels in 1893. And his
competitors, the father-and-son team of Mars, created the malted-milk-filled
Milky Way after an inspiring trip to the local drugstore soda fountain.
AROUND THE WORLD, MANY PEOPLE can now EAT chocolate or USE cacao products in
COSMETICS OR MEDICINE.
The military introduced many people to
Surprisingly, the armed forces helped
spread the love of chocolate worldwide. The trend first began in the late 19th
century, when Queen Victoria got her soldiers hooked on chocolate by sending
them gifts of this nourishing and delicious candy for Christmas.
But the popularity of candy bars really skyrocketed after World War I, when
chocolate was part of every United State’s soldier’s rations. By 1930, there
were nearly 40,000 different kinds of chocolate.
Although it’s now more affordable, not everyone
chooses to eat chocolate.
Many Asian cultures have never really
developed a taste for the sweet. In fact, the Chinese eat only one bar of
chocolate for every 1,000 consumed by the British.
And in countries like Ghana and Ivory Coast, people rarely eat chocolate because
it is worth more to them as a trade product than as a food.
Cacao can be used in cosmetics and medicine, too.
For many years, chocolate has been more
than a food; it has served as a health and beauty aid, too.
Theobromine, a chemical found in chocolate, enlarges blood vessels and is used
to treat high blood pressure. In addition, cocoa butter is used in cosmetics and
ointments—and even as a coating for pills. Plus, leftover cacao husks make good
mulch and cattle feed.
Chocolate is still associated with many religious
Chocolate still plays a part in festive
celebrations that are associated with many religious holidays. Most of us expect
to eat chocolate in some form near events like Hanukkah, Christmas, and Easter.
In Mexico in particular, chocolate is used to make offerings during the Day of
the Dead festival, a time for remembering loved ones who have died.
Most of us know chocolate as a deliciously
decadent sweet that we eat in cookies, cakes, candy bars, and other desserts.
But around the world, many people have prepared chocolate as a bitter, frothy
drink—or even as part of a main meal served at dinnertime.
And, chocolate isn’t simply a snack or key ingredient in cooking. Over the
centuries, many cultures have used the seeds from which chocolate is made—cacao
(kah KOW)—as a sacred symbol in religious ceremonies. Plus, medicinal remedies
featuring chocolate have been used as household curatives across the globe.
Kerr, Justin. "History of Chocolate".
All About Chocolate, from the Field Museum exhibit "Chocolate".
April 14, 2004 <http://www.fmnh.org/chocolate/history.html>.