This history of chocolate is as rich and creamy as the delectable treat we enjoy today. The discovery of the secrets of the cacao plant is most often credited to ancient cultures of Mexico and Central American some 2000 years ago. At this time chocolate was enjoyed as a bitter drink seasoned with spices and even hot chili peppers. Today new archeological evidence points back even further to 1400 B.C.E., when chocolate may have even been fermented and turned into an alcoholic beverage of the time. Did anyone say chocolate martini?
Regardless of cacao’s exact discovery, its history is one of fable and legend. The Mayans and Aztecs believed it to be magical or even divine. Both cultures used this bitter drink in the sacred rituals of birth, marriage and death. Even Montezuma, the Aztec king, is said to have confused the Spanish explorer Cortes for a reincarnated deity instead of a conquering invader after feasting on the chocolate drink. In comparison, the rest of chocolate’s history is one of tasteful delight.
By the 17th century, chocolate had finally made its way across the Atlantic and became a fashionable drink throughout Europe with medicinal and even aphrodisiac properties. Casanova himself was even rumored to be especially fond of the drink. It wasn’t until the end of the 18th century that drink became a confection and the first solid chocolate was formed.
During the American Revolutionary War this solid chocolate was so valued it was used in lieu of wages. By the middle of the 19th century the Cadbury brothers and Henri Nestle had emerged as premiere Chocolatiers. By 1900, Milton Hershey formed the Hershey Chocolate Company and began producing affordable chocolate bars for the masses. In 1907, the world was introduced to the Hershey Kiss and has been enjoying them ever since.
Today there has been what is described as a chocolate revolution, with marked increasing interest in high-quality, hand made chocolates. In the United States alone chocolate production is a 4-billion-dollar industry and the average American eats as much as half a pound per month. Efforts to produce greener chocolate with sustainable cacao farming and harvesting methods are continuing to be developed throughout the world.
So whether or not you’re enjoying a Hershey Kiss, a chocolate martini or $120 per pound Godiva chocolate, rest assured chocolate is here to stay!