Chocolate has grown in popularity as one of the world’s most common food styles and flavors. Chocolate bunnies and eggs are popular Easter gifts, chocolate coins are popular Hanukkah gifts, Santa Claus and other holiday symbols are popular Christmas gifts, and chocolate hearts are popular Valentine’s Day gifts. Chocolate is also used to make chocolate milk and hot chocolate, both cold and hot drinks. Most of us are familiar with chocolate as a decadent sweet that we enjoy in cookies, cakes, candy bars, and other desserts.
Many people have prepared chocolate as a bitter, frothy drink or even as part of the main meal served at dinnertime all over the world. Chocolate isn’t just a tasty treat or a staple in the kitchen. Many cultures have used cacao, the seeds from which chocolate is produced, as a sacred symbol in religious ceremonies over the years. Additionally, chocolate-based herbal treatments have been used as household remedies all over the world.
Cacao is a tree that produces chocolate. Cacao trees can only be grown in tropical climates that are 20 degrees north or south of the equator. West Africa, Brazil, Ecuador, and the Indies are among the fastest-growing areas. It takes about five years for the trees to produce fruit in the form of pods. Each pod contains 20-40 grams of cocoa cream on average. One pound of chocolate liquor needs nearly 400 seeds, which are ground into a semi-liquid mass. Chocolate liquor is a non-alcoholic drug that is used to make both chocolate goods and cocoa.
The first European to discover chocolate, Christopher Columbus is believed to be. When Christopher Columbus returned to Spain in 1502 after his fourth voyage to the New World, he brought several treasures to King Ferdinand’s palace. Cocoa beans, the almond-shaped seeds of the cacao tree that are the source of all chocolate and cocoa products we enjoy today, were among them. Several decades later, the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez met Aztec Indians using cocoa beans to make a drink called ‘chocolatl,’ which means ‘warm liquid,’ during the conquest of Mexico. Azteca’s Emperor Montezum, who would drink 50 or more portions every day at the golden cup, treat them as the nectar to the gods serving guests of that royal drink.
The first chocolate factory opened in New England in the United States in 1765. Even Thomas Jefferson commended the goodness of chocolate, “the health and food advantages of chocolate.” Brown mass production begins when the steam engine invented by James Watt in 1770 replaces the time-consuming cocoa process. CJ Van Houten’s discovery of the 1828 Cocoa Press greatly enhanced the drink quality by pressing out a portion of the cocoa butter, the fat which naturally occurs in cocoa beans.
Two major developments revolutionized the chocolate industry in the mid-19th century. The British company launched solid chocolate “eating” in 1847. Chocolate is now available to the public as chocolate or as beverages. Three decades later Daniel Peter found that milk could be added to chocolate for the production of a new product called milk chocolate in Vevey, Switzerland.
From then on chocolate was made in the form of a solid bar, and baked goods, ice cream, and milk flavor have been put on candy. Chocolate has long been recognized as a portable food for energy and enthusiasm.