Chocolate has traveled a long way from Latin America to the present day. Doesn’t it make you wonder which kind of chocolate was the first chocolate?
Chocolate's origins date back to the Mayans, and even further back, thousands of years, to the Olmecs of southern Mexico. The word cocoa may bring up visions of delicious decadent truffles and candy bars, but today's chocolate is nothing like before. Chocolate has long been seen as an esteemed but sour beverage, rather than a pleasant, edible delight.
J.S. Fry and Sons, a British chocolate firm, invented the first bar of chocolate in 1847, using a paste consisting of cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, and sugar. Daniel Peter, a Swiss chocolatier, is credited with creating milk chocolate in 1876 by mixing dried milk powder to chocolate.
To accommodate the increased demand for the sweet delicacy, family chocolate companies such as Hershey, Nestle, Mars, and Cadbury began mass-producing a variety of chocolate confections in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
After conducting extensive research and speaking with various chocolate manufacturers, we have put together this guide to help answer the question: which kind of chocolate was the first chocolate?
Which kind of chocolate was the first chocolate?
During the nineteenth century, chocolate had gone a long way, but it was still difficult and hard to chew. But it wasn't until some years later that Peter teamed up with his buddy Henri Nestle to form the Nestle Company, which was responsible for bringing milk chocolate to the masses.
Rudolf Lindt, a Swiss chocolatier, devised the conch machine in 1879, which combined and aerated chocolate to give it a velvety, melt-in-your-mouth quality that mingled nicely with other ingredients.
We can trace the history of chocolate's origins back to Mesoamerica. As far back as 450 BC, chocolate-fermented drinks have been around. Cacao seeds were thought to be a gift from Quetzalcoatl and the seeds were originally so valuable that they were employed as a sort of payment by the Mexica. Chocolate was originally distributed as a sour liquid, blended with spices or maize puree, and offered only as a drink. It was thought to be sensual and a source of power for those who drank it. Local residents in the south of Mexico and the northern triangle of Central America make these drinks today, which are known as "Chilate" (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras). Sugar was added to it after it arrived in Europe in the sixteenth century, and it grew popular across society, first among the governing classes and subsequently among the common people. Chocolate was deemed crucial in the supplies of United States troops during wartime in the twentieth century. The word "chocolate" is derived from the Classical Nahuatl word chocoltl, which has an unknown etymology and was borrowed from the Spanish language.
The majority of us link chocolate to a box of bonbons or a bar. The most suitable word would be "sweet," and the verb that immediately comes to mind is definitely "eat," not "drink." However, for the first 90 years of chocolate's lengthy tradition, it was primarily a beverage, with no mention of sugar.
Alexandra Leaf, a chocolate educationalist, mentioned that he often thinks of chocolate as the finest food that nobody really knows much about.
Who Invented Chocolate?
Chocolate has a 4,000-year history that dates back to ancient Mesoamerica, which is now Mexico. This is where the earliest cacao plants were found. One of Latin America's ancient nations, the Olmec, was the first to transform the cacao bean into chocolate. They consumed chocolate during rituals and used it as medicine.
The Mayans hailed chocolate as the beverage of the gods centuries later. Mayan chocolates were a renowned beverage made from roasted and crushed cornmeal, water, and cacao seeds. Mayans made a thick frothy beverage called "xocolatl," which means "bitter water," by pouring this mix from one pot to another.
By the 15th century, cocoa beans were used as legal tender by the Aztecs. Chocolate was often enjoyed as a means to prepare for war, as a pleasant beverage, and even as an aphrodisiac, considering it a gift from the god Quetzalcoatl.
At the beginning of time
The cacao tree remained unknown to Europeans until the 16th century.
On August 15, 1502, on his fourth trip to the Americas, Christopher Columbus and his crew seized a big native canoe that turned out to hold, among other things, cacao beans for commerce. While Columbus carried cacao beans back to Spain, it was not until Spanish friars brought chocolate to the Spanish court that it had an impression.
When he saw chocolate in the court of Montezuma in 1519, Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés may have been the first European to see it. Bernal Daz, who accompanied Cortés during the conquest of Mexico, wrote of the incident in 1568:
They offered him [Montezuma] a particular drink produced from cacao from time to time in cups of pure gold. They did bring in almost fifty enormous pitchers of frothy cacao, and he drank some of it. Chocolate was brought to Europe after the Spanish conquered the Aztecs.
Due to its bitterness, Spaniards used it as a medication to alleviate ailments like abdominal pain in the beginning. It changed after being sweetened. It rapidly became a favorite among the judges. It was still served as a beverage, but the natural bitterness was offset by the addition of sugar or honey. By the end of the eighteenth century, the Spaniards had abandoned their attempt to reproduce the original taste of Mesoamerican chocolate by adding similar spices. Chocolate has developed a foothold in Europe within a hundred years.
Chocolate from the Mayans
The Olmecs probably carried forth their knowledge on the cacao to the Mayans of Central America, who not only ate but also valued chocolate. Chocolate drinks are used to complete important transactions and in festivals in Mayan.
Despite the importance of chocolate in Mayan civilization, it was not only available to the powerful and wealthy, but to almost everyone. Chocolate was handed out with every feast in many Mayan homes. This type of chocolate was dense and frothy, and it was often mixed with water, honey, or chilies.
Cacao Beans as a Medium of Exchange
Chocolate adoration reached new heights with the Aztecs. Cacao was thought to have been provided to them by their god. They liked the instant caffeine shot of spiced, cold or hot chocolate drinks served in beautiful containers, just like the Mayans, but they also utilized cacao beans as currency to purchase various commodities, including food. Cacao beans were considered more effective than gold in Aztec society. Aztec chocolate was mostly an elite-class treat, though it was occasionally consumed by the lower classes at weddings and other events.
Hot chocolate from Spain
Although there are differing accounts of when chocolate first arrived in Europe, it is generally acknowledged that it did so in Spain. According to the tale, Christopher Columbus revealed cocoa beans after cutting off a trade ship on his way to America in 1502 and carried them back to Spain.
Based on another story, the Aztecs of Montezuma's court acquainted the Spanish conquistador with the delicious treats of chocolate. He allegedly kept his new-found information about chocolate a hidden secret after returning to Spain with cacao beans along with him. According to a different tale, in 1544, friars presenting Guatemalan Mayans to Philip II of Spain also brought cocoa beans with them as a present.
Chocolate was deemed as a well-known luxury in Spain by the late 1500s. Later on, in 1585, Spain began trading chocolate in 1585. Other European countries, such as Italy and France, took chocolate back to their own countries after they learnt about cacao while visiting Central America. Chocolate frenzy quickly spread across Europe. Chocolate plantations, which provided employment to many workers, arose in response to the rising demand for chocolate.
The conventional Aztec chocolate drink did not gratify European palates. With cinnamon, cane sugar, and other common flavorings and spices, they created their own hot chocolate variants.
A Revolution in Chocolate
The history of chocolate is still being written, as the food is still quite popular among European aristocrats. Chocolate was consumed by royalty and the upper classes for its health benefits as well as its indulgence.
Chocolate was still made by hand, which was a time-consuming and tedious process. Things were about to change, though, as the Industrial Revolution approached.
The chocolate press was invented in 1828, and it revolutionized chocolate production. This ingenious mechanism could remove cocoa butter from cooked cacao beans, subsequently, leaving behind refined cocoa powder. Next, the powder was combined with liquid and placed into a mold, where it formed into a chocolate bar that could be eaten. And with that, the contemporary chocolate period was born.
Although most modern chocolate is highly refined and mass-produced, some chocolatiers continue to manufacture their creations by hand and use as few ingredients as possible. Although chocolate can be consumed as a beverage, it is more commonly consumed as an edible confection or in pastries and baked products. While the average chocolate bar isn't healthful, dark chocolate has established itself as a heart-healthy, antioxidant-rich delight.
Moreover, chocolate manufacturing in the modern day is not cheap. As many cocoa growers work hard to make ends meet, some resort to slave labor or low-wage (sometimes obtained through child trafficking) in order to remain competitive.
Large chocolate firms have been pushed to reexamine how they obtain their cocoa supply as a result of grassroots campaigns. It has also prompted calls for more "fair trade" chocolate made in an ethical and sustainable manner.
Magnum in the Modern Era
The Magnum Classic ice cream bar emerges on the scene a couple of centuries later. Magnum introduced the iconic chocolate ice cream that we all know and love in 1989.
Our premium Belgian chocolate producer created a distinctive chocolate covering with the signature crack to match smooth vanilla ice cream.
But one flavor was obviously not sufficient. Magnum White and Almond were among the new Magnums produced in 1992. The brand has since been experimenting with Magnum Mini and, more recently, Magnum Double, the most luxurious Magnum.
About THE AUTHOR
Lori has been a Culinary Arts instructor for twenty years. She has taught in the public school setting, at the collegiate level and through adult continuing education as well as running several cooking and baking camps for children. She has participated in several cooking, cake & chocolate contests and has been well recognized. She has raised thousands of dollars for charities using the byline “Saving the World one Cupcake at a Time”. Additionally, she has had several articles regarding food published in various magazines.Read More About Lori Gilmore