Chocolate is one of the most popular desserts worldwide, but do you ever wonder who invented chocolate?
Chocolate needs no introduction. It’s one of the most-loved sweet treats around the world. The bitter-sweet flavor of chocolate is simply addictive, to say the least. Since we’ve always had this sweet treat at our disposal, we don’t really think about who invented it in the first place. Since it’s not a natural product, there has to be someone who first made it, right?
The Mexicans first invented chocolate about 4,000 years ago. It was initially consumed as a drink, and it took a long while for it to take the form of chocolate we know of today. From being used as a beverage, to smooth chocolate bars, chocolate has come a long way.
People have loved chocolate as much as we do today for thousands of years. It’s only that the form it was enjoyed back in the day wasn’t anywhere near to how we use chocolate today. You can have chocolate as a whole chocolate bar, or you could make delicious chocolate desserts, add to your milk, or use it any way you like. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that chocolate is one of the most versatile ingredients available today! While there are plenty of people who love chocolate, only a few actually know its history. You can’t call yourself a true chocolate lover if you don’t know all about it.
We know chocolates like no one else, and we thought, why not take you on a quick walkthrough of who invented chocolate and how it took the form that we see today.
Who Invented Chocolate – The Origin
Chocolate was invented by the Mexicans of ancient Mesoamerica, Mexico, in the present day. It was the Mayans who first discovered the cocoa beans in this region. However, the Olmec, known to the earliest Latin American civilizations, created the first chocolate from the cocoa plants that Mayans had discovered.
In its initial years of discovery and development, chocolate was consumed as a drink during various rituals and was often used as a medicine. After several centuries, the Mayans started to praise chocolate and called it the drink of the gods. This drink was basically a brew that was made using cocoa seeds that were first roasted and then ground and then mixed with water, chilies, and cornmeal. This mixture was poured from pot to pot until it became a thick beverage called xocolatl, which means bitter water.
The Aztecs used chocolate as a currency in the 15th century. They firmly believed it to be a gift from their god, Quetzalcoatl. They used it as a refreshing drink and as an aphrodisiac.
How Chocolate Reached the Rest of the World – The Journey
After the invention of chocolate in ancient Mexico, it took several centuries for this sweet treat to reach the rest of the world. We’ve put down the history of chocolate in a nutshell for you.
Chocolate Reached Spain
It was between 1500 and 1600 that chocolate made its way to Spain. It’s a popular belief that Cortes discovered chocolate during his expedition to America when an Aztec emperor served him a cocoa drink. Cortes took cocoa seeds to Spain with him. Although the Spanish continued to use chocolate as a beverage, they added honey and sugar to mask the bitter taste and make it sweeter. It didn’t take long for chocolate to become popular in Spain.
The Popularity of Chocolates Spreads through Europe
Chocolate stayed a sweet treat for the Spanish alone for about a century before it reached France and became popular in all of Europe. After France, chocolate became available for everyone to enjoy in chocolate houses in Britain. With the increasing popularity, many other nations began cocoa plantations.
The First Chocolate Company
In 1765, the first-ever chocolate company was established. Walter Baker and Company made chocolate drinks and marketed these drinks and cocoa across the United States that had just been formed. The company promised 100% money back if the customer wasn’t satisfied with their product.
Chocolate for Soldiers in Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783)
During the Revolutionary War, the soldiers were given chocolate powder as payment. They used to mix the chocolate powder in their food and enjoyed a caffeine boost that energized them after long battling days.
First Chocolate Press (1828)
After 1828, the commercial production of chocolate as we know of today began. Coenraad Johannes van Houten, a Dutch chemist developed the first cocoa press. This press squeezed the cocoa butter out from the cocoa beans and left behind fine cocoa powder. This powder was mixed with certain liquids. The liquid mixture was poured into molds where it solidified to form the edible chocolate bar.
Later in 1847, J.S. Fry and Sons, a British company, made the first commercial chocolate bar which was quite bitter in taste. Later, the company modified the formula to make its chocolate bars tastier and marketable.
We all know Cadbury. It’s the biggest and the most popular chocolate company today. In 1868, Cadbury first started to sell delicious chocolate candies in pretty packaging, which made chocolate all more popular.
Milk Chocolate (1876)
Until 1876, chocolate was mainly made using cocoa and sweetened with sweeteners to mask the bitter taste. In 1876, a chocolatier in Switzerland made the first milk chocolate. The chocolate powder was mixed with dry powder milk. It was not as bitter as the dark chocolate that everyone was familiar with until now, which gave chocolate’s popularity a massive boost!
Lindt Chocolate (1879)
The luxury chocolate, Lindt that we love oh-so-dearly today, came into existence in 1879 when Rudolf Lindt invented the revolutionary conch machine. This machine was quite large in size with mixing arms and granite rollers. It was large enough to make one ton of chocolate in one go. The chocolate made in the conch machine has a very smooth and velvety texture that can be mixed with different ingredients with ease.
We can’t stop our mouths from watering at the mention of Hershey’s (Hershey’s Kisses, oh heavens!). In 1894, Milton Hershey laid the foundation of his chocolate empire. Each chocolate bar made at Hershey’s was wrapped in foil by hand. Hershey’s chocolates were quite a treat that everyone could afford.
Nestle Milk Chocolate (1904)
Nestle had been in business for 60 years already. It was in 1904 that they first introduced their mild chocolates. Today, Nestle continues to offer sweet chocolate treats like Baby Ruths, Crunch Bars, and Butterfingers.
Toblerone was the first of its kind chocolate that had chocolate and plenty of other ingredients like nougat, almonds, and honey! Toblerone continues to rule our hearts even today.
In 1911, Mars Inc. came into being with Snickers as its first chocolate bar. Over several years, they added Twix, M&M’s, and 3 Musketeers to their product line.
From this point onwards, the chocolate trend only went up and above. Chocolate was made available in forms that no one could have thought about a few years ago. It looked like there was no limit to how one could use chocolate, from chocolate ganache to chocolate truffles to chocolate wafers and cookies to chocolate pudding. While the Mayans, Olmecs, and Aztecs invented chocolate, the rest of the world played a role in bringing chocolate into the form that we know today.
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