Chocolate History

Chocolate History | By Verland Pierson

Chocolate is made from the seed of the cacao tree, a tree native to lowland areas of South America. Cacao was used as far back in history as 1100 BC. Although the Maya used the cacao bean earlier, most of the credit is given to the Aztecs.

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Cacao played an important role in the Aztec society, serving both as a drink and as currency. The drink “xocolatl” or “bitter water” was consumed by the Aztec elite society. According to legend the Aztec ruler Montezuma consumed up to fifty cups of chocolate a day. Perhaps the myth of chocolate was born when Europeans first observed Montezuma drinking xocolatl prior to visiting his concubine.

Although Columbus actually was the first to bring cacao back to Spain, it wasn’t until Cortez returned to Spain with cacao beans that Europeans first started consuming it. Unlike the people of South America, Europeans found the drink bitter and sweetened it with sugar. Within 100 years the secrets of cacao had spread throughout Europe and chocolate was a favorite in the royal courts of Europe.

In 1828 the Dutch chemist Van Houten invented a press to extract the cocoa butter from the roasted ground beans leading to the invention of the chocolate bar. When Daniel Peters developed a technique to incorporate condensed milk into the candy, and Milton Hershey used fresh whole milk, milk chocolate was born.

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History is sprinkled with anecdotes relating to chocolate and it’s various uses. In addition to Montezuma’s use of cacao as an aphrodisiac, the great lover Cassanova allegedly used chocolate for the same reason. Reportedly he actually preferred chocolate to champagne. Chocolate was actually marketed as a medicine here in the United States and in Europe.

Today we continue the aphrodisiac tradition with Valentines Day gifts and the tradition of bringing flowers and chocolate for dates.

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Author of this article is Verland Pierson, webmaster and contributing writer for
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