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The  Chocoholics Guide to Chocolate
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 [History of Chocolate] [The Cocoa Story] [Links] [Theories]

 

History of Chocolate

600 AD :

The cocoa bean is considered the ultimate status symbol in the Mayan and Aztec cultures. They use the beans as currency and those wealthy enough to have an excess of beans use them to make a chocolate drink that gives them "wisdom and power".

1000AD

Emperor Montezuma, who no doubt possesses more cocoa beans than anybody else at the time is a "chocoholic." Montezuma, it is reported, drinks nothing but chocolate, particularly before entering his harem. He believes that the concoction is a powerful aphrodisiac.

The Aztecs believed that drinking chocolate. which was the undiluted, unsweetened liquor from fermented cacao beans, would bring great wisdom, understanding and energy. Legend held that the Aztecs has persuaded the dread god Quentzacoatl to leave them in peace by giving him gallons of chocolate, which was also known as Quetzacoatl.

1492

Columbus was given some of the cacao beans and took them back to Spain, but he didn't know how to process and ferment them.

1502

Columbus is the first European to discover cocoa beans and chocolate. But it is the Conquistadors that realize the value of "money that grows on trees". Hernando de Oviedo y Valdez writes home to tell of how he was able to purchase a slave for 100 cocoa beans. Later Hernando Cortez builds a cocoa plantation for the express purpose of growing money in the name of Spain.

1519

Cortez descended upon the Aztecs and eventually destroyed Montezuma's armies and his capital. The Aztecs were convinced that Quetzacoatl had returned as prophesied and they tried to get him to leave by once again plying him with chocolate.

1528

Cortez returns to Spain with cocoa beans and the tools needed to make chocolate. Not that he is particularly fond of the concoction. In fact, he is said to personally have found the drink distasteful, probably because the Aztec method of preparation called for flavoring the drink with spices, including lots of chili. Spanish cooks quickly remedy that by changing the recipe, replacing the peppers with sugar.

1606

Spain manages to keep the discovery of chocolate a secret for more than a century. In the meantime, the Spanish cultivate quite a trade in the popular new beverage as well as cocoa plantations in their equatorial colonies around the world . It is an Italian merchant , Antonio Carletti,  who put in motion the process that breaks the Spanish monopoly of the chocolate trade.

1615

A Spanish princess married Louis XIII of France and the secret got out. Chocolate spread from France to England, Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

1657

England's first chocolate house opens in London. Its a big hit with the upper class and soon becomes the place where the elite meet to sip. Cocoa bean prices are exorbitant and , as the Spanish historian Oviedo, notes : "none but the rich and noble could afford " to frequent such establishments. Prices eventually drop and chocolate houses begin to appear throughout the country, challenging the primacy of coffee tea rooms and even pubs.

1671

The personal chef to the Duke of Plesslis-Preslin in France watches as a panful of burnt sugar spills over a bowlful of almonds. One taste and the Duke is decidedly pleased. He's so pleased, in fact, that he lends his name to this new confection and so, the "praslin" or "praline" comes into being. But it took Belgian chocolatiers to perfect this particular treat. Eventually, the word praline becomes synonymous with a particular type of Belgian confection featuring a molded shell of chocolate that is filled with creams, caramels, light ganache and of course, praline.

1674

They're still drinking chocolate throughout Europe, but enterprising bakers in England begin adding cocoa to their cake recipes making chocolate widely available in solid form for the first time. Within decades, solid chocolate becomes available throughout Europe in a variety of forms, including bars, lifting the status of chocolate from that of a stylish drink to that of a superb, sweet delicacy.

1697

Belgium is already established as one of Europe's premier centers for the production of chocolate. When the mayor of Zurich pays a visit to Brussels, he's so taken with the taste he returns home with news of the savory concoction, the inspiration for a new Swiss industry and no doubt a personal supply to savor for some time to come.

1712

By the turn of the 18th century, chocolate makes its way back to North America. In little more than a decade, Boston apothecary shops are advertising and selling chocolate imported from Europe. Soon, Massachusetts sea captains are bringing back cargoes of cocoa beans, and the chocolate trade blossoms.

1728

Back in Europe chocolate factories are springing up but they use the same age old labor intensive methods to grind and churn their products.

1753

Carolus Linnaeus named the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, which meant "food of the gods, chocolate."

1765

American colonists crave chocolate and the demand prompts James Baker and John Hannon to start their own industrial revolution by building a chocolate factory that uses water power to mechanize the production process. Their company, today known as the Walter Baker Company, is one of the oldest still operating in the US

1772

Leave it to the Marquis de Sade to rekindle the old chestnut about chocolate being a powerful aphrodisiac. He gives a ball in Marseilles and, as author Louis Petit de Bachaumont writes"'into the dessert he slipped chocolate pastilles so good that..no one failed to eat some. It proved to be so potent that those who ate the pastilles began to burn with unchaste ardor and to carry on as if in the grip of the most amorous frenzy." The story may be mythical , but the infamous Marquis was arrested soon after the ball was over.

1792

The Swiss, who today consume more chocolate per capita than any other nation (22 pounds, compared to 11 pounds per person in the US), are still trying to master the art of making chocolate. So, when the famed German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe embarks on a tour of Switzerland, he takes no chances and packs his own chocolate and chocolate pot for the journey.

1815

Dutch chocolate maker C.J. van Houten patented an inexpensive method for pressing the fat from roasted cacao beans. The center of the bean, known as the" nib" contains an average of 54 % cocoa butter, which is a natural fat. Van Houten's machine, a hydraulic press, reduced the cocoa butter content by nearly half. This created a "cake" that could be pulverized into a fine powder known as" cocoa". Van Houten treated the powder with alkaline salts so that the powder would mix more easily with water. Today, this process is known as "Dutching". The final product, Dutch chocolate, has a dark color and a mild taste.

1819

One hundred twenty two years after the mayor of Zurich brought chocolate back with him from Brussels, the Swiss develop a knack for making chocolate and Francois Louis Cailler opens the first Swiss chocolate factory on Lake Geneva. Not to be outdone, six years later Philippe Suchard builds his own machine, including the world's first chocolate mixer, and starts making his own confection.

1847

If J.S. Fry & Sons of Bristol, founded in 1728, is not the oldest chocolate factory in
England , it certainly is its most enduring and innovative. In fact, one son, Joseph,
had the ingenuity to purchase and install a steam engine in his factory in 1789, soon
after Watt invented the machine. A grandson, Francis, and a great grandson, another Joseph. carry on the tradition of innovation by adopting Van Houten's process and press and discovering a way to combine cocoa powder, sugar and cocoa butter to make the
first real chocolate bars.

1876

The Swiss Daniel Peter was trying to add milk to chocolate to produce a smoother chocolate. However, you can't add water to chocolate, it makes the chocolate shrink and separate and generally disintegrate. Milk has water in it. Daniel Peter met Henri Nestle' . Nestle' had perfected the manufacture of condensed milk , so and Peter added milk solids to chocolate and produced the world's first milk chocolate, as well as starting the Nestle' Company. Chocolate was still available only as cocoa or as a liquid at that point.

1879

It was Rodolphe Lindt who thought to add cocoa butter back to chocolate. Adding the additional cocoa butter, which is essential to the modern manufacture of chocolate, helps the chocolate set up into a bar that will "snap" when broken as well as making it melt not the tongue.

Once they get started, the Swiss quickly show the world just how much they love their chocolate . They are the first to add powdered milk to the process and they refine the chocolate making art by introducing a "conching" machine that gives chocolate confections a smooth, creamy texture.

1895

America's love affair with chocolate heat up when Milton S. Hershey sells his first Hershey Bar in Pennsylvania using modern, mass-production techniques that make the product less expensive and thus available for mass consumption.

 


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