Chocolate is among the food products people mostly crave, treasure, and enjoy. White, plain, or dark, there are virtually countless ways to enjoy its sweetness and rich taste. An additional bonus is the incredible chocolate health benefits, which researchers have studied and proven to be true.
But how exactly did chocolate come to life? Let us walk you through the roots and milestones of your favorite sweet treat.
Place of Origin
Back in 500 A.D., cacao beans were consumed by the ancient Mayan people. Several years later, the beans were further developed for other purposes such as drinks by the Aztec civilization. During this era, cacao trees grow abundantly in Central and South America.
Since then, cacao seeds have been used widely to make a variety of consumer products. Presently, cacao trees are grown all throughout the tropical regions, mainly in the Caribbean, New Guinea, Southeast Asia, as well as Africa.
The Name “Chocolate”
We all know what comes to mind when one mentions chocolate, but turns out, it has an interesting backstory.
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, along with a lot of other sources, chocolate comes from the word “chocolatl”, a term proposed by the dwellers of the Aztec civilization. Professor Michael Coe, however, states that it was the Spaniards who coined the term by combining the Mayan word “chocol” and the Aztec term for water, “atl”. Another theory suggests that chocolate came from the Mayan word “chokola’j”, which translates to “to drink chocolate together”.
Historians believe that Christopher Columbus discovered the presence of cacao trees. They also believe that Columbus took away some of cacao plants from the natives and brought them back to Spain.
20 years later, Columbus’ companion recognized the commercial value of cacao beans, after learning such information from more colonized countries, including Honduras.
Chocolate in Europe
When chocolate invaded Europe, it was still served as a beverage. But this time, it contained sugar, thus the sweetened chocolate beverage was born.
At first, the sweetened drink was a thing of luxury. At the beginning of 17th century, it has become an affordable commodity to the commoners. A lot of café and chocolate houses sold chocolate drink in London, after it was made widely available to the local market.
This is when the demand for cacao increased. As a result, France, Holland, and United Kingdom, among other European countries, have decided to cultivate cacao trees in their colonies in the Caribbean, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
The Modern Chocolate Era
It all began in 1828, when a Dutch chocolate maker innovated an affordable method for extracting the fat out of cacao beans. Along with other processes, the inventor managed to create fine powder, now popularly known as cocoa. Treated with alkaline salt, cocoa mixes with water easily, as well as other ingredients like sugar. Solid chocolate products was also produced and commercially distributed.
In 1894, Joseph Storrs Fry (an English chocolate maker), created the world’s first eating chocolate. In 1879, a Swiss manufacturer combined powdered milk with cocoa to create a new product – milk chocolate.
At present time, more and more brands of chocolate such as Krakakoa are taking the market by storm, giving chocolate lovers more ways to have their fill of sweetness with every bite.