The History of Chocolate


hokolad_cChocolate begins with a bean ... a cacao bean. It has been mashed and eaten for centuries. The history of chocolate spans from 200 B.C. to the present, encompassing many nations and peoples of our world.

The scientific name of the cacao tree's fruit is "Theobroma Cacao" which means "food of the gods." In fact, the cacao bean was worshipped as an idol by the Mayan Indians over 2,000 years ago. In 1519, Hernando Cortez tasted "Cacahuatt," a drink enjoyed by Montezuma II, the last Aztec emperor. Cortez observed that the Aztecs treated cacao beans, used to make the drink, as priceless treasures. He subsequently brought the beans back to Spain where the chocolate drink was made and then heated with added sweeten ers. Its formula was kept a secret to be enjoyed by nobility.

Eventually, the secret was revealed and the drink's fame spread to other lands. By the mid-1600s, the chocolate drink had gained widespread popularity in France. One enterprising Frenchman opened the first hot chocolate shop in London. By the 1700s, chocolate houses were as prominent as coffee houses in England.

The New World's first chocolate factory opened in 1765 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Sixty years later, Conrad Van Houten, a Dutch chemist, invented a cocoa press that enabled confectioners to make chocolate candy by mixing cocoa butter with finely ground sugar.


In 1876, Daniel Peter, a Swiss candymaker, developed milk chocolate by adding condensed milk to chocolate liquor - the nonalcoholic by-product of the cocoa bean's inner meat. The Swiss also gave the chocolate a smoother texture through a process called "conching." The name was derived from a Greek term meaning "sea shell" and refered to the shape of old mixing vats where particles in the chocolate mixture were reduced to a fine texture.

Milton Hershey established the Hershey Chocolate Company in 1894, manufacturing and selling Hershey's cocoa, Hershey's baking chocolate and Hershey's sweet chocolate (known today as dark or semi-sweet chocolate). Hershey was called the "Henry Ford" of chocolate because he mass produced a quality chocolate bar at a price everyone could afford.

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