Why? Because it has been a passion for centuries.
The Mayans first produced a chocolate drink in 600 A.D! After witnessing animals breaking off the cacao pods, they soon started exploring how to use this fruit and drinking chocolate emerged, although it was very bitter. The Mayans called it “xocoatl”, which means bitter water. The Mayans were the first to cultivate cocoa plantations.
In 1200 A.D. the Aztecs discovered the cocoa bean and believed that their god, Quetzalcoatl, descended from the sky on a morning star with a cocoa plant stolen from paradise, therefore nothing could be more important! The Aztecs not only used the cocoa beans for currency, but believed that eating the cocoa beans provided wisdom and power, served as an aphrodisiac, and that drinking the xocoatl had health benefits.
In 1492 Columbus returned from America with cocoa beans but it took until 1513 for someone in Europe to find the value in cocoa beans. Apparently Hernando de Oviedo y Valdez bought a slave for 100 cocoa beans! This spiked an interest in cocoa beans as a currency.
It was also in 1513 that the name “chocolatl” was adopted for the bitter drinking chocolate.
In 1528 Cortez presented the Spanish King with “chocolatl” and suggested that cane sugar be added to the bitter drink. The Spanish mixed the cocoa beans with cane sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and cinnamon. A coveted delicacy was born.
It did not take long before chocolatl was acclaimed throughout Europe as a delicious and fashionable health elixir.
In 1609 the first book devoted to chocolate was published.
In 1643 Louis XIV appointed Sieur David Illou to manufacture and sell chocolate. Enhanced by art and literature, chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac flourished among the wealthy.
London’s first chocolate store opened in 1657, but it was still a luxury item.
By 1730, the introduction of steam engines made mass production possible and chocolate became popular and affordable.
It was not until 1830 that solid chocolate was introduced. In 1847, British chocolate makers, J. S. Fry and Sons, were the first to sell chocolate bars. But the texture was grainy, as the refining process was still in development.
In 1875, after 8 years of experimentation, Daniel Peter (from Switzerland) put the first milk chocolate on the market.
1879 saw a major chocolate processing innovation. Rodolphe Lindt invented “conching”. By agitating and aerating the chocolate, conching allowed the refining of the chocolate and by adding more cocoa butter, the end result was “melt in your mouth”, well flavoured chocolate.
By 1910 the Swiss reputation for excellent chocolate was well established.
Finally, in 1912, filled chocolates made their debut. The first cream-filled chocolates were made by a Belgian chocolatier, Jean Neuhaus II.
It may have taken well over 1000 years for chocolate to develop from a bitter drink to the rich luscious “need some more” chocolate selections we enjoy today, but it was well worth the wait. Thanks to the Mayans!
To allow you to indulge in your passion, Cream-Filled Chocolate Day is celebrated each year on the 14th February!
Did you know that it takes almost 400 cocoa beans to make 500g of chocolate! No wonder we consume approximately 600,000 tons of cocoa beans every year!