The scientific name of the cacao tree’s fruit is “Theobroma Cacao”. Theobroma means “food of the gods” as named by Swedish botanist Carl von Linnaeus in 1753.
The cacao bean was considered the ultimate status symbol in the Mayan and Aztec cultures by 300 A.D. They used the beans as currency and those wealthy enough to have an excess of beans made a chili and spice laced, chocolate drink that gave them “wisdom and power.”
The Maya called the cacao tree cacahuaquchtl meaning “tree,” and the word chocolate comes from the Maya word xocoatl, which means bitter water, and cacao from the Aztec “cacahuatl.”
On his fourth voyage to America, Columbus landed in what is now Nicaragua on 30th July 1502 and was the first European to discover cacao beans.
Hernando Cortez, who conquered part of Mexico in 1519, saw the monetary value of the beans, and established a cacao plantation in the name of Spain.
1528 — Cortez returned to Spain with cacao beans and the tools needed to make chocolate as presents for King Charles V. 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 managed to keep the discovery of chocolate a secret for more than a century, while they cultivate quite a trade in the popular new beverage as well as cacao plantations in their equatorial colonies around the world.
It took an Italian traveler, Antonio Carletti, to discover the chocolate treasure in 1606, and take it into other parts of Europe.
1643, When the Spanish Princess Maria Theresa was betrothed to Louis XIV of France, she gave her fiancé an engagement gift of chocolate, packaged in an elegantly ornate chest.
Chocolate was extremely popular with Louis XIV and the members of his Court at Versailles. Louis XIV, The Sun King, reigned for over 74 years [1643 to 1715]. His foresight lead him to appoint Sieur David Illou to manufacture and sell chocolate, which not only created a new income stream, but also it is said to have inspired erotic pleasures. It was well known that in Louis’ 72nd year he was making love to his wife twice a day!
1657 – England’s first chocolate house opened in London. Cacao 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 dropped and more chocolate houses appear throughout the country, challenging the primacy of coffee, tearooms and even pubs.
1671 – A clumsy kitchen-boy dropped a bowlful of almonds. The angry chef tried to box his ears and, in the process, spilled a panful of hot, burnt sugar over the almonds. The Duke of Plesslis-Praslin, who is renowned as a gourmet, is waiting for his dessert. His personal chef turns anger in to creative energy, and serves the Duke the almonds covered with a coating of cooled sugar.
The Duke is delighted with the novel dessert and promptly gives his name to the new sweet. Not, however, the full name, but simply “Praslin”. Since then this sweet has undergone many changes, including the development of the modern term “praline” from the original name.
It took Belgian chocolatiers to perfect this particular treat. Eventually, the word praliné 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, praliné.
1674 – They still drink chocolate throughout Europe, but enterprising bakers in England begin adding cacao 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 (1847).
1697 – Belgium was already established as one of Europe’s premier centers for the production of chocolate. The mayor of Zürich pays a visit to Brussels, and is so taken with the taste he returns home with news of the savory concoction, the inspiration for a new Swiss industry.
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’s sea captains are bringing back cargoes of cacao 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.
Chocolate was introduced to the US before the American Revolution! In 1765, a Massachusetts physician, Dr. James Baker, went into partnership with a young Irish chocolate-maker, John Hannon. Together, they formed America’s first chocolate mill, in Dorchester, Mass. where, in 1780, they made a blend of quality chocolate called BAKER’S chocolate. Their company, today known as the Walter Baker Company, is one of the oldest still operating in the U.S. and one of the oldest trademark on grocery shelves today!
1772 – The Marquis de Sade gave 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 apocryphal, 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 on earth (22 pounds compared to 11 pounds per person in the U.S.), 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 chocolatepot for the journey.
1815 – Dutch chemist Johannes Van Houten begins experiments that result in the discovery of a new kind of powdered chocolate with a very low fat content – what we now know as cocoa. By 1828, Van Houten’s patented process involves the use of alkaline salts to treat the powdered chocolate and this “Dutching,” as the technique is known, improves the chocolate’s ability to dissolve in warm water and makes it darker in color and milder in flavor. Van Houten also builds an hydraulic press that makes possible for the first time mass production of chocolate both in an easy-to-use powdered form and in solid form.
1819 – One hundred twenty two years after the mayor of Zürich 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 machines, including the world’s first chocolate mixer, and starts making his own confections.
1847 – J.S. Fry & Sons of Bristol, founded in 1728, sold a “Chocolat Delicieux a Manger,” which is thought to be the first chocolate bar for eating. 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 cacao powder, sugar and cacao butter to make the first real chocolate bars.
One son, Joseph Fry installed a steam engine in the factory in 1789 soon after Watt invented the machine.
The Cadbury company then went elaborate with boxed chocolates; made of velvet and mirrors, the boxes were a wonder of marketing, retaining their value as trinket-boxes and the like long after the goodies had been chewed.
Richard Cadbury also created the first heart-shaped Valentine’s Day boxed candy sometime around 1870.
In 1876, after eight years of experiment, Daniel Peter of Vevey, Switzerland put the first milk chocolate on the market by adding condensed milk to chocolate liquor – the nonalcoholic by-product of the cacao bean’s inner meat.
He brought his creation to a Swiss firm that today is the world’s largest producer of chocolate: Nestle. 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 referred to the shape of old mixing vats where particles in the chocolate mixture were reduced to a fine texture.
1895 – Milton S. Hershey established the Hershey Chocolate Company in 1894, manufacturing and selling Hershey’s cacao, 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.
Swiss confiseur Jules Sechaud of Montreux, Switzerland introduced a process for filled chocolates in 1913.
1926 – The Draps family begins a chocolate-making “atelier” in Brussels, the city that introduced chocolates to the Swiss more than two centuries ago. Some years later, the Draps’ son, Joseph, takes over the company and, at his wife’s suggestion, names it after Lady Godiva whose legendary exploit made her name synonymous with grace, nobility and flair.
In 1930, Ruth Wakefield invented the modern day version of the chocolate chip cookie.
Is Chocolate bad for you? Some facts:
W e tend to think of chocolate only as candy! But it comes from a fruit that is a rich source of beneficial chemicals.
Researchers recently found that the antioxidants in cocoa produced a positive effect on factors that would normally produce plaque buildup in the arteries and thus increase the risk of coronary artery disease. These positive effects on the blood continued for six hours after eating the chocolate.
Scientists have shown that subjects who consumed small amounts of cocoa powder and dark chocolate raised their levels of HDL (good cholesterol). High HDL levels are known to be protective against heart disease.
Chocolate is a significant source of flavonoids, the antioxidants that slow the oxidation LDL the “bad” cholesterol just like red wine and green tea!
Cocoa butter is a triglyceride which begins to soften at 75 F., and melts at 97 F. It is a highly saturated fat which consists principally of the fatty acid, stearic acid, which is found in higher concentration in chocolate than in any other food.
Stearic acid is rapidly converted by the liver into oleic acid, a monounsaturated that neither raises nor lowers serum cholesterol. Oleic acid is also present in olive and canola oils.
Chocolate does contain caffeine, but not much. One ounce of milk chocolate usually contains 5 mg of caffeine, one ounce of semi-sweet usually has 5-10 mg, and a six-ounce cup of cocoa usually has 10 mg. For comparison, a six-ounce cup of coffee contains 100-150 mg.
Chocolate does not cause acne.
Chocolate is not addictive. You may think you can’t live without chocolate, but it is not a physical addiction like nicotine.
Chocolate does not cause tooth decay. Cocoa contains a protein that inhibits bacterial growth that promotes plaque formation in the mouth, and since it melts at body temperature and melts off one’s teeth, the sugar in chocolate does not cling to one’s teeth.
Chocolate does not interfere with calcium absorption.
Carob is not more nutritious than chocolate. Ounce for ounce, it contains the same amount of fat and calories as chocolate.
Chocolate and sugar do not promote hyperactivity in most children. More likely, it is some special event surrounding the eating of a lot of sugar and/or chocolate that gets children excited.
Chocolate and Love
The often told story about chocolate would have tied Chocolate and Valentine’s Day together together perfectly. The myth is that Chocolate contains some of the same chemicals that the brain produces when you’re in love.
Too bad it’s not true!
Chocolate contains the highest concentration in any food of phenylethylamine, which produces an amphetamine-like ‘high’ when mixed with the body’s natural dopamineand is the chemical produced in the brain when a person is in love.
But the fact is, the phenylethylamine in chocolate gets metabolized during digestion, and doesn’t make it to the brain in any measurable amount.
Oh well, it really does taste great!
Language of Chocolate
Does chocolate speak to you? It may speak to the recipient! Just like there is a language of flowers, there may be symbolism in the type of chocolate.
- White chocolate represents pure love, dedication, and patience.
- Dark chocolate is for adventurous love.
- Milk chocolate stands for balance, enduring love, and tradition.
- Filled chocolates represent newly discovered love.
— Andy Gilchrist