Gourmet Chocolate Tips

Your Online Guide To Chocolate

The History Of Chocolate
The rain forests of Central America offer the perfect environment for the Cacao tree to thrive and, in fact, it is here over 1500 years ago that the history of chocolate begins.

Worshipped by the Mayans, the seeds of the cacao tree - cocoa beans as we know them today - was used to brew a drink which was reserved for ceremonies and the wealthy and powerful. The Aztecs prized the beans so much that they actually used them as a form of currency. They also made a beverage out of it, and it was here that chocolate was discovered by the Spanish conquistadors and brought back to Europe.

Called Xocolatl by the Aztecs, this tasty treat became known as chocolate which was much more pronounceable to the Spanish and the next stop in the history of chocolate is Spain where it was introduced by Cortez returning from Central America in the 1500’s. It soon made it’s way around Europe and the first chocolate house was opened in London in 1657. In the tradition of the old coffee houses, the chocolate houses were a place where the wealthy and elite met to socialize and conduct business.

This early history of chocolate consists of it in drink form, but in the mid 1600’s there is some record of it being eaten in solid form. However, this early chocolate was still in primitive form and rather bitter. In 1828, however, all this changed when Johannes Van Houten, a Dutch chemist, came up with a way of extracting the bitter tasting cocoa butter from the beans and this formed the basis for making solid chocolate.

It didn’t take long for the first chocolate bar to come out and in 1847 Fry & Sons introduced the first bar that was made with cocoa butter (extracted via the Van Houten process), sugar and cocoa powder. In 1875, Daniel Peters took this one step further by adding dried milk powder to the mixture and “inventing” the first milk chocolate bar.

After that, of course, the process was added to and refined and today you can buy chocolate bars in a variety of flavors, shapes, sizes and even colors. Manufacturers have combined just about every type of sweet with chocolate to produce different tastes and types of bars. What would the ancient Aztecs would think of chocolate today?

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