International Chocolate Day is celebrated every year on September 13. Globally, World Chocolate Day is celebrated on July 7. The world’s favourite sweet treat is chocolate. The World Cocoa Foundation estimates that more than 3 million tonnes of chocolate are consumed annually. This is undoubted evidence that everyone likes chocolate. Its appeal is due to both its feel-good properties as well as some health advantages.
We all love chocolate so much, but do you know where it comes from? We are here to provide you with a brief history of chocolate in honour of International Chocolate Day.
A Brief History of Chocolate
Typically, when we think of chocolate, a chocolate bar comes to mind, and our brain conjures up the idea of eating chocolate. However, sugar had little to do with chocolate during most of its existence because it was a beverage.
The Aztec word “xocoatl” has been identified as the source of the term “chocolate”. This is a term for a bitter beverage made from cacao beans. Theobroma cacao is the Latin name for the cacao tree, and it means “food of the gods.” Although nearly 2000 years have passed since the discovery of chocolate by many historians, new research suggests that it may have existed for longer.
How is chocolate made?
The fruit of the cacao tree, which grows in Central and South America, is used to make chocolate. These fruits are known as pods, and each one of them has 40 cacao beans within. To create cocoa beans, these beans are then dried and roasted.
The 4000-year history of chocolate dates back to ancient Mesoamerica, which includes modern-day Mexico. Olmec, one of the first civilizations in Latin America, discovered cacao plants in Mexico and used them to make chocolate. They both consumed chocolate at rituals and utilized it medicinally.
After a few centuries, the Mayans admired chocolate and gave it the moniker “the beverage of the gods.” Cacao seeds that had been roasted and ground, along with chillies, water, and cornmeal, were used to make Mayan chocolate. They used this mixture to create a foamy beverage by pouring it from one pot to another.
In the fifteenth century, the Aztecs first began to use cocoa beans as money. They drank it as a pleasant beverage as well as to prepare for battle because they thought chocolate was a gift from the gods.
Although the exact date of the introduction of chocolate to Spain is unknown, it is generally accepted that Hernán Cortés brought it to the country in 1528. Cortés is reported to have travelled to America in pursuit of riches but instead came back with a cup of cocoa that the Aztec monarch had given to him.
When he returned home, he gave the Spanish population cocoa beans, which they combined with sugar or honey to mask the bitter flavour. Chocolate and Catholic monks who drank it to support their religious rituals quickly gained popularity among Spaniards.
It was another century before chocolate made its way to all of Europe, including Spain’s neighbours. In 1615, French King Louis XIII married the daughter of Spanish King Philip III, who delivered chocolate samples to the royal courts of France to commemorate the wedding. After that, the delicious treat spread throughout all of Europe, and many nations even established their own cacao farms.
Due to its prestige and health advantages, chocolate has remained a favourite among royalty and the upper classes. However, chocolate was still manufactured by hand, which made it a slow process, but the advent of the chocolate press in 1828 brought a revolution in the world of chocolate manufacturing. With this remarkable instrument, cocoa butter was squeezed from roasted cocoa beans, leaving a fine cocoa powder behind. After mixing this powder with liquids, the mixture was put into moulds. It then hardened into a chocolate bar that could be eaten. This was the beginning of the modern era of chocolate.
Have a bar of sweet chocolate!