The history of chocolate

Every week is chocolate week here at Cooks Professional. Who doesn’t love a tasty treat with a cuppa on your break? Or nibbling on your favourite bar during lunch? And you can’t sit down and watch a film without sampling some decadent truffles, can you?

Chocolate has become a popular treat for many over the centuries. But where did it come from, and how did it evolve into the creamy delicacy that we know and love? The story of chocolate starts a long time ago in a land that we now call Mexico.

Where does chocolate come from?

Chocolate comes from the humble cacao bean.
Image source: Getty images.

Chocolate doesn’t start out as the solid bar that we all consume. It actually comes from the humble cacao bean, which dates as far back as the 15th century to the time of the Aztecs. These cacao beans are harvested from fruit pods which grew on cacao trees in Mesoamerica. The Aztecs turned these into a bitter frothy drink which was believed to have aphrodisiac qualities; it tended to be mixed with spices and corn puree.

The cacao beans and their drink remained undiscovered in Europe until around the 16th century. The Spanish stumbled across it and made it popular among their court; they weren’t fond of the bitter taste that the Aztecs were used to, so they sweetened the drink with sugar or honey. Soon countries like Britain, Holland, and Portugal began to explore the world for themselves; chocolate spread across Europe, and then the world. It eventually evolved from that bitter drink into the chocolate that we know and love today!

A sweet tooth

Who knew such a tiny thing was hiding such a tasty secret?
Image source: Unsplash.

Much like the Spanish discovered, the cacao bean isn’t as sweet as its modified counterpart, cocoa. Cacao holds more nutritional value than cocoa, as it is the raw material that is harvested from the cacao tree. Raw cacao powder is made by cold roasting the beans, which keeps the living enzymes intact and helps to lock in all their nutritious goodness. The cold roasting process also removes the cacao butter; the fattier part of the bean which is used to make white chocolate. Cocoa powder is made by roasting the beans instead – this rids the bean of its natural bitterness.

Once roasted the beans are peeled so as to retrieve the nib, which is then ground and liquefied to create a chocolate liquor. This will then be processed to produce either cocoa solids or cocoa butter, which are then used to create the tasty chocolate bars that we’re familiar with. You might be surprised to learn that it’s not actually milk added to chocolate that gives it that creamy taste – it’s actually cream!

You can’t resist this sweet treat.
Image source: Unsplash.

The rest is history! Chocolate has changed so much over the past few centuries, evolving from a bitter cacao drink into the more solid bar and truffle varieties that we love today. Have you got a favourite chocolate treat? Or perhaps you’ve got a favourite chocolate recipe that you’d like to share with us? We’d love to hear all about it over on our Facebook page!