Christopher Columbus is believed to be the first European to discover chocolate. When Columbus returned to Spain in 1502 from his fourth voyage to the New World, he introduced many treasures to the court of King Ferdinand. Among them were cocoa beans, almond-shaped seeds from the cacao tree that are the source of all the chocolate and cocoa products we enjoy today.
A few decades later, during his conquest of Mexico, the Spanish explorer, Hernando Cortez, found Aztec Indians using cocoa beans to prepare a drink called "chocolatl", meaning "warm liquid". The Aztec Emperor Montezuma, who reportedly drank 50 or more portions daily, served guests this royal drink in ceremonial golden goblets, treating it like a nectar for the gods.
In fact, the cacao tree's botanical name, Theobroma cacao, pays homage to its mythical origins. Translated from the Greek, "theobroma" means "food of the gods". The Aztecs held that prophets had brought cocoa beans to their lands. Thus, the beans were a valued commodity, not only for use as a kingly drink but also as a medium of exchange. Four cocoa beans was the price of a turkey, for example.
Cortez, who described chocolatl as "the divine drink ... which builds up resistance and fights fatigue", and his countrymen, conceived the idea of sweetening the bitter drink with cane sugar. The recipe for the sweetened frothy beverage underwent several more changes in Spain, where newly discovered spices such as cinnamon and vanilla were added as flavorings.
Spain wisely began to plant cacao trees in its overseas possessions, but consigned the processing of cocoa beans to monasteries under a veil of secrecy. They kept the recipe to themselves for nearly 100 years, but the secret was finally leaked to the rest of Europe. As first, chocolate was restricted to the nobility. In fact, the Spanish Princess Maria Theresa presented cocoa beans as an engagement gift to Louis XIV, and soon chocolate was the rage of the fashionable Court of France. The famous historic figures Casanova and Madame DuBarry both believed that chocolate was conducive to romance. So popular did chocolate become that in 1657 the first of many English "chocolate houses" was established, to serve the drink to the general public.
Chocolate drinking arrived in the American colonies in 1765, when the first chocolate factory opened in New England. Even Thomas Jefferson extolled chocolate's virtues, describing "...the superiority of chocolate for both health and nourishment".
Mass production of chocolate began when the steam engine, invented by James Watt in 1770, mechanized the cocoa bean grinding process, thereby replacing the time-consuming hand method of manufacture. The invention of the cocoa press in 1828 by C.J. Van Houten did much to improve the quality of the beverage by squeezing out part of the cocoa butter, the fat that occurs naturally in cocoa beans.
In the middle of the 19th century, two significant developments revolutionized the chocolate industry. In 1847, an English company introduced solid "eating" chocolate. Now the public could enjoy chocolate eaten out of the hand as well as in the form of a drink. Three decades later, at Vevey, Switzerland, Daniel Peter found that milk could be added to chocolate to make a new product, appropriately named milk chocolate. Since that time, chocolate has been manufactured in solid bar form and to enrobe confections, as well as an ingredient in baked goods, ice cream, and flavored milk. The value of chocolate as a portable food for both energy and morale has long been recognized. From the Civil War on, chocolate has been carried into the field by soldiers.
Chocolate Is Today's Healthy Treat
Chocolate. There are only some foods that remind as much passion as this decadent treat. Tradition from many cultures claimed that consuming chocolate encourage faith, health, strength, and sexual passion. Once a treat of royalty, it is now a treasured and available – and yes, even healthy – treat. So where did our passion with chocolate begin?
Chocolate Goes Global
The first machine-made chocolate was produced in Barcelona in 1780, pavement the way for the mass production of chocolate. Later, mechanical inventions made it possible to produce smooth, creamy, solid chocolate for eating -- not just the liquid for drinking. British chocolate maker Fry & Sons developed the first solid chocolate bar in the early 1800s.
Chocolate Gifts on Valentine’s Day
"It's believed that during the 17th century, lovers began exchanging mementos on Valentine's Day – sweet treats were one of them. In 1868, the first Valentine's Day box of chocolates was introduced [by Richard Cadbury]," says Susan L. Fussell, senior director of communications for the National Confectioners Association.
Three Cheers for Chocolate!
In 1875, Daniel Peter of Switzerland introduced the first milk chocolate to the market. Chocolate became so popular around the world that even during World War II the U.S. government shipped cocoa beans to the troops. Today, the U.S. Army includes chocolate bars in their rations. Chocolate has even been taken into space as part of the diet of U.S. astronauts.
Is Chocolate Really an Aphrodisiac?
Not really, even though throughout its history, chocolate has been purported as one. Chocolate contains small amounts of a chemical called Phenyl Ethylamine (PEA), a.k.a. the "love drug," and it's been linked to the regulation of physical energy, mood, and attention. A tiny amount of PEA is released at moments of emotional euphoria, elevating blood pressure and heart rate. There is no evidence that PEA found in foods increases PEA in the brain – although many chocolate lovers may beg to differ!
Chocolate Makes Health Headlines
Dark chocolate (as opposed to milk or white chocolate) contains healthful flavonoids similar to those found in tea, red wine, fruits, and vegetables. Studies have shown that dark chocolate can improve blood vessel flow and may improve blood sugar and insulin sensitivity to help reduce the risk of diabetes. But beware; chocolate candy has plenty of saturated fat and sugar, so enjoy small portions of as part of a healthy diet.
Chocolate History Timeline
How to Make Homemade Chocolates - Recipe Video (Telugu)
How to Make Homemade Chocolates - Recipe Video (English)