History of Chocolate

Although cocoa trees grew wild in Central America since pre-historic times, it was not until around 600AD when Maya Indians established cocoa plantations in the Yucatan region of Mexico.



The Mayans and later the Aztecs took the cocoa bean from the cocoa trees and processed it into a drink called “chocoatl”. It, in the Mexican Indian language, means foam water. :Choco” means “foam” and “atl” means “water”. At the time chocolate was consumed only in liquid form.

Cocoa Seeds

Cocoa Beans

Chocolate was extremely important in the life of Aztec Indians. The Aztecs believed that chocolate was consumed by the gods in paradise and that cocoa seed was brought to earth as a special blessing by the god of air.

The last Aztec emperor, Montezuma, was reported to have drunk no other beverage than chocoatl. This was noted by Hernando Cortez, who in 1528 brought cocoa beans back to Spain to the Court of King Charles V.

Monks processing Cocoa Beans

Monks processing Cocoa Beans

For the next century, chocolate became a top secret in Spain. Only monks in monasteries were allowed to process cocoa beans into chocolate because Spain wanted to keep the secret of processing chocolate from becoming known to other European countries. Finally with decline of Spain’s power, the big secret leaked out. In 1606, an Italian traveler named Antonio Carletti brought the secret to entire Europe.

Chocolate was further popularized by the marriage of Spanish Princess Mari Theresa with King Louis XIV in 1616. Maria gave Chocolate to the French King as a wedding gift which popularized chocolate in France.

In the 17th century, chocolate was considered to be a drink of only the elites of the time as it was very expensive.

But by the early 18th century the price of chocolate dropped considerably giving commons access to chocolate. During this era, chocolate houses became as popular in England as Coffee houses were. In fact, there were chocolate houses that catered to only certain types of clientele; such as politicians and gamblers.

One interesting fact about chocolate in England was that Quakers participated in this business very heavily because they hoped that they could persuade the poor to give up drinking alcohol in favour of the healthier chocolate drink. This involvement of the Quakers continues with their emigration to Colonial America where one of their descendants, Milton Hershey, founded The Hershey Chocolate Company. An important name in the chocolate industry.

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