The history of chocolate is a story worth telling. So, settle in comfortably with a cup of hot cocoa, or your favorite chocolate bar and delve into the fascinating world of chocolate.
1/ Cacao trees and beans
The history of chocolate begins with the cacao plant. Indigenous to the tropical forests of South and Central America, and more precisely Mexico, the cacao tree blossoms all year round. A large shrub or small tree, it produces pod-like fruit that contains numerous seeds or cacao “beans”. It is from these seeds that all chocolate originates.
2/ The many forms of chocolate
Producing chocolate from the cacao tree beans is a long multi-step journey, from tree planting to the final molding process. Chocolate as we know it today, in its various forms, is ubiquitous in our everyday lives. And really, it’s no surprise! Its delicious flavors and tantalizing aromas make it one of our favorite foods.
3/ Uses in Mayan society
The Mayans believed that cacao was discovered by the gods and it was associated with fertility rites for young girls. It was used to anoint children during baptism rituals and to accompany the dead as they traveled to the afterlife. Cacao beans were also used as currency.
4/ Aztec spicy chocolate
In ancient times, the Aztecs originally used cacao seeds to make a bitter, spicy drink called xocolātl, a far cry from the modern-day chocolate bar. It was often seasoned with vanilla, chili pepper, and achiote and was considered to have many virtues. Hot chocolate, as we know it today, came many years later.
5/ Chocolate during the Age of Exploration
It has been rumored that Christopher Columbus once mistook cacao beans for goat droppings and discarded them. This was back in the 15th century. At the time, chocolate had not yet crossed the Atlantic to Europe. A century later, the fabled spicy beverage made from cacao beans was brought over to Europe by the Spaniards. Spain was at the forefront of chocolate manufacturing and transformed it into solid bars for easier transportation.
6/ The chocolate industry
Gradually, chocolate gained popularity in Europe – from Spain to the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Switzerland – and the world. At the onset of the industrial revolution, chocolate products as we know them became mainstream. In the 18th century, in Europe and later in the United States, chocolate appeared in kitchens, candy stores, drugstores and pharmacies. In 1814, Jules Pares built the first chocolate factory in France. Five years later, François-Louis Cailler opened the first factory in Switzerland.
7/ Modern-day chocolate consumption
Cherished by the French and all over the world, chocolate is everywhere. From chocolate pie, frosting and cake, to chocolate chip cookies, wafers and bonbons, to chocolate bars, chocolate mousse, chocolate ice cream, etc. our beloved chocolate exists in numerous forms for the young and the young at heart to enjoy!