Chocolate is a beloved sweet treat around the world. From hot cocoa to chocolate candy bars to a favorite ingredient in baked goods, chocolate has found a home in many different foods and beverages enjoyed throughout many cultures. But who would have thought that the humble cacao plant would have such a profound impact on the culinary world? After all, simply looking at the cacao tree, it doesn’t appear to have many edible parts. However, chocolate has been enjoyed in one form or another for thousands of years, although the earliest chocolate confections are very unlike those that we’re familiar with today.
Latin American Roots
The cacao tree is native to modern Latin America, and the earliest known use for cacao fruit dates to 1400 B.C.E.—evidence has been found that the fruit was fermented to make an alcoholic beverage in what’s now Honduras. However, it’s not the cacao fruit that is most often enjoyed today; it’s the beans. In Aztec and Mayan cultures, the cacao beans were revered for having divine properties and were consumed ceremoniously as drinking chocolate. This unsweetened beverage was rather rich, but very bitter rather than sweet.
Chocolate Meets Sugar
When colonization introduced Europeans to Aztec culture, Spanish explorers found drinking chocolate displeasing to their tastes. However, they soon began adding cane sugar and honey to the drink, and it rapidly grew in popularity back in Spain. Chocolate became a fashionable drink in Europe during the 17th century, and it was rumored to have aphrodisiac properties.
Creation of Solid Chocolate
As the industrial revolution boomed, a Dutch chemist found a new way to process cocoa beans by removing the natural fat (cacao butter) and mixing the remnants with alkaline salts to reduce bitterness. The result was Dutch cocoa powder, which would lead to the advent of solid chocolate in the mid-1800s. In 1868, Cadbury began selling milk chocolate and was quickly followed by Nestle. It wasn’t long before mass production of chocolate took off and the food became in-demand worldwide.
Today marks an era in the history of chocolate that favors more sustainable sourcing and artisan processing of chocolate. That’s exactly what we’re all about here at Zotter Chocolate, where we utilize bean to bar sourcing and fair trade practices to produce the highest quality chocolate bars and drinking chocolate available. Visit our website to browse our selection or learn more about our cocoa.