What are the origins of chocolate? How did it get to Europe? How was the industry created? If these are questions that you have asked yourself, find the answers below!
And who knows, maybe reading the story of this food-pleasure will make you want to eat!
Where does chocolate come from?
Do you know what the word “Chocolate” means? It comes from the Nahuatl (a language spoken by the Aztecs) word “xocolatl” or “chocolatl“; and means “bitter water, acid water”.
As evidenced by the residues found in their pottery, the Olmecs (1500 to 400 BC, an old Mexican civilization) were probably the first to drink it.
At that time, the Olmecs had already crushed the cocoa beans, mixed them with water, and adorned them with peppers, herbs, spices, honey, and so on. We can therefore say that this food comes from Mexico.
Over time, cocoa cultivation spread to the Maya (600 BC) and the Aztec (1400 BC) civilizations. These two civilizations used it in many different ways:
Cocoa was used in religious rituals for the worship of the Aztec god Quetzalcóatl who brought cocoa to men, and Chak Ek Chuah, the Mayan patron saint of cocoa,
The bean served as currency,
And only the nobles and soldiers at war were allowed to drink its beverage, in other words, chocolate.
The Olmecs, the Maya, and the Aztecs were probably the only ones to benefit from this miracle food at that time. It was not until 1502 that a famous explorer discovered the beans during a stop on the island of Guanaja, but confused them with goat droppings. His name was Christopher Columbus.
It was not until 26 years later that this miracle food made its way to Europe.
The Arrival of Chocolate in Europe and its industrialization
In 1519, the Spanish conquistador, Hernan Cortés, was offered this precious drink by the Aztec emperor Moctezuma II. He drank it and enjoyed it, and decided to bring back the beans (and the recipe) to the Court of Charles V, king of Spain and therefore his king in 1528.
The king appreciated the drink that came from the cocoa bean; he loved it; and that is when people began to love “bitter water, acid water” in Spain. It was consumed after adding anything the consumer desired: sugar, honey, pepper, vanilla, musk, etc. The doctors prescribed it as a remedy; and it was even consumed in churches.
After conquering the Aztec civilization and lands, the Spaniards decided to intensify the cultivation of cocoa and make it an extremely lucrative trade. But they jealously kept the secret.
It wasn’t until 1606 that chocolate began to gradually conquer the rest of Europe. For example, that was the year that the Florentine Antonio Carletti introduced it to Italy after learning the secrets of manufacturing it during a stay in the East Indies.
In 1609, chocolate first arrived in France, thanks to the Jews expelled from Spain by the inquisition. They settled in the south-west of France (Bayonne region) and popularized this precious food; this even allowed modest families to buy their own chocolate beans and drink this drink.
In 1615 it entered the royal court of France, thanks to the marriage of King Louis XIII to Anne of Austria, the Infanta of Spain. The latter had accepted this marriage only on the condition that she was allowed to bring her favorite food with her as well as those who prepared it for her.
However, it was not until the accession of Louis XIV and his wife Marie-Thérèse of Austria to the throne that chocolate became a choice delicacy in the court of the Palace of Versailles. The queen drank it regularly for its energetic virtues and aphrodisiacs. As for the king, he was considered to be the ruler who most loved this drink. He even even prepared it himself in the kitchens of his little apartments.
On May 28, 1659, this same king granted David Challiou (the queen’s officer) the exclusive privilege of manufacturing and selling a certain composition of this drink. His shop was located on rue de l’Arbre Sec in Paris.
As you can tell, in France at that time, this drink was reserved only for people of royal blood, for the rich and powerful, the clergy, and for doctors. The only exception was in the Bayonne region, thanks to the Jews expelled from Spain.
At the king’s court, under the patronage of Madame de Maintenon, this drink became the latest in fashion for aristocrats. It was served in chocolates, a kind of high cup with a lid pierced with a hole that allowed for the introduction of a frother. The latter was used to foam the precious beverage by whipping it.
This drink conquered the royal court to such an extent that it was well regarded to offer chocolates, and being the “King’s Chocolatier” was one of the most popular and respected titles.
The English did not discover the precious beverage until 1655 during the conquest of Jamaica; and it was a Frenchman who opened London’s first shop in 1657. It was called the “Chocolate House”.
The precious beverage continued to spread throughout Europe, then arrived in America in 1755. Its production then developed in various countries (Brazil, Jamaica, etc.) and on the African continent (Ivory Coast, Ghana, etc.).
But, the precious beverage had not yet been democratized. It remained the drink of the aristocratic and bourgeois elite.
Things changed starting in 1778: first, there was the invention of the hydraulic machine whose strength allowed for the grinding of a significant amount of cocoa. Then, in 1881, engineer Poncelet invented the cacao dough mixer.
These different machines as well as the advent of the industrial era offered the opportunity for the beginning of the industrialization of chocolate; which had the happy consequences of lowering its cost, of increasing its efficiency, and of making it accessible to all social strata. It became the food of pleasure consumed all over the world and began to generate huge revenue.
From that moment forth, the development of the industry only accelerated. For example :
In 1776, the Frenchman Doret invented a machine to mechanically grind cocoa,
In 1814, the Frenchman Jules Pares founded the first factory in France in the Pyrénées-Orientales (origin of the CEMOI group),
In 1815, the Dutchman Coenraad Johannes Van Houten opened his first factory,
In 1821, Englishman Cadbury produced the first edible dark chocolate. In order to meet the needs of the industry, cocoa trees were introduced in Africa and the first plantations were founded,
In 1824, the Swissman Suchard opened his first factory,
In 1828, the Swissman Kohler opened his first factory. In the same year, the Dutchman Coenraad Johannes Van Houten filed a patent for chocolate powder. He was the first to invent the process that allows for the separation of the cake (lean cocoa) from cocoa butter,
In 1830, Kohler invented chocolate with hazelnuts,
In 1847, the English company Fry started to market chocolate tablets,
In 1848, Victor-Auguste Poulain opened an industrial confectionery and chocolate factory in Blois,
In 1856, Jacques Klaus opened his first factory in Le Locle in Switzerland,
In 1862, the Rowntree chocolate factory opened in England,
In 1868, the Tobler chocolate factory in opened Switzerland,
In 1870, Emile Menier opened a modern chocolate factory in Noisel, Seine-et-Marne. This plant, now classified as a historic monument, reduced the cost of this food-pleasure in France.
In 1875, Daniel Peter invented milk chocolate in his factory in Vevey,
In 1879, Rodolphe Lindt developed conching, a process that allows for:
– The homogenization of cocoa paste,
– Improving its finesse as well as its aroma,
– Giving the food-pleasure its unctuous character, its melting, its breaking, as well as its velvety texture.
He also opened his first chocolate factory in Switzerland in that same year.
Starting in 1880, the Belgian industry developed with the opening of its first chocolate factory: Côte d’Or.
In the early 1920s, Franck Mars launched his Milky Way bar; and the Dutchmen Kwatta and Nuts respectively launched their 30 gram bars, and their hazelnut bars.
Now, now you know where chocolate comes from, how it conquered Europe, and how it was industrialized.