The History of Chocolate: Archaeologic

Who invented chocolate?

Chocolate was not actually invented; it was discovered in early Mesoamerica. According to Maya mythology, the kakaw (cacao) and other savory foods were discovered by the gods in a mountain. The Plumed Serpent gave cacao to the Maya after humans were created by divine grandmother goddess Xmucane. Similarly, the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl is said to have discovered cacao in a mountain filled with other plant foods. The earliest documented use of cacao dates back before the Olmec; around 1100 B.C.

the history of chocolate

Archaeological evidence for use of cacao comes from the recovery of whole cacao beans at Guatemala and from preserved cacao tree wood fragments at Belize sites.Also, analysis of residues from early formative Honduran ceramic vessels found traces of theobromine and caffeine.And chocolate residues in middle formative Belize vessels have been found to be similar to residues from four classic period (ca. 400 A.D.) vessels from a tomb at a Rio Azul site. As cacao is the only known commodity from Mesoamerica containing both of these alkaloid compounds, it seems likely that these vessels were used as containers for cacao drinks. In addition, cacao is named in a hieroglyphic text on one of the Rio Azul vessels.

Chocolate was first drunk rather than eaten. In the history of chocolate, only the Mayan society's elite were allowed to consume cacao beans, in the form of an unsweetened cocoa drink made from the ground beans. This privileged beverage was known as xocoatl, a Nahuatl word meaning "bitter water".

The History of Chocolate: Botanic

history of chocolate

What does chocolate come from?

Chocolate is produced from the seed of the tropical cacao tree of South America. Today, the most common of the cultivated species is Theobroma cacao; two subspecies and three forms. Theobroma means "food of the gods". (And for you botanists out there, the cacao tree belongs to the Theobroma genus, in the Sterculiaceae family, that contains 22 species.)

There are two contradictory hypotheses within the history of chocolate about the origins of the cacao tree:

Theory 1: Wild examples were originally distributed from southeastern Mexico to the Amazon basin. Domestication then took place in the Lacandon area of Mexico and in lowland South America.

Theory 2: The plant originated in the Amazon and was then distributed by humans throughout Central America and Mesoamerica. This theory is based on recent studies of Theobroma cacao genetics.

The 3 main varieties of cacao beans used in chocolate are Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario.

For more on this, see How Is Chocolate Made?

The History of Chocolate: Applied

What was chocolate first used for?

Ancient texts relevant to the history of chocolate describe several mixtures of cacao being used for ceremonial, medicinal, and culinary purposes as a beverage and as an ingredient in foods. Some mixtures included maize, chili, vanilla, peanut butter, and honey. It's believed the Aztecs mixed ground cacao with tobacco for smoking purposes.

Documents on Maya hieroglyphs state that chocolate was often used for ceremonial purposes. Hieroglyphs on Mayan murals and ceramics frequently show chocolate being poured for rulers and gods. Cacao was offered regularly to a pantheon of Mexica deities and the Madrid Codex depicts priests lancing their ear lobes and covering the cacao with blood as a fitting sacrifice to the gods. Interestingly, when the cacao beverage was used in ritual, it was used only by men as it was believed to be toxic for women and children.

chocolate history

In pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, cacao beans were often used as currency. The Aztecs, for example, "priced" a turkey at 100 cacao beans and one fresh avocado was worth 3 beans; 80-100 quality beans could buy a new cloth mantle. On all conquered areas that grew cacao beans, the Aztecs levied the beans as a tax, or "tribute". At one point in the history of chocolate the Aztec empire was receiving an annual tribute of 980 loads of cacao, each load representing 8,000 beans! This is known to have produced counterfeiters. As late as the 1840s, cacao beans were still being used as currency in the Yucatan.

Medicinally, chocolate drink (xocoatl) was believed to fight fatigue, probably due to chocolate's theobromine content.

For more on this, read about the Effects of Chocolate

The History of Chocolate: Linguistic

Where does the word "chocolate" come from?

The word "chocolate" entered the English language from Spanish.

There are multiple, competing explanations as to how the word came into Spanish:

The most common explanation found in the history of chocolate is that "chocolate" comes from the Aztecs' Nahuatl language word chocolatl. This is derived from the Nahuatl word xocoatl: a combination of the words xococ meaning "sour or bitter", and atl meaning "water or drink. However, American linguist William Bright argued against this derivation since the word "chocolatl" doesn't occur in central Mexican colonial sources.

Mexican linguist Francisco Santamaria gives a derivation from the Yucatec Maya word chokol meaning "hot" and the Nahuatl word atl meaning "water".

More recently, linguists Karen Dakin and Soren Wichmann derive it from the Eastern Nahuatl term chicolatl meaning "beaten drink".

The word "cacao" itself is from the Nahuatl word cacahuatl, learned at the time of the Spanish conquest.

The History of Chocolate Timeline

1500-400 BC The Olmec Indians were the first to grow cocoa beans as a domestic crop.

250-900 AD The Maya civilization grew cacao trees in their backyard, and used the cacao seeds to make a frothy, bitter drink.

600 AD Earliest known cocoa plantations in the history of chocolate were established in the Yucatan when Mayans migrated into northern regions of South America.

14th Century The drink became popular among the Aztec upper classes who seized the cocoa beverage from the Mayans. The Aztecs were the first to tax the beans.

-Until the 16th century, no European had ever heard of the popular drink from the Central and South American peoples.-

1502 Christopher Columbus captured a great Mayan trading canoe in Guanaja that contained a quantity of mysterious-looking "almonds"--cacao beans.

1519 Chocolate was first introduced to the Spanish at their meeting with Emperor Montezuma in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. Explorer Hernando Cortez and others noted the vast quantities of this beverage that the Aztec emperor consumed, and how it was carefully whipped by his attendants beforehand.

1544 Cocoa beverage was introduced to the Spanish Court when Dominican friars took a delegation of Kekchi Mayan nobles to visit Prince Philip. The Mayans brought gift jars of beaten cocoa, mixed and ready to drink.

-The Spanish began to add cane sugar and flavorings such as vanilla to sweeten the cocoa beverage.-

1570 Cocoa gained popularity as a medicine and aphrodisiac.

1585 The first official shipments of cocoa beans intended for market arrived in Seville, Spain from Vera Cruz, Mexico. The history of chocolate tells us that before long, the Spanish began growing cacao beans on plantations, and using an African workforce to help manage them.

-Within a century, the culinary and medical uses of chocolate had spread to France, England and elsewhere in Western Europe.-

-Demand for this beverage led the French to establish cacao plantations in the Caribbean, while Spain subsequently developed their cacao plantations in their Philippine colony.-

1657 A Frenchman opened the first chocolate house in London: The Coffee Mill and Tobacco Roll. Costing 10 to 15 shillings per pound, chocolate was considered a beverage for the elite class.

1674 Eating solid chocolate was introduced in the form of chocolate rolls and cakes, served in chocolate emporiums.

1689 Hans Sloane developed a milk chocolate drink in Jamaica which was initially used by apothecaries; later it was sold to the Cadbury brothers.

1693 Italian immigrant Frances White opened London's famous White's Chocolate House.

1730 Unlike earlier in the history of chocolate, cocoa beans dropped in price to being within the financial reach of those other than the very wealthy.

1732 A French inventor, Monsieur Dubuisson, invented a table mill for grinding cocoa beans.

1753 The Nahuatl-derived Spanish word "cacao" entered scientific nomenclature after the Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus published his taxonomic binomial system and coined the genus and species Theobroma cacao.

-For hundreds of years, the chocolate making process
remained unchanged.-

-When the Industrial Revolution arrived, many changes occurred that brought the food to its modern form.-

1765 Irish chocolate-maker John Hanan introduced chocolate to the United States when he imported cocoa beans from the West Indies into Dorchester, Massachusetts. He refined them with the help of American Dr. James Baker. The pair soon built America's first chocolate mill. By 1780, the mill was making the famous BAKER'S chocolate.

1795 Dr. Joseph Fry of Bristol, England, used a steam engine to help grind cocoa beans. This adaptation led to the manufacture of chocolate on a large factory scale.

1800 Antoine Brutus Menier built the first industrial manufacturing facility for chocolate.

1819 Francois Louis Callier, the pioneer of Swiss chocolate-making, opened the first Swiss chocolate factory.

1828 Conrad Van Houten invented and patented the cocoa press in Amsterdam. This invention helped cut prices and improve the quality of chocolate by squeezing out more of the cocoa butter and giving the beverage a smoother consistency. Several years earlier, Van Houten had been the first to add alkaline salts to powdered cocoa to make it mix better with water. His alkalizing process became known as "Dutching".

1847 Joseph Fry & Son discovered a way to mix some of the cocoa butter back into the "Dutched" chocolate, add sugar, and create a paste that could be molded. The result was the first modern chocolate bar.

1849 Joseph Fry & Son and Cadbury Brothers displayed chocolates for eating at an exhibition in Bingley Hall, Birmingham, England.

1851 Americans were first introduced to bonbons, chocolate creams, hard candies (called boiled sweets), and caramels at Prince Albert's Exposition in London.

1861 Richard Cadbury created the first known heart-shaped candy box for Valentine's Day.

1868 John Cadbury mass-marketed the first boxes of chocolate candies.

1876 Daniel Peter of Vevey, Switzerland invented a means of making milk chocolate for eating--after experimenting for eight years!

1879 Daniel Peter and Henri Nestlé joined together to form the Nestlé Company.

1879 Rodolphe Lindt of Berne, Switzerland, invented the "conching" machine. To conch means to heat and roll chocolate in order to refine it.

1894 Considered a contemporary in the history of chocolate, Milton Hershey began the Hershey Chocolate Company.

1897 The Sears and Roebuck catalog published the first known recipe for chocolate brownies.

1910 Canadian Arthur Ganong marketed the first nickel chocolate bar.

1913 Swiss confectioner Jules Sechaud introduced a machine process for manufacturing filled chocolates.

1926 Belgian chocolatier, Joseph Draps started the Godiva Company to compete with Hershey's and Nestlé's American market.

1950s Sugar free chocolate was first introduced (solely for food-related health conditions such as diabetes).

2007 Archaeologists found evidence of the oldest known cultivation and use of cacao at a Puerto Escondido, Honduras site; dating from about 1100 to 1400 B.C. The residues found and the kind of vessel they were found in indicated that the white pulp around the cacao beans used as a source of fermentable sugars for an alcoholic drink.

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