History of Chocolate

  • Chocolate is made from the seeds of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) which originated in the Amazon rainforest.  
  • The cacao tree can grow in a band of 20 degrees north and south of the Equator.
  • The first history of cacao utilization dates back at least 5,300 years ago to Ecuador where traces of cacao was found in ceramic vessels. 
  • First domestication was thought to be approximately 3,500 years ago from Central America.
  • The cultures of Mesoamerica (Olmecs, Mayans, Aztecs and others) all utilized cacao.
  • These cultures revered cacao and utilized it as a sacred drink, currency, medicine and in religious ceremonies.  
  • The word "cacao" itself comes from the Mayan word KaKaWa 
  • Cacao was imported into Spain in the 1500's.  It is unclear if it was brought back first by Columbus, Cortez or a Friar.  Regardless it quickly became popular in the Spanish Court and rapidly spread to other parts of Europe.
  • With increasing demand cacao plantations were established in Africa and other regions. Cacao trees were imported throughout the world in locations favorable for its growth.
  • Europeans changed the format of cacao drinks and added sugar, cinnamon and other spices to create a modern version of drinking chocolate.
  • Chocolate arrived first in Florida in 1641 and was a popular drink.
  • In 1828 a Dutch chemist learned how to press cacao liquor to make coco powder and cocoa butter.  He also invented the alkalization process to make Dutched coco powder.
  • The chocolate bar was invented by Joseph Fry in 1847 when he used a liquid form of cacao liquor, sugar and cacao butter was put into a mold to form a bar.
  • Milk powder was added in the late 1800's to create a milk chocolate
  • During the revolutionary war chocolate/cacao was included in soldiers rations in lieu of wages.
  • In 1879 Rudolph Lindt invented the conch machine to improve chocolates flavor and texture.
  • Hershey, Mars, Cadbury and Nestle all entered the market in the late 1800's and still thrive today.
  • The Craft Chocolate movement started in the 1990s and became more wide spread beginning in 2010.  The industry is still in its infancy and is growing strongly.
  • Craft chocolate focuses on stepping back from large industrial production techniques to make small batch chocolate focused on the natural flavors of the bean.  Most craft chocolate makers use direct trade sources and work closely with local farmers to ensure they receive fair prices for their beans and products.