The History of Chocolate
Welcome to the the History of Chocolate section.
600 The Maya Indians moved from their home
in Guatemala to the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico
1502 Christopher Columbus was given his first drink
of xocoatl (chocolate) on his fourth voyage to America.
1674 A London coffeehouse sells the first solid chocolate
in a stick form.
1903 Milton Hershey builds a chocolate factory and
a town for his workers near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
The History of Chocolate
The first recorded evidence of chocolate as a food product goes back to Pre-Columbian Mexico.
The Mayans and Aztecs were known to make a drink called "Xocoatll from the beans of the cocoa tree. In 1528, the conquering Spaniards returned to Spain with chocolate still consumed as a beverage. A similar chocolate drink was brought to a royal wedding in France in 1615, and England welcomed chocolate in 1662. To this point "chocolate" as we spell it today, had been spelled variously as "chocalatall, "jocolatte", "jacolatte", and "chockelet.11
In 1847, Fry & Sons in England introduced the first "eating chocolate," but did not attract much attention due to its bitter taste. In 1874, Daniel Peter, a famed Swiss chocolateer, experimented with various mixtures in an effort to balance chocolates rough flavor, and eventually stumbled upon that abundant product -- milk. This changed everything and chocolate's acceptance after that was quick and enthusiastic.
GROWING COCOA BEANS
Cocoa beans are usually grown on small plantations in suitable land areas 20 degrees north or south of the Equator. One mature cocoa tree can be expected to yield about five pounds of chocolate per year. These are planted in the shade of larger trees such as bananas or mangos, about 1000 trees per hectare (2,471 acres).
Cocoa trees take five to eight years to mature. After harvesting from the trees, the pods (which contain the cocoa beans) are split open, beans removed, and the beans are put on trays covered with burlap for about a week until they brown. Then they are sun dried until the moisture content is below 7%. This normally takes another three days.
After cleaning, the beans are weighed, selected and blended before roasting at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours. Then shells are removed leaving the "nib." Nibs are crushed to create a chocolate "mass." This is the base raw material from which all chocolate products are made.
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KINDS OF CHOCOLATE
Milk Chocolate - This consists of at least 10% chocolate liquor ("raw" chocolate pressed from nibs) and 12% milk solids combined with sugar, cocoa butter (fat from nibs), and vanilla.
Sweet and Semi-Sweet Chocolate - Are made from 15-35% chocolate liquor, plus sugar, cocoa butter, and vanilla. Imprecision of the two terms causes them to commonly be called "dark" or "plain" chocolate. Dark chocolate has a large following among dessert makers, and for this reason is referred to as "baking" chocolate.
Bittersweet and Bitter Chocolate
Bittersweet usually contains 50% chocolate liquor and has a distinct "bite" to the taste. Bitter or unsweetened chocolate liquor also is used in baking and is also referred to as "bakers" chocolate.
Creams and Variations
Bite sized and chocolate covered. They are filled with caramels, nuts, creams, jellies, and so forth.
Is not really chocolate as it contains no chocolate liquor but contains cocoa butter. This is a brown powder made from the pulverized fruit of a Mediterranean evergreen. It is used by some as a substitute for chocolate because it can be combined with vegetable fat and sugar, and made to approximately the color and consistency of chocolate.
HOW CHOCOLATES ARE MADE
There are four basic methods of coating chocolate onto something such as caramel or a nut.
Enrobing - Least complicated method. Centers are carried by conveyer through a machine that showers them with chocolate.
Panning - Chocolate is sprayed on the centers as they rotate in revolving pans, then cool air is blown in pan to harden the chocolates.
Dipping - Generally done by hand by small scale producers. This is what Schocolat does.
Shell Moldinq - Most sophisticated method. Used for most sculptural chocolates. The process consists of many intricate steps, thus causing it to be more expensive than other methods.
(Source: Chocolate: The Consuming Passion by Sandra Boynton. Workman Publishing: New York, 1982) and J. Kerr, "History of Chocoate," The Field Museum, Chicago. 2007
Is chocolate an aphrodisiac?
Chocolate lovers feel passionate about chocolate, but does chocolate create passion? The question of whether it is an aphrodisiac is an old one, beginning with Spanish observations that Montezuma drank copious amounts of it before a visit to his harem. Casanova preferred chocolate to champagne.
Chocolate does contain small amounts of several psychoactive substances that act as stimulants and mood elevators. There is also the pleasurable sensation caused by the fact that this luscious substance melts at mouth temperature. And isn’t a heart-shaped box of chocolates the quintessentially romantic Valentine’s gift?
All that researchers can tell us is that although eating chocolate is undeniably gratifying, there is no scientific proof that it is either an aphrodisiac or addictive. And as for the recently touted health benefits of chocolate? There have been some intriguing discoveries regarding high blood pressure and chocolate’s antioxidant properties but no doctor or nutritionist is prescribing candy bars as health food.
Courtesy: Albert R. Mann Library, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853