When and how was chocolate invented?

Cocoa was originally eaten as a tropical fruit by many Meso-american peoples starting at least several thousand years ago. The Maya people were the first we know of that made use of the beans found inside the fruit, which they fermented, dried and ground before mixing it with water and spices to create a flavourful chocolate drink. Due to the storagability and unfalsifiability of cocoa beans they were among other things used as money by the Mayans. Cocoa drinks were enjoyed in large amounts and were later adopted by the Aztecs where it was an important ritual drink for the priests and emperors, whereby the Europeans came across it.
Since the American natives didn't use sugar their drink wasn't very suitable to European tastes, so when the first Spanish settlers in the Americas ran out of wine they began experimenting with mixing sugar and vanilla into the cocoa drink to create something similar to what we now think of as hot chocolate. This was introduced to Spain in the mid 1500s but didn't become well known elsewhere in Europe until the mid 1600s.

The next major step in chocolate evolution happened in the 1700s and 1800s when hydraulic grinders and presses were developed that allowed the separation of cocoa mass into cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Also in 1828 the dutchman Conrad van Heuten developed a alkali-based treatment known as 'dutching' that made cocoa shelf stable and possible to store for long amounts of time, and it also made cocoa powder more easily soluble in water easing the process of making hot chocolate.

The use of milk in chocolate was first attempted in  drinking chocolate by the british Dr. Hans Sloan while working in  Jamaica around 1689, reportedly due to his dislike of the flavour of this at the time important medical product (!). The first chocolate bar was also a milk-chocolate bar made in  Germany by Jordan & Timaeus around 1839, but due to their use of  fresh goats milk the chocolate bar would grow mildew after just a few days of its manufacture, so it wasn't a commercial success.

All of these developments contributed to enable the British quaker and apothecary Joseph Fry to add extra cocoa butter to the mix and create the first solid dark chocolate bar in 1847. The first commercial milk chocolate bar was then made in Switzerland  by candle-maker Daniel Peter in 1876 with help from Henri Nestlè's development of powdered milk. In 1879 the invention of solid chocolate was further refined by another swiss, Rodolphe Lindt, through his accidental discovery of conching - a blending process that highly improves the flavour and mouthfeel of chocolate, creating what is essentially the modern chocolate bar. This paved the way for Jean Neuhaus in Belgium to develop the first filled chocolates in 1912 which he called pralines, and the rest is as they say, history!

Chocolate history starts out in Latin America, where cacao (also called cocoa) trees grow wild. The first people to use chocolate were probably the Olmec of what is today southeast Mexico. They lived in the area around 1000 BC, and their word, "kakawa," gave us our word "cacao." Unfortunately, we don't know how the Olmec actually used chocolate.

We do know, however, that the Maya, who inhabited the same general area a thousand years later (from about 250-900 AD), did use chocolate. A lot. And not just internally. It is with the Maya that chocolate history really begins. The cocoa beans were used as currency. 10 beans would buy you a rabbit or a prostitute. 100 beans would buy you a slave. Some clever person even came up with a way to counterfeit beans – by carving them out of clay. The beans were still used as currency in parts of Latin America until the 19th century!

If Rupee notes were edible, would you eat them? Probably not, unless you had some to spare. The same was true of the Maya – usually only the rich drank much chocolate, although working folks probably enjoyed chocolate every now and then too. The rich enjoyed drinking their chocolate from elaborately painted chocolate vessels. Emperors were buried with jars of chocolate at their side. Clearly, they wanted to make chocolate history themselves.

So it's no surprise that when the Aztecs conquered the Maya, they kept the chocolate tradition alive. From about 1200-1500, the Aztecs dominated the region and continued using cocoa as currency. Because cocoa could not grow in the capital city, Tenochitlan (where Mexico City is today), it had to be imported through trading. Conveniently, the Spanish had taken over lots of Caribbean islands. And on those islands was sugar. Next thing you know, somebody put sugar in chocolate and everybody was clamoring for the stuff.

Chocolate History in Church

For a while, the Spaniards kept the chocolate secret to themselves. And when chocolate first made it to Spain, it was considered a health food and a medicine. Doctors prescribed it for curing fevers, cooling the body, aiding in digestion, and alleviating pain. The church also approved it as a nutritional supplement to take while fasting.

In the 1850s, Englishman Joseph Fry changed my life by adding more cocoa butter, rather than hot water, to cocoa powder and sugar. The world's first solid chocolate was born.

In 1875, Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle added condensed milk to solid chocolate, creating a milk chocolate bar.

In 1879, Swiss chap Rudolphe Lindt invented the conch, a machine that rotated and mixed chocolate to a perfectly smooth consistency.

By 1907, Milton Hershey's factory was spitting out 33 million kisses per day.


Well, that depends on what you mean when you say "chocolate"...

The use of cocoa dates back to the ancient empires of mesoamerica where they gathered the seed pods, fermented the seeds, and roasted them to produce a product that they made into a bitter drink (that also contained chilis).

The ancient mesoamericans enjoyed drinking cocoa for about 3500 years before Spanish explorers intruded on mesoamerican civilization and carried chocolate back to Europe where it became popular as a drink (without the chili, often with added sugar and vanilla).

By 1828, a Dutch chemist, Conrad van Houten, figured out how to separate cocoa butter from the cocoa. In 1847, Joseph Fry figured out a process whereby the cocoa butter could be reintroduced to very finely ground cocoa, producing solid chocolate for the first time. In 1875, Daniel Peter developed a process for adding powdered milk (developed by Henri Nestlé) to chocolate to produce "milk chocolate". And by 1879, Rudolph Lindt developed the conching machine, which scraped and mixed chocolate to reduce the size of cocoa particles, round them out, and more thoroughly mix the cocoa butter into the mass -- yielding the solid chocolate product that we recognize as chocolate today.
Well a 'chocolate' type drink was used by the Aztecs in pre-Colombian Mesoamerica so you're looking at the 14th century.

But if you want to know about hot chocolate as we almost know it today then its probably 1530 when the captain general of Spain - Cortez offered it to the royal court.

It wasn't until around 1660 that Spain started to lose its dominance of the European chocolate 'industry' when the Dutch and British managed to get their hands on cacao with their growing empires. It was Nichalos Sanders in 1727 who started to mix 'chocolate' with milk to make hot chocolate.

According to 'The Chocolate Tree - A Natural History of Cacao' by Allen M. Young Jospeh Fry actually set up the first chocolate company in England in 1730. And then in 1779 the first chocolate factory was set up in America by Baker's Chocolate.

The 1847 date actually comes from when Fry's started to 'Dutch'  chocolate which is a process of adding alkali to decrease the natural acidity found in cacao. Cadbury's didn't start to use this process until two years later.

The first 'milk chocolate' was actually produced by Daniel Peter in Switzerland in 1876.

Cocoa beans. Cocoa beans are little beans that grow on trees. You get the chocolate from the extract of the beans, thus becoming chocolate. Cocoa beans also only grow in hot areas but not too hot like in South Africa.


Chocolate comes from the cacao tree. I know this personally because we used to have a tree like this in our yard in the Philippines. We would open up the fruit where cacao pieces come off and see thumb sized cacao beans where we would ground them using an adult sized mortar and pestle ( I don't know what it was called but you could imagine 2 people pounding alternately to ground the beans). When powdery after the pounding, we round them up in a flat circular mold  that would be used to make hot chocolate drinks and even chocolate rice called Champorado. We don't make Hershey bars but chocolate comes from the very tree I described above. With pictures for your reference below:


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