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The History of Chocolate

The tasty secret of the cacao tree was discovered 2,000 years ago in the tropical rainforests of the Americas. Ancient cultures of Maya and Aztec used to mix ground cacao seeds with various seasonings to make a spicy, frothy drink.

When Columbus returned from America,he laid before the Spanish throne a treasure trove of many strange and wonderful things. Among these were a few dark brown beans that looked like almonds and seemed most unpromising. They were cocoa beans, today's source of all our chocolate and cocoa.

The King and Queen never dreamed how important cocoa beans could be, and it remained for Hernando Cortez, the great Spanish explorer, to grasp the commercial possibilitiesof the New World offerings.

Cortez, during his conquest of Mexico, found the Aztec Indians using cocoa beans "chocolati", meaning warm liquid. In 1519, Emperor Montezuma, who reportedly drank 50 or more portions daily, served “chocolati” to his Spanish guests in great golden goblets, treating it like a food for the gods.

Montezuma's “chocolati” was very bitter, and the Spaniards did not find it to their taste. To make the concoction more agreeable to Europeans, Cortez and his countrymen added sugar to sweeten the flavor.

In Spain, the idea found favor and the drink underwent several more changes with newly discovered spices, such as cinnamon and vanilla. Ultimately, someone decided the drink would taste better if served hot.

The new drink won friends, especially among the Spanish aristocracy. Spain wisely proceeded to plant cocoa in its overseas colonies, which gave birth to a very profitable business. Remarkably enough, the Spanish succeeded in keeping the art of the cocoa industry a secret from the rest of Europe for nearly a hundred years.

In 1847, an English company introduced solid "eating chocolate" through the development of “Chocolat Fondant”, a smooth and velvety variety that has almost completely replaced the old coarse grained chocolate which formerly dominated the world market. Then in 1876 in Vevey, Switzerland, Daniel Peter devised a way of adding milk to the chocolate, creating the product we enjoy today known as milk chocolate.