Can you believe that chocolate has been around for over 4,000 years! The history of chocolate started thousands of years ago in ancient Mesoamerica, also what we now know today as Mexico, where the first cacao plants were discovered. Cacao plants are native to Central and South America. The seeds of the cacao plants, also known as cacao beans, are commonly used to make chocolates. First the seed is dried, fermented, and then roasted to yield flavorful cocoa chocolate and cocoa butter.
The Olmec were one of the earliest civilizations in Latin America. The Olmec were the very first to turn the cacao plant into chocolate, that would soon become a worldwide phenomenon and what Mayans praised chocolate as the drink of the gods. The Olmec used chocolate in many different ways, not just for eating, but also for religious practices and medicinal healing.
Throughout centuries, the love of cacao knowledge spread throughout the globe. Chocolate soon became a central delight in Mayan culture. The Mayans used chocolate for almost everything, including special drinks, celebrations, and to even finalize important transactions. Chocolate was also enjoyed with every meal, habitually served thick and frothy and often combined with chili peppers, honey or water
The Aztecs took chocolate admiration to a new level. They believed that cacao an upper-class extravagance and was given to them by their gods. Like the Mayans, they enjoyed the taste of chocolate, hot or cold and spiced chocolate beverages, but they also used cacao beans as currency to buy food and other goods. In Aztec culture, cacao beans were considered more valuable than gold.
Soon, the chocolate craze spread throughout Europe as chocolate houses for the wealthy cropped up throughout London, Amsterdam and other European cities. When chocolate first came on the scene in Europe, it was a luxury that only the rich could enjoy. But in 1828, Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten discovered a process known as “Dutch processing” in which the chocolate produced was called cacao powder or “Dutch cocoa”. The cocoa press separated cocoa butter from roasted cocoa beans to inexpensively and easily make cocoa powder, which was used to create a wide variety of delicious chocolate products.
Both Dutch processing and the chocolate press helped make chocolate accessible and affordable for everyone. It also opened the door for chocolate to be mass-produced today.
And just like that, the modern era of chocolate was born.