Chocolate’s Sweet History: From Elite Treat to Food for the Masses

Chocolate’s Sweet History: From Elite Treat to Food for the Masses

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Mankind’s love affair with chocolate stretches back more than five millennia. Produced from the seeds of tropical cacao trees native to the rainforests of Central and South America, chocolate was long considered the “food of the gods,” and later, a delicacy for the elite. But for most of its history, it was actually consumed as a bitter beverage rather than the sweet, edible treat it has become worldwide.

What Is the Birthplace of Chocolate?

Archaeologists have discovered the earliest traces of cacao in pottery used by the ancient Mayo-Chinchipe culture 5,300 years ago in the upper Amazon region of Ecuador. Chocolate played an important political, spiritual and economic role in ancient Mesoamerican civilizations, which ground roasted cacao beans into a paste that they mixed with water, vanilla, chili peppers and other spices to brew a frothy chocolate drink.

Ancient Mesoamericans believed chocolate was an energy booster and aphrodisiac with mystical and medicinal qualities. The Mayans, who considered cacao a gift from the gods, used chocolate for sacred ceremonies and funeral offerings. Wealthy Mayans drank foaming chocolate drinks, while commoners consumed chocolate in a cold porridge-like dish.

As people of the Aztec empire spread across Mesoamerica in the 1400s, they too began to prize cacao. Since they couldn’t grow it in the dry highlands of central Mexico, they traded with the Mayans for the beans, which they even used as currency. (In the 1500s, Aztecs could purchase a turkey hen or a hare for 100 beans.) By one account, the 16th-century Aztec ruler Moctezuma II drank 50 cups of chocolate a day out of a golden goblet to increase his libido.

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Spaniards Introduce Chocolate to Europe’s Elite

Chocolate arrived in Europe during the 1500s, likely brought by both Spanish friars and conquistadors who had traveled to the Americas. Although the Spanish sweetened the bitter drink with cane sugar and cinnamon, one thing remained unchanged: Chocolate reigned as a delectable symbol of luxury, wealth and power—an expensive import sipped by royal lips, and affordable only to Spanish elites.

Chocolate’s popularity eventually spread to other European courts, where aristocrats consumed it as a magic elixir with health benefits. To slake their growing thirst for chocolate, European powers established colonial plantations in equatorial regions around the world to grow cacao and sugar. When diseases brought by Europeans depleted the native Mesoamerican labor pool, African slaves were imported to the Americas to work on the plantations and maintain chocolate production.

Chocolate remained an aristocratic nectar until the 1828 invention of the cocoa press revolutionized its production. Attributed in varying accounts to either Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten or his father, Casparus, the cocoa press squeezed the fatty butter from roasted cacao beans, leaving behind a dry cake that could be pulverized into a fine powder that could be mixed with liquids and other ingredients, poured into molds and solidified into edible, easily digestible chocolate. The cocoa press ushered in the modern era of chocolate by enabling it to be used as a confectionary ingredient, and the resulting drop in production costs made chocolate much more affordable.

READ MORE: Why the Candy Bar Market Exploded After WWI

Chocolate Becomes a Treat for the Masses

In 1847, British chocolate company J.S. Fry & Sons created the first edible chocolate bar from cocoa butter, cocoa powder and sugar. Rival chocolatier Cadbury’s, credited with pioneering the Valentine’s Day chocolate box and chocolate Easter egg, followed suit soon after and in 1854 earned a royal warrant as purveyors of chocolate to Queen Victoria.

It was in Switzerland that chocolate production took one of its greatest leaps forward. In the 1870s, Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter utilized a powdered milk developed several years earlier by his neighbor Henri Nestlé to produce the first milk chocolate bar, and the pair eventually formed the Nestlé Company. Swiss chocolatier Rodolphe Lindt’s 1879 invention of the conching machine—which used large stone rollers to mix and aerate chocolate to give it a velvety texture and superior taste—allowed for the mass production of smooth, creamy milk chocolate.

In the United States, Milton Hershey pioneered the assembly-line production of milk chocolate. After selling his caramel candy company for $1 million and producing his first milk chocolate bar in 1900, Hershey bought farmland near his birthplace in rural Pennsylvania and built an entire factory town devoted to chocolate. The grass-fed Holsteins on the surrounding dairy farms supplied the company’s milk, and a company town in Cuba supplied its sugar.

READ MORE: How Hershey's Chocolate Helped Power Allied Troops in WWII

Chocolate bars soared in popularity during the Roaring Twenties. By the end of the decade, more than 40,000 different candy bars were being made in the U.S., according to Susan Benjamin, candy historian and author of Sweet as Sin: The Unwrapped Story of How Candy Became America’s Favorite Pleasure. Father-and-son duo Frank C. Mars and Forrest Mars Sr. collaborated on the idea for the Milky Way bar, which hit the market in 1923 with the chocolate for its coating supplied by Hershey’s. The family-owned business would rival Hershey’s, and Forrest Mars Sr. later partnered with the son of a Hershey’s executive to begin production of M&M candies in 1941.

H.B. Reese, who had worked as a dairy farmer and shipping foreman for Hershey’s, launched his own candy company in 1923 and five years later introduced Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. They later came to be produced by Hershey’s—and one of the top-selling candies in the United States.

From its roots more than 5,000 years ago, chocolate has become a big business. According to research by Statista, retail sales of chocolate worldwide in 2016 totaled nearly $100 billion, including almost $25 billion in the United States alone. While the cacao plant is native to the Americas, its cultivation has now shifted to Africa, which is now the source of more than two-thirds of worldwide cocoa production.

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Chocolate treasures from ancient civilizations to today

January 31, 1997

(CNN) -- Craved, savored and given as a symbol of one's love. Yet, so common it can be purchased for 50 cents.

This treasured, as well as commonplace item is chocolate.

Originally consumed as a spicy drink, chocolate can be traced back to the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations in Mexico, Central and South America where the Theobroma cacao tree, or cocoa tree, grows wild in tropical rain forests.

Solid chocolate as we know it today wasn't created until the late 1800's in Europe.

Hundreds of years before the Europeans got into the act, the Mayans and the Aztecs treasured the cacao beans, or later to be called cocoa, for both their value as an ingredient for their special drink and as a currency.

Their drink was made from ground cocoa beans. Since sugar was unknown to the Aztecs, they flavored the ground beans with spices, chili peppers and corn meal. Some say it was frothed and eaten with a spoon.

The Aztec emperor, Montezuma, was said to drink chocolate that was thick as honey and dyed red.

He liked it so much that he drank 50 goblets of it every day, and when he was done, he threw the golden goblets away. They weren't valuable to him, but the chocolate was.

Christopher Colombus is said to have brought the first cocoa beans back to Europe between 1502-1504. However, with far more exciting treasures on board, the beans were neglected.

It was his fellow explorer, the Spain's Hernando Cortez, who realized a potential commercial value in the beans.

Cortez, upon conquering the Aztec emperor and his people, sampled the drink, but didn't care for it. However, he did take some beans back to Spain where it was made into an agreeable drink by substituting sugar and vanilla for the chili peppers.

This beverage was kept a secret from other European countries for nearly a century. And when the British captured a Spanish vessel loaded with the cocoa beans in 1587, the cargo was destroyed as useless.

During the 17th century, the chocolate beverage quickly became the fashionable drink all over Europe, but not without opposition. Some condemned it as an evil drink. Frederick III of Prussia prohibited it in his realm.

In the countries that did accept the drink, it was limited to the wealthy because of its high price. The London chocolate houses became the trendy meeting places where the elite London society savored this new luxury beverage.

The first chocolate house opened in London in 1657, advertising "this excellent West India drink."

As cocoa plantations spread to the tropics in both hemispheres by the 19th century, the increased production lowered the price of the cocoa beans and chocolate became a popular and affordable beverage.

In England, the heavy import duties which had made chocolate a luxury for the wealthy were reduced in 1853, allowing a number of cocoa and drinking chocolate manufacturers to get into the business.

Chocolate was still exclusively for drinking until around 1830 when solid eating chocolate was developed by J. S. Fry and Sons, a British chocolate maker. Then in the 1870's, Swiss manufacturers added milk creating the first milk chocolate.

Industrialization in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have since made chocolate a food for the masses. But despite its availablilty, people continue to hold onto the notion of chocolate as a special treat.

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Chocolate’s Sweet History: From Elite Treat to Food for the Masses - HISTORY

If you can't imagine life without chocolate, you're lucky you weren't born before the 16th century. Until then, chocolate only existed in Mesoamerica in a form quite different from what we know. As far back as 1900 BCE, the people of that region had learned to prepare the beans of the native cacao tree. The earliest records tell us the beans were ground and mixed with cornmeal and chili peppers to create a drink - not a relaxing cup of hot cocoa, but a bitter, invigorating concoction frothing with foam. And if you thought we make a big deal about chocolate today, the Mesoamericans had us beat. They believed that cacao was a heavenly food gifted to humans by a feathered serpent god, known to the Maya as Kukulkan and to the Aztecs as Quetzalcoatl. Aztecs used cacao beans as currency and drank chocolate at royal feasts, gave it to soldiers as a reward for success in battle, and used it in rituals. The first transatlantic chocolate encounter occurred in 1519 when Hernán Cortés visited the court of Moctezuma at Tenochtitlan. As recorded by Cortés's lieutenant, the king had 50 jugs of the drink brought out and poured into golden cups. When the colonists returned with shipments of the strange new bean, missionaries' salacious accounts of native customs gave it a reputation as an aphrodisiac. At first, its bitter taste made it suitable as a medicine for ailments, like upset stomachs, but sweetening it with honey, sugar, or vanilla quickly made chocolate a popular delicacy in the Spanish court. And soon, no aristocratic home was complete without dedicated chocolate ware. The fashionable drink was difficult and time consuming to produce on a large scale. That involved using plantations and imported slave labor in the Caribbean and on islands off the coast of Africa. The world of chocolate would change forever in 1828 with the introduction of the cocoa press by Coenraad van Houten of Amsterdam. Van Houten's invention could separate the cocoa's natural fat, or cocoa butter. This left a powder that could be mixed into a drinkable solution or recombined with the cocoa butter to create the solid chocolate we know today. Not long after, a Swiss chocolatier named Daniel Peter added powdered milk to the mix, thus inventing milk chocolate. By the 20th century, chocolate was no longer an elite luxury but had become a treat for the public. Meeting the massive demand required more cultivation of cocoa, which can only grow near the equator. Now, instead of African slaves being shipped to South American cocoa plantations, cocoa production itself would shift to West Africa with Cote d'Ivoire providing two-fifths of the world's cocoa as of 2015. Yet along with the growth of the industry, there have been horrific abuses of human rights. Many of the plantations throughout West Africa, which supply Western companies, use slave and child labor, with an estimation of more than 2 million children affected. This is a complex problem that persists despite efforts from major chocolate companies to partner with African nations to reduce child and indentured labor practices. Today, chocolate has established itself in the rituals of our modern culture. Due to its colonial association with native cultures, combined with the power of advertising, chocolate retains an aura of something sensual, decadent, and forbidden. Yet knowing more about its fascinating and often cruel history, as well as its production today, tells us where these associations originate and what they hide. So as you unwrap your next bar of chocolate, take a moment to consider that not everything about chocolate is sweet.


Since the time of its discovery, the Spanish have been obsesionados (obsessed) with chocolate. Chocolate drinking establishments are called chocolaterias in Spain and serve the sweet, rich beverage, as well as cakes and pastries to accompany it. So enamored were the Madrilenos with the drink that the Pope was asked to change the rules regarding fasting to exclude chocolate! To this day, chocolate is a standard breakfast drink, especially in Madrid. Chocolate con Churros (Hot Chocolate with Fritters) is a popular breakfast around Spain.


Vintage is fashionable, but our retro candy selection is more than that: it&rsquos a collection of old-fashioned candy favorites that can take you back through the 20th Century, remind you who you were and what you were doing when you first had Pop Rocks, and spark memories like no other memento can (you can&rsquot taste a photograph, alas).

Some of the best conversations begin with the question, &ldquoDo you remember?&rdquo Do you remember saving our nickels to get candy necklaces at the drug store? Do you remember that candy jar with cinnamon bears that Nana always had on the counter? Do you remember how much Dad loved Zero Bars?

Start a conversation today with our huge collection of retro candy and vintage candy that we have divided into the decades from which they originate. You have heard of many of our retro candy favorites, like Jelly Belly, Pez, Kit Kat, and Cracker Jack, but you may also have some surprises waiting for you we have old-fashioned candy celebrities alongside lesser-known goodies that deserve attention, too.

Shop for yourself and indulge in a vintage candy nostalgia trip through the years of American candy tradition, or put together a variety of favorites for somebody who would love the journey equally. Don&rsquot forget that kids who have never heard of some of these gems would love to try something different (get enough for them to share with their friends).

How Did Chocolate Become Popular?

Chocolate is derived from the New World cacao plant. Since the discovery of the New World, the popularity of chocolate has substantially grown. However, chocolate's history and its consumption go back much further to about four thousand years ago. The forms chocolate has been found to have more recently greatly varied, but it has always played an important role in tribes and complex societies. From a ritual product to more everyday use, chocolate has greatly impacted the development of the New World in the eyes of European explorers.

Early History

The earliest evidence for using the cacao (also cocoa) plant for chocolate is derived from the Olmec culture that populated southern Mexico more than 3000-4000 years ago. While no direct evidence exists, such as written records, trace chemicals that include theobromine found in the plant indicate that some ceramic vessels were used to prepare or direct consumption of chocolate-derived products. This early chocolate was most likely roasted and fermented, where cacao seeds would have been first pulverized and grounded in using a mortar and pestle. In fact, for almost all of chocolate's history, it has been drunk rather than consumed as a solid, and often it was an alcoholic beverage (Figure 1). [1]

The Maya are the first to document the consumption and use of chocolate. Like the Olmecs, archaeological and historical evidence indicates that chocolate was consumed as a drink rather than eaten. Mayan depictions indicate that Mayan writings suggest a ritual style consumption and this the cacao plant was later known to Europeans as the gods' plant. The Aztecs from central Mexico also used cacao and chocolate, where it also became a religiously important drink that had its own association with the god Quetzalcoatl, a feathered serpent deity who protected and held the knowledge of chocolate. The Aztec myth states that the gods became angry when humans learned about chocolate.

The Aztecs drank chocolate cold, suggesting some differences from the Maya, who liked it mostly as a warm fermented drink. Both warm and cold drinks likely existed. Cacao beans seem to have also been used as a type of currency, traded to purchase other objects as needed. Christopher Columbus, on his fourth trip to the New World, while traveling with Ferdinand, his son, encountered the cacao bean in 1502, making him the first European to encounter this plant and learn about chocolate. [2]

European Use

The arrival of Spanish conquistadors, specifically Hernando Cortés, brought Europeans not only in contact with the chocolate, who initially did not like the taste of the drink as it was bitter but the conquistadors also imported it back to Europe. Chocolate, at this time, did not include sugar, so it was usually quite bitter.

European tastes were not as accustomed to bitter tastes for foods, resulting in Europeans looking to modify the taste. By the 1590s, chocolate was now mixed with honey, vanilla, and sugar, giving it a much sweeter taste, and it became more favorable. With the conquest of South America and later West Indies and the beginning of establishing sugarcane plantations, the production of sugar combined with chocolate revolutionized European tastes. Chocolate was still consumed as a drink, where it became associated with upper-class tastes and the nobility in general by the early 17th century. Sugar consumption now began to increase in parallel with the importation of chocolate.

The desire for chocolate and the need for sugar, in part for chocolate, also helped push the demand for slavery in plantations during the 17th and 18th centuries. Interestingly, some church members had initially considered chocolate drinks as sinful, where some even drank it to divert themselves from long services. However, this changed as the elite and noblemen supported its consumption. The 17th century was also a time for experimentation with chocolate, including the first known attempt to coat almonds with chocolate. Nevertheless, chocolate mostly remained a drink. [3]

By the second half of the 18th century, with industrialization in the UK, the first chocolate factories were being created that used hydraulic machinery. In subsequent decades, entrepreneurs began to experiment with different machinery to facilitate the process of separating cacao butter from cacao seeds and making chocolate easier and with new tastes. The 1730s also began to break the Spanish monopoly, mostly in Central and South America, of cacao. It was soon spread to other parts of the Americas and Africa for production. Gradually, Africa became the leading producer of cacao, but this took some time to develop. In the colonies in the United States in 1765, in the state of Massachusetts, the first chocolate factory was built (Figure 2). [4]

By 1820, new machines were invented that separated cacao solids and butter. Soon, cacao powder was produced. Chocolate now became more mass-produced. The German chocolate manufacturer, still producing chocolates today, also established its first factories and helped bring chocolate to a larger market. However, it was still a product for the upper classes. Finally, in 1848, the realization was made that adding cacao butter, sugar, and cacao liquor allowed the creation of what would be edible, solid chocolate, which proved to be a revolutionizing moment for chocolate consumption that allowed it to become a more diverse food product. [5]

More Recent Use

The late 19th century continued to see improvements in machines that made the taste and quality of chocolate better. It allowed creamy and rich chocolate to be made that left no aftertaste. With the increasing popularity of chocolate, the rise of fraudulent chocolate or imitation products emerged. European countries soon moved to create food standards and guidelines that protected chocolate and its quality so that imitation products could not be falsely advertised. At the same time, prices of cacao began to drop dramatically in the 1890s and 1900s.

This now meant that a much wider middle class could purchase chocolate. The production also began to shift away from the New World, and cacao production increased in Asia and Africa in particular. This helped to depress the price of cacao for growers but enabled it to be a mass consumptive product at even greater levels. [6]

In the 1910s, many well-known European brands began to be established, including Godiva, La Maison du Chocolat, Fauchon in France, Lindt, Suchard, and Sprüngli. The 1860s had already established the Nestlé family. In 1912, praline was invented and became one of the latest crazes of chocolate. In the 1930s, improvements in the preservation of chocolate also now allowed it to be included in other foods so that chocolate pastes and other chocolate derived products could be more easily mixed with other food items after they were transported to other regions. [7]

Today, Western Africa produces about 2/3 of the world's cacao. The price of chocolate has been relatively volatile in recent times, as world politics influences the cacao trade. Unfortunately, this has also meant that modern-day slavery has often been associated with cacao production, as low prices have sometimes created or instigated farmers to use forced labor or not pay their workers. [8]


Chocolate, even in its earliest history, was a product of great desire that was considered, as the name implies, the food of the gods. The Maya and Aztecs saw it as a warm or cold drink, often drunk as an alcoholic beverage that was bitter in taste and associated with a religious ceremony. With the conquest of the New World, the Spanish brought cacao back to the Old World. For a time, the Spanish even dominated the production of cacao and, therefore, chocolate production. Mixing cacao with honey and sugar made chocolate a more desired product in Europe. Soon, with the backing of the elite and nobles in Europe, chocolate became a highly valued drink.

It was only in the early 19th century that chocolate became easier to produce and by the mid-19th century, it could finally be produced in a solid form. By the late 19th century, chocolate became a mass consumption item that spread to all classes. Many well-known brands soon developed by the early 20th century. Innovations in preservation helped chocolate to be used in a variety of foods and products. While chocolate's importance is undisputed among foods worldwide, the basic cacao beans used have now mostly grown in volatile West Africa. This has, unfortunately, at times, led to difficult production circumstances and even modern slavery.

Chocolate in San Miguel has a long and twisted history arriving today at some of the best tasting shops in town.

Since 450BC the Aztecs believed that cacao seeds were the gift of Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom, and the seeds once had so much value that they were used as a form of currency. One seed bought you an avocado. One hundred seeds bought you a slave.

Originally prepared only as a drink, chocolate was served as a bitter beverage. Seeds were fermented, sun-dried and ground into a liquor of dark chocolate mixed with chili peppers and honey. It was believed to be an aphrodisiac giving the drinker strength and consumed by pre-Hispanic royalty and favored soldiers.

Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés, was the first European to encounter chocolate when he observed the court of Montezuma in 1519. After the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, chocolate was imported to Europe by 1620.

The Jesuits, the most business-savvy clergy, formed plantations to grow and ship cacao to European royalty and popes. By the 1900s that changed as companies like Lindt and Hershey added milk and came out with the modern form of the mass produced chocolate bar.

In fact, it was Mr. Hershey’s insistence on using scraps of chocolate from forming chocolate bars into Hershey kisses, the first industrial produced chocolate affordable to the masses. Every well received high school report card was rewarded with a big of Hershey kisses from the local Hershey priest.

Chocolate transformed from an indulgence of the rich to a heavily advertised healthy treat for the masses. Chocolate was advertised as so healthy and essential it was included in US soldiers’ rations during wars.

The word chocolate comes from the Nahuatl word Xocolātl, and entered the English language from the similar sounding Spanish word. Cacao means “the drink or food of the gods”.

Like cotton, cocoa is labor-intensive with slaves imported from Africa to central and South America to work on plantations. Cocoa only grows by the Equator, so, once slavery was banned in the Americas, instead of importing slaves from Africa, plantations moved to Africa using slave and child labor which still happens today. Seventy percent of the world’s cacao comes from the Ivory Coast and Ghana.

My favorite chocolate shop in town is Chocolates Johfrej on the street called Jesus just off the jardin. The word, Johfrej, was formed from combining the founder’s grandchildren’s initials, in much the same way our glass factory is called Guajuye.

That’s Nana Elvira in the photo’s close-up enjoying the then popular marcel wave in her, and her contemporaries’, hair much like the Keep Young and Beautiful hit song advised.

Since 1920 the tradition of making truffles, creams, and pralines has been passed on through generations with cocoa still originating from southern Mexico. Today the store is run by the grandson, Raul, a handsome and friendly lad. Well, not at first. Raul didn’t warm up to me until one I mentioned the chocolates were for the cloistered nuns my then teen daughter volunteered for. With that, a world of warmth began with Raul gifting me with a free chocolate with every purchase. My favorites are the dark chocolate orange and the white chocolate covered cranberries. Both are bliss!

It was from Raul I learned the importance of location. He moved the shop off the jardin for a cheaper rent of Jesus. However, every few steps away from the jardin leads to a serious decrease in sales for any retail establishment.

I’ve a childhood pal, Cheryl, who now works at the luxurious Hotel Hershey’s spa. Cheryl is well versed in chocolate’s curative properties. For example, cocoa dilates the arteries in our kidneys, regulating the supply of oxygen to internal organs. Covering the whole body with chocolate brings the skin softness, reduces spots, intensely moisturizes and increases the production of collagen to maintain a youthful glow. Massages and wraps of cocoa attack cellulite and flaccidity by burning accumulated fat. Chocolate brings shine and softness to hair while simultaneously improving blood circulation to the scalp.

Cheryl tries so hard to convince me to take a chocolate bath at the spa, but despite her salesmanship and cocoa still being a gift from the gods, the idea makes me throw up a little in my mouth. I’m way too hirsute to bathe in something I’d rather consume.

The best-received gifts I ever brought back from Hershey were pens that smelled like chocolate and they truly did. Probably because the smell and taste of chocolate is also a natural antidepressant, giving a feeling of tranquility and joy when consumed in moderation, though who can consume chocolate in moderation? Certainly not during the upcoming World Chocolate Day on July 7 th !

Chocolate has a long history enveloped in an aura of something sensual, decadent and forbidden though not everything about chocolate’s history, or current events, is sweet.

Napoleon cake

Despite the name and its similarity to the French millefeuille, or custard slice, the Napoleon cake is a Russian classic that pre-dates Soviet times. Custard-filled cakes were common across Europe in the 19th century however, this one became a staple in the Russian diet in 1912. For the centennial celebrations of the Russian victory over the French in the Great Patriotic War of 1812, bakers made the cake in the shape of Napoleon’s hat. A kind of layered crêpe and custard cake, it is traditionally decorated with cake crumbs to symbolise the Russian snow that thwarted Napoleon’s army.

Hot commodity for the elite

Americans have enjoyed chocolate since the Colonial days, when they would sip the rich cocoa as a hot drink. Cocoa made its way to North America on the same ships that transported rum and sugar from the Caribbean and South America. The harvesting and shipment of cocoa, like other plantation crops, was an integral part of the transatlantic trade and was heavily reliant on the labor of enslaved Africans throughout the diaspora.

Beginning as early as the 17th century, cocoa was shipped into the Colonies, and by the early 1700s, Boston, Newport, New York and Philadelphia were processing cocoa into chocolate to export and to sell domestically. Chocolate was popular in the coffeehouse culture and was processed for sale and consumption by enslaved laborers in the North.

Farther south, in Virginia, cocoa was becoming a hot commodity as well, and was so popular that it is estimated that approximately one-third of Virginia’s elite was consuming cocoa in some form or another. For the wealthy, this treat was sipped multiple times a week for others it was out of reach.

At Stratford Hall, Dontavius Williams demonstrates Colonial chocolate-making as Caesar would have done it.

On plantations throughout the Colonies, during the 18th century, cocoa was making its way into the kitchens and onto the tables of the most wealthy families. The art of chocolate-making – roasting beans, grinding pods onto a stone over a small flame – was a labor-intensive task. An enslaved cook would have had to roast the cocoa beans on the open hearth, shell them by hand, grind the nibs on a heated chocolate stone, and then scrape the raw cocoa, add milk or water, cinnamon, nutmeg or vanilla, and serve it piping hot.

Let Us Tell You S’more About America’s Favorite Campfire Treat

This summer, 45 million pounds of marshmallows will be toasted over a fire in America. Many will be used as an ingredient in the quintessential summer snack: the s’more.

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Huddling around a campfire and eating gooey marshmallows and warm chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers may feel like primeval traditions.

But every part of the process – including the coat hanger we unbend to use as a roasting spit – is a product of the Industrial Revolution.

The oldest ingredient in the s'more’s holy trinity is the marshmallow, a sweet that gets its name from a plant called, appropriately enough, the marsh mallow. Marsh mallow, or Althea officinalis, is a plant indigenous to Eurasia and Northern Africa. For thousands of years, the root sap was boiled, strained and sweetened to cure sore throats or simply be eaten as a treat.

The white and puffy modern marshmallow looks much like its ancient ancestor. But for hundreds of years, creation of marshmallows was very time-consuming. Each marshmallow had to be manually poured and molded, and they were a treat that only the wealthy could afford. By the mid-19th century, the process had become mechanized and machines could make them so cheaply that they were included in most penny candy selections. Today the marshmallow on your s’more contains no marsh mallow sap at all. It’s mostly corn syrup, cornstarch and gelatin.

A 16-century image shows an Aztec women frothing chocolate. Lacking sugar and milk, ancient chocolate was much more bitter. (Chocolate Class)

Chocolate is another ancient food. Mesoamericans have been eating or drinking it for 3,000 years. The Europeans who encountered indigenous people in Mexico in the 1500s noted that chocolate was used to treat numerous ailments ranging from dysentery and indigestion, to fatigue and dyspepsia.

But again, it was the Industrial Revolution that made chocolate cheap enough and palatable enough for the average person. The chocolate that the Mesoamericans ate was dark, grainy and tended to be somewhat bitter.

In 1875, a candlemaker-turned-chocolatier named Daniel Peter invented a process to mix milk with chocolate. He then added some more sugar, and the modern milk chocolate bar was born. Peter’s company eventually merged with Henri Nestle’s two companies, and Peter’s invention was dubbed the Nestle chocolate bar. It proved to be so much more popular than the darker bars on the market that other candy companies, from Cadbury to Hershey, released their own versions.

Finally, the graham cracker was invented by the Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham, who felt that a vegetarian diet would help suppress carnal urges, especially the scourge of “self-pollution” (read: masturbation).

The original graham cracker used unsifted whole-wheat flour. Graham felt that separating out the bran was against the wishes of God, who, according to Graham, must have had a reason for including bran.

In his Treatise on Bread, and Bread-Making, he gives many examples of prominent writers throughout history who urged the consumption of whole wheat flour.

Graham was highly influential in the development of the health food movement of the 19th century, and his acolytes included John Harvey Kellogg of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, who used the graham cracker as a basis for his famous flaked cereal line.

As for how the graham cracker became a part of the s'more, the snack’s true origin remains unclear.

The first mention of this treat is in a 1927 edition of the Girl Scout manual Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts. In a nod to the treat’s addictive qualities, it was dubbed “Some More.”

The term s'more is first found the 1938 guide Recreational Programs for Summer Camps, by William Henry Gibson. Some think the s'more may be a homemade version of the Mallomar or the moon pie, two snacks introduced in the 1910s.

Some think the moon pie may have inspired the s'more. (Evan-Amos)

Today, the s'more has become so popular that it’s inspired a range of spin-offs. You can eat a s'mores-flavored Pop Tart for breakfast, munch on a s'mores candy bar for dessert and even unwind after a long day at work with a s'mores martini.

As I often tell my students, the health-conscious Sylvester Graham is probably rolling over in his grave after what became of his beloved cracker.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Jeffrey Miller, Associate Professor and Program Coordinator, Hospitality Management, Colorado State University

Watch the video: Dokument o výrobě čokolády (June 2022).


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