Most of us know we love chocolate but what about its history? Chocolate wasn’t always the delicious candy bar or cream filled candy that we know today. Chocolate is still treasured and valued today just as it was many years ago.
Chocolate has been around for an estimated 2000 years, although the chocolate we know, not nearly that long. It is thought that the word ‘chocolate’ came from the Aztec word “xocoatl” which means bitter water. Early mesoamerican cultures made a drink of ground cocoa and water. Chocolate remained a drink for many centuries to follow. Cocoa beans were very valuable in early times and even used as currency. The Mayan and Aztec cultures both believed the cocoa bean had magical and divine powers and the tree’s scientific name, Theobroma cacao, means ‘food of the gods’.
Cocoa was brought back to Europe after the Americas were discovered. It was mixed with sugar and other spices and quickly became popular among the nobility. The fashionable drink spread throughout Europe but still as a luxury of the rich. It was later able to be mass-produced after the invention of the steam engine. Later on, the process of removing the cocoa butter from the chocolate liquor and grinding the remaining cocoa into a powder was created. Soon after that, the first chocolate bar was made. Chocolate production grew and continues to be a large part of our world.
Today the chocolate industry is thriving. Chocolate remains a large part of our daily lives along with helping us to celebrate our most special occasions. On average, Americans consume over 11 lb. of chocolate each year per person. While that is a lot, it’s Switzerland that wins with an average of nearly 22 lb. per person, annually. That’s a very large amount of chocolate being manufactured and sold each year. And with all the choices and flavor combinations, it’s no wonder that chocolate is so loved all around the world!