Chocolate is a raw or processed food produced from the seed of the tropical Theobroma Cacao tree. Cacao has been cultivated for at least three millennia in Mexico, Central and South America, with its earliest documented use around 1100 BC.
The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste, and must be fermented to develop the flavour. After fermentation, the beans are dried, then cleaned, and then roasted, and the shell is removed to produce Cacao nibs.
Until the 16th century, no European had ever heard of Cacao, a popular drink of Central and South American peoples. It was not until the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs that chocolate began to be imported to Europe. In Spain it quickly became a court favourite.
Within a century it had spread and become popular throughout the European continent. But even with Cacao harvesting becoming a regular business, only royalty and the well-connected could afford to drink such an expensive import. Sure enough, the Spanish began growing Cacao beans on plantations in Africa with a native workforce to help manage them.
The first chocolate house opened in London in 1657.
In 1689, noted physician and collector Hans Sloane developed a chocolate drink in Jamaica which was initially used by apothecaries, but was later sold to the Cadbury brothers in 1897.
Chocolate in its solid form was invented in 1847. Joseph Fry & Son discovered a way to mix some of the cocoa butter back into the ‘dutched’ chocolate, and added sugar, creating a paste that could be moulded.
The result was the first modern chocolate bar.
Unsweetened baking chocolate (bitter chocolate) contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, combining cocoa solids, cocoa butter or other fat, and sugar. Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk. White chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk but no cocoa solids.
In 1879 the Cadbury Co. relocated to an area of what was then north Worcestershire, on the borders of the parishes of Northfield and King’s Norton centred on the Georgian built Bournbrook Hall.
There they developed the garden village of Bournville; now a major suburb of Birmingham. The Cadbury’s factory remains a key site for Cadbury.
With their Quaker background the Cadbury brothers were staunch tee-totallers and the district around the factory has been ‘dry’ for over 100 years, with no alcohol being sold in pubs, bars or shops.
Surprisingly. the local residents have fought to maintain this unique situation, winning a court battle in March 2007 with Britain’s biggest supermarket chain Tesco, to prevent it selling alcohol in its local outlet.
Thank you! What a fabulous article! I love history of all kinds and this tracked the history of chocolate so well.
Keep watching. The history goes on. The book and its supplements are enormous.
My own writing has gone by the board for the moment but there are some of my stories on my website (link from blog)
You may enjoy my latest post.
Dear mr Cadbury,
I would really like some of your amazing:-)