Chocolate is a delicious aphrodisiac known long ago. Even Casanova took a few sip of hot chocolate before his sexual adventures to increase his appetite. It is full of happiness hormones, so we gladly turn to chocolate on a rainy, sad, lonely evening to cheer ourselves up. It is also inspiring for directors: the movie Chocolat depicts a woman (Juliette Binoche) who has a real passion for the South-American plant and opens a chocolate shop in a little French village and perturbs everything.
The origin of chocolate
The plant is native to South America, it is proven that the Mayans grew it around 600 AD. The Indians also used other parts of the crop outside of the seed (which is good for the preparation of medicines too): the crop was consumed as a delicacy, they carved spoons and cups from the shells, while the leaves were used during the construction of their homes. The seeds were used as money and this habit even remained for a while after the European invasion.
According to the legend, Aztec ruler Montezuma offered Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés “sokoatl”, which is made from cocoa, corn flour, water, honey, cinnamon, anise, and chili. In the 1600’s the Spaniards living in Mexico were drinking chocolate during the long masses to refresh themselves, however, the bishop of Chiapas excommunicated them for this disgraceful act. Pope Pius V found the bitter taste of the chocolate drink so unpleasant that he proclaimed that it may be consumed during the fringe.
During the sixteenth and seventeenth century, Spain had a monopoly of importing cocoa. Pulverized cocoa, anise, cloves and cocoa mass were usually transported on the ships. The first hot chocolate brewer opened in Spain in 1580. The French and Austrian nobility took over the fashion from the Spanish courtyard. Cocoa spread approximately parallel to tea, and only in the form of drink. The London Chocolate House restaurant opened in 1657, the fashion of chocolate drink intensified during Charles II (1630-85) in Britain.
The first hot chocolate
Experiments with solid chocolate only began in the eighteenth century. The Dutch C. J. van Houten invented cocoa presser in 1828, which withdrew a part of the hardly digestible fat. This brought a quantum leap in quality.
The chocolate slice was only invented in 1847. The Swiss Nestle brothers put on the market the first packed milk chocolate slices in 1876. Rodolphe Lindt discovered chocolate refining and chocolate fondant in his Bern-based factory in 1880.
The French and British colonies began cocoa production only in the nineteenth century. Today, two-thirds of the world’s cocoa import comes from African countries.