Monday, 13 October 2008

Food of the Gods

A Brief History of Chocolate

Historically, the Cacao Tree or Cocoa Plant (Theobroma cacao) grows wild in the low foothills of the Andes at elevations of around 200–400 m (650-1300 ft) in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins. Cacao flowers are pollinated by tiny flies, midges in the order Diptera. The fruit, called a cacao pod, is ovoid, 15–30 cm (6-12 in) long and 8–10 cm (3-4 in) wide, ripening yellow to orange, and weighs about 500 g (1 lb) when ripe. The fruits grow directly from the tree trunk. Each pod contains 20 to 60 seeds, usually called "beans", embedded in a white pulp. Each seed contains a significant amount of fat (40–50% as cocoa butter). Their most noted active constituent is theobromine, a compound similar to caffeine. It takes about 400 beans to make 1lb of chocolate.

The scientific name Theobroma means "food of the gods". The word cacao itself derives from the Nahuatl (Aztec language) word cacahuatl or xocolatl, which means bitter water, learned at the time of the conquest when it was first encountered by the Spanish.

1502 - Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ chocolate on his fourth voyage to the New World in 1502 but not as the product we know today. It was only consumed as a drink. Allegedly, the Aztec emperor, Monteczuma (c1502) drank fifty golden goblets of chocolate a day to enhance his ardour. (A small goblet I hope or he'd have spent all his time going to the loo!) It was thick, dyed red and flavored with chili peppers. The few dark brown beans that Columbus is alleged to have brought back did not merit much attention at the time.

1513 - Hernando de Oviedo y Valdez, who went to America in 1513 as a member of Pedrarias Avila's expedition, reported that he bought a slave for 100 cocoa beans. According to Hernando de Oviedo y Valdez 10 cocoa beans bought the services of a prostitute, and 4 cocoa beans got you a rabbit for dinner. (Some 430 years later Americans were to return to Europe to buy women with chocolate and nylons!)

1528 - Chocolate arrived in Spain: Cortès presented the Spainish King, Charles V with cocoa beans from the New World and the necessary tools for its preparation. Cortez postulated that if this bitter beverage were blended with sugar, it could become quite a delicacy. The Spaniards mixed the beans with sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and cinnamon.

1615 – After much skepticism, Anne of Austria ( Louis XIII's wife) declared chocolate as the drink of the French Court - previously it had been considered a "barbarous product and noxious drug".

1640s – Chocolate finds its way to England, among other European countries. In France, chocolate mania, was at its height. Chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac flourished in the French courts. Art and literature was thick with erotic imagery inspired by chocolate. And the Marquis de Sade, became proficient in using chocolate to disguise poisons! Casanova was reputed for using chocolate with champagne to seduce the ladies. Madame de Pompadour was advised to use chocolate with ambergris to stimulate her desire for Louis XV… but to no avail. Madame du Barry, reputed to be a nymphomaniac, encouraged her lovers to drink chocolate in order to keep up with her.

- As London succumbed to chocolate mania, the drink beame a best seller in England and excessive taxes are imposed on chocolate. It takes almost 200 years before the duty is dropped. London's first chocolate shop is opened by a Frenchman. London Chocolate Houses became the trendy meeting places where the elite London society savored their new luxury. The first chocolate house opened in London advertising "this excellent West India drink."

1662 - As chocolate became exceptionally fashionable,The Church of Rome took a second look at this bewitching beverage. The judgment: "Liquidum non frangit jejunum," reiterated that a chocolate drink did not break the Lenten fast. But eating chocolate confections didn’t pass muster, until Easter. Is this where the Easter Bunny and Easter egg made their entrance?

1720 - Italian Chocolatiers from Florence and Venus (otherwise known as Venice - that's what happens when you borrow pieces of text from many sources!) , now well versed in the art of making chocolate, are welcomed to France, Germany and Switzerland.

1730 - Manufacture of chocolate by hand gave way to mass production. The transition was hastened by the advent of a perfected steam engine, which mechanized the cocoa grinding process. By 1730, in America, chocolate had dropped in price from three dollars or more per pound to within financial reach of almost all.

1744 - A Lady Pouring Chocolate - Jean-Étienne Liotard (Source

1819 – The first Swiss chocolate factory was opened.

1824 - John Cadbury, the son of Richard Cadbury, opens his shop at 93 Bull Street, then a fashionable part of Birmingham. Apart from selling tea and coffee, John Cadbury sells hops, mustard and a new sideline - cocoa and drinking chocolate, which he prepares himself using a mortar and pestle.

1828 - Dutch chocolate maker Conrad J. Van Houten created the hydraulic cocoa press. The press enabled chocolate makers to crush the "nibs," or centers, of roasted cacao beans into a paste (Chocolate Liquor). After crushing, some of the cocoa butter was extracted.

1848 - English chocolate maker Joseph Storrs Fry created the first eating chocolate by further refining the cocoa, adding sugar, and mixing the cocoa butter back in.

1866 - The Cadbury brothers introduce a new cocoa process to produce a much more palatable Cocoa Essence - the forerunner of the cocoa we know today. The plentiful supply of cocoa butter remaining after the cocoa was pressed makes it possible to produce a wide variety of new kinds of eating chocolate.

1875 - Swiss Daniel Peter added condensed milk to chocolate and marketed the first solid milk chocolate bar.

1897 - Cadbury manufactured its first milk chocolate.

1900 - Hershey's Chocolate was introduced in the USA.

1905 - Cadbury launched Dairy Milk onto the market - a new milk chocolate that contains far more milk than anything previously tasted.

1915 - Cadbury Milk Tray was introduced.

1920 - Cadbury Flake was introduced.

1923 - Cream filled eggs, the forerunner of Cadbury Creme Egg, were introduced.

Cadbury Dairy Milk gains its status as the brand leader in the UK, a position that it has enjoyed ever since.

- Fruit and Nut introduced as a variation of Dairy Milk and Cadbury introduce the "glass and a half" advertising slogan.

1930s - the chocolate chip cookie was invented by accident when Ruth Graves Wakefield of Massachusetts substitued semi-sweet chocolate for cooking cholate in her cookie recipe. The chocolate failed to melt into the dough as cooking chocolate did.

1938 - Cadbury Roses were launched.

1940s - The British and U.S. governments recognized chocolate's role in the nourishment and group spirit of the Allied Armed Forces, so much so that they allocated valuable shipping space for the importation of cocoa beans. Many soldiers were thankful for the pocket chocolate bars which gave them the strength to carry on until more food rations could be obtained. Today, the U.S. Army D-rations include three 4-ounce chocolate bars.

1960 - Chocolate syrup was used as 'blood' in Hitchcock's "Psycho" for the famous shower scene. The scene lasts for about 45 seconds in the movie, but took 7 days to film.

2001 - Americans consumed over 3.1 billion pounds of chocolate - almost half of the total world's production. There were 1,040 U.S. factories producing Chocolate and Cocoa Products in 2001. These establishments employed 45,913 people and shipped $12 billion worth of goods that year.

– The UK’s first Chocolate Week introduced.

1 comment:

L'homme bizarre avec la barbe grise said...

Loved the comment about Americans returning to buy women with chocolate and nylons!