Monday, March 17, 2014

Historical Facts About Chocolate

Historical Facts About Chocolate

Many admirers of chocolate, my favorite food group, might be interested to know that chocolate has a very long and unique history. A couple of years ago I visited the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate in Brussels, Belgium. One of the more interesting aspects of the trip was when the guide told our group about the background of chocolate.

The story began in the Yucatan peninsula where the cocoa tree grew in the wild for {thousands of years. In 2000 B.C., the cocoa tree was first cultivated in the Mayan Empire. Cocoa beans were made into a beverage using water, spices, and salt. The Aztecs, who occupied the Mayan territory in the 14th century, used cocoa and its derivatives like cocoa butter as medicinal drugs. The Spanish were the first Europeans to learn about and make use of this bitter drink. In his conquest of the Aztecs, the explorer Cortez arrived at on the coast line of Mexico in 1519 and was introduced to cocoa. He helped bring cocoa back to Spain in 1528 where the Spaniards substituted the salt and spices with sugar. Cocoa then began to grow in popularity across Europe.

In France, cocoa was popularized by Jews who had been chased out of Spain. Two French queens, Anne of Austria and Maria Theresa of Austria, loved chocolate so much they drank it all the time. Clearly, they had excellent taste!

Over the years, technological innovations improved the taste of chocolate dramatically. In the Netherlands, chocolatiers first began to separate the cocoa butter from the cocoa powder which is an essential component in the modern-day method of chocolate-making. In Switzerland, Rodolfe Lindt invented the conching technique which takes away much of the bitterness that is in unrefined chocolate.

Today, Africa is the largest producer of cocoa. In particular, the Ivory Coast produces more cocoa than any other country in the world. The Ivory Coast and Ghana, together, produce sixty percent of the earth's supply of cocoa beans. For even more interesting facts and news about chocolate, check out Chocolate Facts!.


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