If you have ever wondered about the history of chocolates, you’re in the right place. From their Mesoamerican origins to the Industrial Age, chocolate and cocoa have undergone profound changes throughout history. We’ll also learn about the Conch machine invented by Rudolf Lindt and the Aztecs’ Molinillo.
The Mesoamericans believed the cacao bean was a gift from the gods, and the beans were considered to be powerful food. They used it in rituals and feasts, and the beans were traded as currency and tribute. The ancient Mesoamericans even gave chocolate to their soldiers. It wasn’t considered aphrodisiac at this time, but it did have other uses.
The Aztecs and Mayas, the largest of Mesoamerica’s ancient civilizations, consumed cacao as a sweet, frothy drink. They mixed cacao with aromatic herbs and honey to make a rich beverage. It was primarily prepared by women. They mixed the ingredients together, stirred it with their hands, and transferred the liquid from one vessel to another. They believed cacao’s flavor and aroma were symbolic of femininity, and the cacao tree and seeds were associated with sexual organs.
In addition to being a sacred food, cacao served as a symbol of prestige and social status. It was also used as a cultural touchstone, a social centerpiece, and a social center. This is evidenced by archaeological finds from Chiapas, Mexico, where cacao was highly revered by the ancient Mayas.
Industrial era led to fundamental changes for chocolate and cocoa
The Industrial Revolution brought about a series of changes in cocoa and chocolate manufacturing. Before this era, cocoa beans were broken by hand and winnowed. This process was very labor-intensive and often led to hand cuts and even fingernails. Today, chocolate and cocoa are processed with machines that break the cacao seed into smaller pieces known as nibs.
Today, cocoa and chocolate manufacturing are largely dominated by multinational corporations, with major producers based in the U.S. and Europe. Large cocoa processing companies include Hershey, Mars, Cargill, and Blommer. Many countries also process cocoa, including Ghana, the U.S., and the Netherlands.
After the Industrial Revolution, cocoa became more readily available, with many plantations expanding throughout the tropics. The increased production of cocoa beans helped lower prices and made chocolate a more accessible drink. By the 19th century, cocoa plantations were widespread in both hemispheres.
Before the Industrial Revolution, chocolate was a luxury of the wealthy. It was expensive and labor-intensive to produce. Thus, it was only the elite who could afford it. However, the Industrial Revolution changed the industry by modernizing and mechanizing the process of cocoa production, lowering the cost and increasing efficiency. Additionally, it also improved the taste and texture of cocoa.
Conch machine invented by Rudolf Lindt
The Conch machine was invented by Rodolphe Lindt, a Swiss chemist and chocolatier. The machine involved rolling a mass of liquid chocolate on hot rollers. This aerated the chocolate, which created a softer texture. Lindt discovered this process by accident – he left his factory on a Friday and returned to find his chocolate had changed. He began researching ways to improve the texture of chocolate and developed the Conche machine. This machine had a stone trough that resembled a conch shell and a roller that worked the cocoa mass at a temperature of 131 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit.
In 1893, Lindt sold his chocolate factory to Rudolf Sprungli, a Zurich confectionery merchant. Sprungli’s grandfather opened a confectionery shop in 1836. Today, the Sprungli family is the largest owner of Lindt chocolate.
After World War II, Lindt & Sprungli AG grew rapidly. Within a decade, it exported three-quarters of its chocolate. The company’s chocolate was in high demand. It went on to buy several national businesses in the US and Europe. Today, it has over 370 chocolate shops worldwide. Today, Lindt is among the finest chocolate producers.
Aztecs invented Molinillo
The Aztecs invented Molinillo, a unique wooden tool with a variety of rings at the bottom. Its purpose was similar to that of a modern milk frother, whisking and cooling chocolate to create a smooth, complex drink. Initially, cacao beans were traded from South America to Spain, and the chocolate that was brought back by these explorers was made from them.
After harvesting the cacao pods, the native peoples fermented and dried them. Next, they cleaned and roasted the cacao seeds. This process was performed by women who were then invited to participate in religious rituals. The Europeans, however, did not understand the importance of this ritual and adopted the molinillo and the froth-making device.
The Aztecs used a variety of ingredients to create the drink, including cacao seeds. They also added achiote, a seed from the annatto tree, to make it blood-red. As the process was laborious and expensive, only the wealthiest families could afford to do so.
Molinillo is now a staple in many Latin American kitchens and carries the rich history of chocolate with it. Its modern form is about 11.5 inches long, with a knob on one end and a long, slender handle on the other. When rolled between your hands, the molinillo creates a thick, foamy coating, and is thought to have mystical properties.
Europeans primarily drank chocolate rather than eating it as a dessert
Chocolate was imported to Europe by conquistadors and Spanish friars during the 1500s, and soon became a favorite drink of the wealthy. The Spaniards sweetened the bitter drink with cane sugar and cinnamon. This beverage became a symbol of luxury and power, and was only available to the Spanish elite.
The Spanish conquistadors brought cacao seeds home and began creating new recipes. The popularity of chocolate spread throughout Europe and beyond. Today, chocolate remains the world’s favorite sweet. Its origins date back to ancient Mesoamericans, who grew cacao trees and prepared the beverage.
Early Europeans primarily drank chocolate rather eating it as a dessert. They believed that Aztecs were savages, so only the elite would eat it. It was also expensive to import, so Europeans developed a special protocol for drinking chocolate. They developed elaborate silver and porcelain cups to serve the drink.
Slavery was abolished in the British Isles in 1834
In 1834 the British government passed the Abolition of Slavery Act. This act made slavery illegal in most parts of the British empire. However, the act did not completely abolish slavery; a number of slaves were still kept as apprentices and even forced to fight for the British army.
As part of this legislation, the Treasury raised PS20 million to compensate former slaveholders. A significant proportion of this money landed on the balance sheets of the slaveholding class, which infuriated many members of the Anti-Slavery Society, the largest advocacy group in Britain. However, the leaders of the society understood that the government would withdraw the legislation if they did not provide compensation.
Although the Act abolished slavery in the British Isles, it was not effective in other parts of the British Empire. Slavery continued in the colonies of the East India Company, including Ceylon and St Helena. The British also continued to engage in slave trade in the Americas, including Brazil and Cuba.
The Anti-slavery Movement in Britain was a moral awakening for the people of Britain. Ultimately, it also exemplified the unique destiny of the British people as the first and largest European empire.
Jean Neuhaus was the first to cover medicines with chocolate
In 1857, pharmacist Jean Neuhaus opened an apothecary in Brussels and began covering medicines with chocolate. Later, his son, Jean Neuhaus Jr., inherited his father’s love of chocolate and came up with a more delicious filling for the tablets. Eventually, a ballotin box was introduced, allowing patients to gift chocolates as a gift. Several recipes were eventually created and sold.
In the 1850s, a Swiss immigrant named Jean Neuhaus opened an apothecary shop in Brussels. He began covering medicines with chocolate, which made them easier to handle. He also began to add liquorices and dark chocolate tablets to the display counter, and he and his son Frederic began to spend more time developing new delicacies. These new products gradually displaced regular pharmaceutical products from his shop.
The company grew quickly. In 1858, Jean Neuhaus opened a store in the Galerie de la Reine. He began to encase his medicines in chocolate and put plaques of dark chocolate in the window. After the company expanded into the U.S., he added two locations in Washington, D.C.