From the Aztecs to today's candy makers: a chocolatey journey - Daily Knife and Fork

From the Aztecs to today’s candy makers: a chocolatey journey

Despite its widespread popularity, few people are familiar with the interesting origins of chocolate. From its usage as money in ancient Mesoamerica to its present prominence as a multibillion-dollar business, its history spans millennia and many civilizations. We’ll learn about the origins of chocolate, its evolution through the ages, and its present form in contemporary candies.

Where Chocolate Came From

Cacao beans were first utilized by the Aztecs and Maya to create a bitter, foamy drink, which is considered by many to be the ancestor of modern chocolate. Cacao beans are regarded a delicacy and a precious commodity by those in the know, so it’s no surprise that they’re coveted by the elite.

The Aztecs ingested chocolate in rituals because they thought it had magical and heavenly characteristics. They also thought it had healing powers and used it to cure things like fever, coughing, and tummy aches.

Spanish Conquest

The Aztecs were drinking a beverage made from cacao when the Spanish conquistadors headed by Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico in 1521. The drink’s harsh flavor first turned off the Spanish, but they quickly saw its potential as a high-end item.

The Spaniards introduced cacao cultivation to their colonies, and it was quickly recognized that the bean’s bitter taste could be mitigated by mixing with sugar, vanilla, and other flavorings. The new chocolate became a symbol of social distinction among Europe’s upper classes almost overnight.

The Chocolate Industry Grows Up

Technological advances in the 19th century enabled widespread chocolate manufacture, opening the treat to more people. The separation of cocoa butter and cocoa solids, made feasible by the development of the cocoa press, enabled the production of solid chocolate bars. Brands like Hershey’s and Cadbury are just two of the many that have become synonymous with the term “iconic” in recent years.

The Chocolate of Today

The chocolate business is now worth billions of dollars, and it is always developing new products. There is a rising interest in high-quality, artisanal chocolate, even if many people continue to appreciate more conventional chocolate bars and confectionary goods. Artisan chocolate manufacturers today are pushing the boundaries of the chocolate industry by combining unusual ingredients and utilizing cocoa beans of single origin that have been procured in an ethical manner.

The variety of uses for chocolate has also expanded. It’s become standard fare in savory meals like mole sauce and goes well with unexpected complements like chili peppers and sea salt.

There are many additional sites for individuals who want to learn more about the history of chocolate, in addition to the ones mentioned above. There is a wealth of information accessible online, including many articles, movies, and podcasts.

Slavery and exploitation’s complicated relationship with chocolate makes for fascinating historical study. Many cocoa growers and employees in developing nations face unsafe working conditions, low salaries, or even forced labor as a result of the cocoa trade’s long history of labor abuse. Many customers are increasingly alert to these problems and want chocolate producers to start using only ethically produced ingredients.

Health and wellbeing are becoming more important in contemporary chocolate. Although chocolate has long been seen as a guilty pleasure, many are increasingly searching new ways to enjoy it as part of a balanced diet and active lifestyle. Particularly dark chocolate with its high quantities of antioxidants and flavonoids is beneficial to health.

Chocolate has a rich and varied history that spans many countries and many centuries. Chocolate has played a significant part in human history, from its origins as a bitter, frothy drink loved by the Aztecs and Mayans, to its present position as a multibillion-dollar enterprise. Artisanal chocolate manufacturers are pushing the frontiers of taste and inventiveness, while customers are demanding ethically sourced and healthier alternatives, all of which have contributed to an explosion in chocolate’s popularity and variety.

It will be exciting to watch where the development of chocolate takes us in the years to come. Everyone has a soft spot for chocolate, whether your taste runs to the classic candy bar or to more experimental flavor combinations. So the next time you consume some chocolate, think about all the people and events that contributed to its development.