The Revolution of Chocolate

When chocolate first made its appearance in Europe it was only consumed by the elite. Chocolate had the connotation of wealth and class tied to it. It was a product that was expensive and hard to obtain. It was not until the industrial revolution when machinery and newer technologies became available that chocolate was made available and affordable to lower social classes. Through the industrial revolution, chocolate emerged as we know it today, an edible sweet snack.

Chocolate was introduced to Europe in 1544 when it was brought back from the New World by Spanish conquistadores. Since then chocolate has become a 20 Billion dollar industry worldwide. Despite is large popularity today, chocolate did not start that way and required many technological advancements to mass produce it and lower its cost. From its early days in Europe, chocolate came in a very different form than it does today. It was a liquid drink that taste rather bitter than sweet. The Spanish added sugar or honey to the drink in order to make it sweeter. After spreading to further European countries, the trend of chocolate only being consumed by the elite continued.

The various shapes of cocoa. The grain, the powder (traditional cocoa) and the paste.

It was up until the 1700’s that chocolate was made in a very similar way to how the Mayans made it. This all changed when the industrial revolution revolutionized the chocolate industry. The first large leap forward was the invention of the steam driven chocolate mill which allowed chocolate makers to grind large amounts of cocoa and for the first time mass produce chocolate quickly and inexpensively. This invention made chocolate available to people all over Europe and not only the elite.

A second invention, which played a big part into the taste of chocolate, was the cocoa press invented by Coenraad Van Houten in 1829. The press allowed chocolate makers to squeeze all the cocoa butter out of the bean only leaving the powder we know as cocoa. The cocoa press allowed chocolate to be smoother, less bitter and overall better tasting. The press is what allowed for the creation of different chocolates down the road like white chocolate and milk chocolate.

cocoa press
An image of Van Houten’s cocoa press from 1828.

Chocolate as we know it today did not appear until 1847 when J. S. Fry & Sons, Ltd created the first edible chocolate bar. In order to get chocolate in solid form, the Fry brothers worked backwards and added back some of the cocoa butter in order to get a paste, which could be sweetened and put into a mold. This was the invention that made chocolate in the shape we know it as today. Although, the chocolate still tasted different than it does today and had a more grainy texture. It was not until 1879 when a process called “conching” was created did the chocolate take a more smooth texture.

Advertisement for Fry’s milk chocolate bar.


Sources: Oxford

Companion to Sugar and Sweets”. p. 157. Oxford University Press, 2015

The first ever chocolate bar suitable for widespread consumption having been created by J. S. Fry & Sons in 1847, in Union Street, Bristol, England. “Sweet sweets nostalgia”. BBC News.

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