Chocolate: A Development of Flavor

Chocolate, from plant to final product, has undergone many different styles and forms of production as years have gone by, but ultimately, the cacao bean is usually seen as a second to the final form of a processed chocolate bar in modern society, but this was not always the case. When chocolate was first discovered, it was first enjoyed as a fruit, primarily one would enjoy the sticky pulp inside the cacao pod, and would then perhaps enjoy the cacao nibs inside the beans, but historically, cacao was enjoyed just as any other fruit. As the taste for cacao developed, very quickly was the focus shifted onto the beans. Eventually, the first method of processing chocolate was to extract the beans, ferment them, dry them, and then grind them up, allowing the natural fats to be released to turn the paste into an oily paste-like substance, this could be considered the first ever from of what is now known as chocolate. The most common and popular method by which to enjoy cacao was by drinking it. The chocolate paste made by grinding would be added to water, heated, and other spices such as vanilla or cinnamon could have been added, as well as corn and other additives, but essentially, a heated water and chocolate beverage would be poured from vessel to vessel to create a hot frothy drink, this could also be considered another true form of what is now called chocolate.

A mayan chocolate cup, depicting a mayan lord seated on a cushion, with the inscription, “his cup”, with the hieroglyph for chocolate depicted as well.

Cacao made its move to Europe by way of Spain, in around the year 1550, alongside the discovery of the new world by Christopher Columbus. Initially, the preparation of Chocolate stayed relatively similar, the process of grinding and of enjoying it as a beverage was quite consistent. But of course, the Europeans used ingredients available to them to enhance their chocolate drinking experience. According to a recipe by Antonio Colmendero De Ledesma in 1644, such additional ingredients included anise, “ear flower”, powdered roses of Alexandria, almonds, hazelnuts, and sugar. (Coe, 133) This recipe shows a significant step in the history of the development of chocolate as a popular food, the addition of sugar. This shift from chocolate being a beverage, either hearty or robust, to a sweet beverage plays a crucial role in chocolate’s history. Moving forward, once chocolate had permeated into Italy, another chocolate recipe from the 1700’s highlights the shift in the flavor profile of chocolate. The recipe calls for 10lbs of Cacao beans, and 8lbs of sugar, among other ingredients. Even in times when sugar was a luxury, nobility felt compelled to sweeten their chocolate.

This picture, the cover page for a treaty written in 1636 Leon Pinelo, discusses whether or not chocolate is accordance with the ecclesiastical fast. Perhaps the ever developing decadence surrounding this commodity inspired humanity to discuss it in relation to religion and sin.

As chocolate made its way into France, the taste for chocolate had already been developed, with recipes from this region and time, around the beginning of the 17th century, call for chocolate and sugar in an almost 2 to 1 ratio, further solidifying chocolate coinciding with sugar. Having eventually moved into England, Chocolate had become a popular item all over Europe, but by the time Chocolate had permeated through Europe, it was enjoyed almost exclusively with sugar. From the invention of lavish silver French chocolate pots, to the creation of the first English chocolate houses, chocolate became known as a drink of great status, and of decadence.

Eventually, just as with other commodities throughout history, slavery were used in chocolate cultivation. This also marks an important but also unsavory chapter in chocolate’s history. In areas where chocolate is able to be grown, such as present day central America and Venezuela, many slaves were forced to work on chocolate plantations to meet the growing demand of chocolate in the industrialized world. This use of slave labor in these regions for the use of chocolate production proliferated until around the beginning of the 20th century.

Eventually, in the beginnings of the 20th century, companies like Cadbury and Hershey chocolate had formed, offering products like classic chocolate solids, in the form of chocolate confectionary bars, and cocoa powder, for the common people. Its safe to say that around this time, chocolate became known exclusively as an industrialized food. From the beginning of Hershey and Cadbury to present day, the majority of people if not everyone have eaten a chocolate bar, but slim to no people have enjoyed the entirety of a cacao pod, or have even seen one. The process of roasting, grinding, milling, and every other step along the way to become a milk chocolate bar, had been automated. Chocolate products could now be produced on large scales, and were now common enough for the majority of people to enjoy. Even in present day, when one thinks of chocolate, they think of a chocolate bar, perhaps they think of a chocolate cake, or even of cocoa powder, but rarely does one think of the original Theobroma Cacao tree. Even now, the first ingredient listed in Hershey’s chocolate is sugar. Chocolate now is seen only as a confection, even with the existence of dark chocolate or with cacao powder, the larger idea of chocolate is that of a candy.

A vintage Hershey’s chocolate advertisement. In addition to the peculiar claim, “more sustaining than meat”, the word “sweet” is used as the primary descriptor for the chocolate.

Chocolate started off as any other plant on Earth, it grew, was discovered to edible, and was subsequently eaten and enjoyed. But as time went on, and as the taste of chocolate developed, it became known as a confection. Primarily due to European influence, chocolate became known as a delicious flavor that was thought to bring energy and pleasure to those who enjoyed it, and as time went on, the taste of chocolate became more and more adulterated.

Works Cited:

Coe, Sophie D., Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate, 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.


Mayan Chocolate Cup, The MET in New York City.

*Other Photos from Media Library in WordPress


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