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Chocolate at Whole Foods: Emergence of Bean to Bar Chocolate in America

With the distinction of being one of the largest grocery store chains in the United States, and a store that has begun expansion into other countries around the world, one would expect such a company to carry goods from the largest food manufacturers as well. However, at Whole Foods Market, chocolate or candy from the “Big 5” chocolate companies was entirely missing, and the candy shelves were instead stocked with the products of smaller companies. These smaller companies are part of a new “bean to bar” trend in the United States, where chocolate bars are often organic and produced in much smaller amounts. These companies often take part in Fair Trade Programs, which help many people in the chocolate supply chain but is also intended to appeal to the emotions of consumers. Apart from the three candy displays many other foods, drinks, and supplements were chocolate flavored, representative of a much larger phenomenon in America which sees the vast majority of the population enamored with the taste of chocolate. At the Star Market in Back Bay less than a five minute bike ride away, candy from Hershey’s, Mars, Nestle, Cadbury, and Ferrero can all be found in abundance and at a far lower price than candy at Whole Foods.  At the Symphony Hall Whole Foods Market in Boston, the chocolate shelves were filled with small to mid-size chocolate makers, and lacks entirely representation of the “Big 5” chocolate companies. This represents a greater trend in America which has seen smaller “bean to bar” chocolate companies become more popular with trendy consumers. Part of this movement involves the participation in many fair trade, organic, non-GMO and other programs by chocolate companies in part in an attempt to appeal to the emotions of the consumer. However, with people willing to pay the higher prices these products command, with many other non-candy items being flavored by chocolate, and with an abundance of large manufacturer chocolate found at Star Market it is clear that Americans still very much love chocolate.

Not being someone who regularly shops at Whole Foods, upon entering the store to inspect its chocolate selection I was fully expecting to see Hershey’s Bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Milky Way Bars but instead, there was not a single one of the “Big 5” chocolate companies’ products in the store. For decades Hershey’s, Nestle, Ferrero, Cadbury, and Mars have dominated the American chocolate market creating cheap but subpar confections which were mass produced. This resulted in chocolate selection being very homogenous, with large batches of chocolate produced from large amounts multiple-origin cacao being normal operating practice for the majority of chocolate companies. Although these companies still dominate the U.S. chocolate market, their absence from one of America’s largest supermarkets indicates a change taking place, away from these large manufacturers. Filling this gap left in the market is an increasing number of “bean to bar” chocolate companies. “Bean to bar” companies are a relatively new phenomenon, in which owners of the company have far more control over all production process than at most chocolate companies. Contrary to the “Big 5”, these owners often personally inspect all ingredients and machines involved in the chocolate making process which ensures a finer quality product.  Many of these companies also visit cacao farms, or otherwise attempt to ensure farmers and other workers are treated fairly and compensated fairly, as they may be exploited in the mostly third-world countries where cacao is grown. In the case study “Chocolate and Slavery: Child Labor in Cote D’Ivoire” by Samlanchith Chanthavong the child labor issue in the leading producer of cacao, The Ivory Coast, is examined and indicates that there is a very severe crisis in the labor behind the chocolate market (Chonthavong 2002). The fair trade programs chocolate companies participate in are crucial to helping stop this exploitation.

Taza Chocolate is a local example of a bean to bar chocolate company, and an example for others to follow.
Taza Chocolate is a local example of a bean to bar chocolate company, and an example for others to follow.

Over the past decade, Americans have come to understand that our country has an issue with obesity, and as a result many consumers choose to buy healthier foods with less sugar, and often with organic or more natural ingredients. These consumers still seek to eat great tasting foods but like to know that they were made with natural ingredients and if possible the origin of those ingredients. This trend is seen on the candy shelves of Whole Foods with companies such as Taza, Theo, and Pure7 who all produce chocolate with very few, all-natural ingredients and with a far higher cacao content than mainstream chocolate bars. In “The True History of Chocolate,” by Sophie and Michael Coe, the story of one such company called Rain Republic is analyzed and shows the ideas behind these companies, the many challenges they face, and the positive impact they have. The company’s founder Josh Sermos began as a cacao and coffee buyer in Guatemala, and began learning everything he could about chocolate. After purchasing the expensive and hard to find equipment necessary to make chocolate, like most small companies Sermos had trouble making the right bar as many in the chocolate industry are very secretive. However, after several years he learned how to produce high quality bars, and by working directly with farmers and other workers, he was able to deliver a delicious product and a safe supply chain(Coe & Coe 1996). This story is very similar to local Boston Company Taza chocolate, whose owner became fascinated witch chocolate after moving to Mexico, and who works very hard with farmers to ensure they are fairly compensated.

Simultaneously, a growing number of consumers are also becoming concerned with the supply chain of the products they purchase to make sure all workers in this chain are treated and compensated fairly. Stemming from a seemingly endless myriad of horror stories related to the exploitation of third world workers and child slavery (something commonly associated with the chocolate industry for centuries), the not so distant history of widespread slavery, and a lack of worker’s rights around the developing world all help to create and increase the empathy some American consumers have for such people. Partly due to these reasons organizations such as Fair Trade USA were formed, who guarantee fair compensation for all workers they do business with. Once a Fair Trade

Display of Whole Foods chocolate with
Display of Whole Foods chocolate with “Whole Trade” pamphlet which states “Improving lives with every purchase”.

Certified Company, businesses are allowed to display the Fair Trade Seal on their products, which will appeal to this concerned customer base. In response to this trend and several issues some have with the fair trade organization, many companies such as Taza Chocolate form their own fair trade organizations, or join already existing organizations which catalyzes the Fair Trade movement. This, combined with the knowledge of where products are grown and the terroir of the product give the consumer a connection to that location, as well as the worker because the consumer also knows the worker is fairly treated and compensated.

During the past several years, some companies have realized this connection is what consumers desire and have marketed their chocolate accordingly. This is achieved through the separation of cacao by the location of origin, and only using one specific crop of cacao creating an “Ivorian” or “Venezuelan” bar, or wherever that specific cacao is from. This is conveyed to the consumer using the bar’s wrapper, indicating the source of that particular chocolate’s cacao. This is often combined with artwork representative of that location. In Bill Nesto’s “Discovering Terroir in the World of Chocolate,” he discusses the realities of

Front and back of Mast Brothers chocolate made from single origin Madagascar cacao beans, with design of wrapper reflecting and advertising this origin, and description on the back helps build terroir.
Front and back of Mast Brothers chocolate made from single origin Madagascar cacao beans, with design of wrapper reflecting and advertising this origin, and a description on the back helps build terroir.

chocolate terroir as he sees them: although the great distance between cacao farms and chocolate factories as well as the processes which yield chocolate from cacao threaten the chocolate’s terroir, he concludes that “The more control man has over the entire chain of production from plant to product, the better man can pre-serve terroir.” He also concludes that the term terroir can indeed be applied to chocolate companies who have complete control over all materials and processes (and for him companies where production facilities are very close to farms) (Nesto 2010). This trend is seen in other parts of the food industry such as the coffee industry, where single origin coffee is growing steadily in popularity, much in the same way as chocolate. Some chocolate bars in addition to some type of fair trade certification will also have a short testimonial, biography and/or picture of a worker in their supply chain, creating an even deeper connection. The connection is finalized by the terroir of the chocolate bar. Terroir is the combination of factors including soil, sunlight, and climate that give foods their own distinct flavors. Using single origin cacao and making chocolate in small batches allows the consumer to taste and experience the subtle flavors or a specific region in a way that a chocolate bar made with mixed-origin cacao, such as a Hershey’s bar, does not allow.

While this new small batch chocolate trend has interested customers in chocolate in a new way by using terroir, America’s love of chocolate is long entrenched and can be observed all throughout the Whole Foods Market. First, although there are only three displays of chocolate bars, the quality of those bars is very high and the displays are placed strategically around the store to catch the eye of someone who perhaps did not come into the store to buy chocolate. This is a strategy used in supermarkets across the U.S. in response to chocolate being something Americans will purchase on an impulse for themselves, rather than only as a gift for others (as is largely the custom in Asian markets). As a result, chocolate and chocolate confections can also be found at each cash register in Whole Foods. Besides chocolate bars, many other products are chocolate flavored and chocolate can be found in these products all throughout the store.

Checkout line at whole foods containing organic chocolate and chocolate confections from
Checkout line at whole foods containing organic chocolate and chocolate confections from “Justin’s” and “Lake Champlain Chocolates”.

Even in the health supplement aisle, products flavored with chocolate can be found in abundance. In that aisle many energy bars, nutrition bars, nutrition shakes, and other products are chocolate flavored, or contain chocolate chips. Chocolate also sees heavy representation in the desert selection at Whole Foods. In the baking aisle chocolate chips, powder, syrup, baking chocolate and other products as well as mixes for brownies, cakes etc. allow customers to enjoy chocolate in desert that they can make at home. At the market’s bakery, customers can purchase a variety of pre-made chocolate desserts and confections from chocolate cakes to chocolate truffles. Even items such as chocolate milk, chocolate chip waffles, chocolate muffins, chocolate cereal, chocolate pastries and many other breakfast foods allow one to enjoy chocolate from the first thing they eat in the morning to the last thing they eat at night. With more chocolate flavored products or products containing chocolate than I can note after multiple visits to the store it is very clear that American consumers love chocolate and that the medium of enjoyment is much more diverse than only a chocolate bar.

In contrast to the chocolate selection at Whole Foods, the selection at Star Market in Boston’s Back Bay reaffirms the domination of the American chocolate market by the “Big 5” chocolate companies. Found on the shelves are representatives from all five companies, and at a price that is far lower than most chocolate at Whole Foods. At whole foods, I purchased two chocolate bars for a combined 5.7 ounces and a combined $9.49, while at Star Market if I wanted to I could have purchased four Hershey’s Almond Chocolate bars for a combined 27.2 ounces and a combined $8.80-a very stark contrast (Whole Foods also carries Mast Brothers chocolate which is $9.99 for 2.5 oz).

Large amounts of Hershey's bars at Star Market, a pack of six bars costs half the price of one Mast Brothers bar.
Large amounts of Hershey’s bars at Star Market, a pack of six bars costs half the price of one Mast Brothers bar.

There is also a much larger amount of chocolate overall in Star Market, showing perhaps that outside of the organic food world chocolate is bought in greater quantities, possibly because the supply is much higher (because most chocolate is not organic).  Despite this large-manufacturer domination, Star Market also has a natural foods section with a limited selection of small bean to bar options available to customers, most of which can also be found at whole foods (Divine, Theo, Chocolove, Lake Champlain Chocolates etc). In Julie Guthman’s article “Fast food/organic food: reflexive tastes and the making of ‘yuppie chow’” she analyzes the early “ethical eating” countertrend that led to organic food and its opposition to fast food and manufactured food (Guthman 2002). These movements have expanded greatly and now, most supermarkets have at least one aisle of only organic products, and have many other products throughout the store which bear the USDA Organic seal. The biggest similarities between the two stores are the overwhelming presence of chocolate across multiple product types, and the placement of chocolate near registers which shows America’s deep infatuation with chocolate. The selection at Star Market also helps to put the selection at Whole Foods in Context: although the bean to bar trend is gaining a foothold in the U.S. marketplace, the shelves at mainstream stores and the American chocolate market are still dominated by large manufacturers.

At Symphony Hall Whole Foods Market in Boston, the lack of large manufacturer and inclusion of bean to bar chocolate companies are part of an organic trend taking place in the United States. Part of this movement involves the participation by companies in fair trade organizations, and with an increased focus on single origin crops in an attempt to experience the terroir of specific regions. However, the chocolate selection at Star Market in Boston’s Back Bay reaffirms the domination of the American Chocolate Market by the “Big 5” chocolate companies. Across both stores, the incredibly large amount of other non-candy products that are chocolate flavored or contain chocolate show that America is still very much in love with chocolate, and that chocolate permeates almost all aspects of the American food industry.

Works Cited:

Chanthavong, Samlanchith. “Chocolate and Slavery: Child Labor in Cote D’Ivoire.” TED Case Studies 664 (2002). Print.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.

Guthman, Julie. “Fast Food/organic Food: Reflexive Tastes and the Making of ‘yuppie Chow”” Social & Cultural Geography 1 (2003): 45 — 58. Print.

Nesto, Bill. “Discovering Terroir in the World of Chocolate.” Gastronomica 10.1 (2010): 131-35. Print.

Multimedia Sources:

Cullen, Matt. “Hershey’s in Bulk”. 2015.

Cullen, Matt. “Mast Brothers”. 2015.

Cullen, Matt. “Taza Chocolate”. 2015.

Cullen, Matt. “Whole Foods Checkout”. 2015.

Cullen, Matt. “Whole Trade”. 2015.


Women and Chocolate: Exploitation Through Advertising

Advertising is a very large industry with a wide scope, with many different techniques used to appeal to an audience. One subject that pervades almost every industry is the objectification of woman, with the chocolate industry certainly being no exception, as it is instead a rather strong example.  Godiva Chocolatier’s “Every Woman is One Part (Go)Diva” campaign is just one example in a long line of chocolate advertisements that feature woman as the subject, usually in an exploitative way. This specific campaign from 2004 aimed at beginning a rebrand of the company by attempting to attract more women to buy chocolate for themselves. However, the ad exploits the woman’s body and shows women in a prejudiced way. Contrary to this campaign, my ad seeks to rebrand Godiva, targeting a real woman seeking a break from her day, and to show a representation of a real woman rather than the stereotypical “Diva”.

chocolate ad

The “Every Woman is One Part Diva” campaign began in the United States in 2004, and targeted Godiva’s female consumers. According to the Wall Street Journal, company executives said this campaign was the first step in an attempt to reinvent the Godiva Brand from a gifting purchase to one of personal indulgence (Cho, 2004). The advertisements use sex appeal, objectifying the models’ bodies, and attempting to appeal to the consumer by saying that they too, are a diva. The women in the ads all have lustful looks and appear to be disheveled with messy hair and loose, thin clothing which appears to be falling off. While most women in the ads are holding chocolate, the model above is wearing the chocolate strategically placed on her chest while she lies on her back, drawing the viewer’s eye to her cleavage.  Using sex appeal to reach out to the “Diva” in each woman, the ad seeks to create a lifestyle that these divas live which then becomes associated with Godiva. In rebranding this way, Godiva is seeking to become a more sexy chocolate option that women can indulge themselves with, almost like a lover.

chocolate ad two

This second ad from the same campaign again shows women in a prejudiced way which follows a larger trend in advertising. In her book Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History, Emma Robertson discusses this trend in depth, and from the first chocolate advertisements she proves that women were shown in a prejudiced way (Robertson, 2009). This ad shows a similar woman, who is enjoying Godiva chocolate. Furthering the sex stereotypes found in the other ad, here the chocolate is suggestively placed in the mouth as it is in many other advertisements. In these ads and in the Godiva ads as well, chocolate is almost akin to being a lover for women, and places the power in the hands of the woman in the ad.

chocolate picture, original ad

The advertisement above, which I created, is a response to this ad campaign and to this trend in advertising. Rather than objectify the woman’s body, it attempts to depict a real life situation, and appeal to real women, rather than the “Diva” being appealed to in Godiva’s campaign. The woman in the ad is meant to be in a busy office, but as soon as she opens her Godiva chocolate, the workers all disappear, and she is transformed to a tranquil place. Being an ad most working women can relate to, it could be adapted outside of the United States as well, as all over the world women are objectified in advertisements. The ad above pushes back at the stereotypes of women shown in chocolate advertising, and instead of exploiting the female body seeks to show a representation of a real woman to connect with consumers. The ad attempts to connect with “common people” rather than the diva image being portrayed by Godiva and in this way will appeal to a much larger audience. As evidenced by Lundstrom and Sciglimpaglia in their essay “Sex Role Portrayals in Advertising,” advertisements have failed to change along with the cultural trend of women becoming more equal in society, and moving away from traditional gender roles (Lundstrom and Sciglimpaglia). My advertisement seeks to steer away from these traditional gender roles and to portray women as they really are. The ad would also feature a slogan related to the idea that chocolate can be a moment of bliss in a busy day, and when featured with an actual women taking a break from her day rather than a diva, it would go farther with the consumer. The ad also seeks to appeal emotionally to the feeling every person has when they feel overwhelmed and need a break, and attempts to make Godiva the means to that break.

chocolate picture four

Godiva’s “Every Woman is One Part (Go)Diva” campaign represents a much larger trend in chocolate advertisement, which exploits women’s bodies and shows women as lustful and unable to control themselves. While continuing the campaign’s idea that Godiva Chocolate brings with it a moment of bliss, my advertisement steers away from the sex appeal technique and seeks to appeal to the real consumers needing a break in their hectic lives. Although this advertising trend does not seem to be stopping anytime soon, hopefully more and more ads will portray women in a respectable way, rather than as sex objects and divas.

Multimedia Sources

Godiva Advertisement #1:

Godiva Advertisement #2:

Godiva Advertisement #3:

Works Cited

Cho, Cynthia H. “Godiva Appeals to the Diva Within.” WSJ. 13 Sept. 2004. Web. 6 Apr. 2015.

Lundstrom, William J., and Donald Sciglimpaglia. “Sex Role Portrayals in Advertising.” Journal of Marketing Vol. 41.No. 3 (1977): 72-79. Print.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.

Quest for Sweetness: How Innovations in Chocolate Reflect a Love for Sugar

Although having been consumed as a beverage for many centuries, in the time following chocolate’s introduction to Europe, the collective idea of what chocolate is would change, along with how chocolate is enjoyed and how it tastes. As a beverage,

Although the splendor of drinking chocolate in White’s Chocolate House would appeal to the nobility, it was unreasonable and uncommon for members of the lower house to do so.
Although the splendor of drinking chocolate in White’s Chocolate House would appeal to the nobility, it was unreasonable and uncommon for members of the lower house to do so.

chocolate was almost entirely consumed by the higher classes, until innovations in chocolate production made it available to other classes which culminated in the first chocolate bars being produced. After this breakthrough, many more techniques would be invented such as conching, and filling chocolate, all changing how chocolate tastes, how it is consumed, and also how it is viewed by the public. In the early twentieth century, a result of these techniques is a huge boom in the variety of chocolate confections, with companies such as Cadbury, Hershey’s, and Mars dominating the market by offering many varieties of “chocolate”.  Starting as a froth beverage, chocolate-making techniques developed products which could be geared more towards common people-as eating a chocolate bar requires less effort than the laborious task of making a chocolate drink, which the rich had been employing specialists (such as the Fry family) to do for them. The evolution of chocolate consumption also reflects the growing usage of sugar in European Society, as chocolate was refined and altered to fit this palate, leading to the creation of sweet concoctions such as the Lindt truffle and Milky Way Bar.

As the task of brewing a chocolate drink required expertise, time, and resources, only the elite could afford to regularly enjoy chocolate throughout the eighteenth century (Green 2013). The invention of the Dutch Press in 1828 by the van Houtens helped to close this gap, as lower quality cacao could be improved through this process, and now producing chocolate could be less expensive. The long transition of chocolate from drink to a food may have been expedited by the van Houtens, but the goal of widespread chocolate sales in edible form was realized by J.S. Fry and Sons in 1847, when the British chocolate company was able to produce the first chocolate bar suitable for widespread distribution (Coe&Coe 2013). These innovations mark the point where chocolate does become somewhat cost effective for the average person,

Even in the modern day chocolate is advertised as a meal replacement, however as this video shows, the marketing techniques may have changed:
Even in the modern day chocolate is advertised as a meal replacement, however as this video shows, the marketing techniques may have changed:

and when consuming chocolate becomes far more convenient than in the past as people could now buy chocolate and consume it the very next moment, instead of having to brew and froth a drink. An added bonus to the now solid chocolate is that it can be seen as a meal replacement, and was often advertised as such by companies at the time and even companies in the modern day.

After Fry’s innovation, chocolate would continue to be altered, changed, and significantly improved thanks to the discoveries of early chocolate makers. The products which these men produced also reflect the British trend highlighted by Sidney Mintz in his book Sweetness and Power: the Place of Sugar in Modern History, where sugar started as a luxury but then came to be seen as a necessity even for the lower classes of Britain, and all Europeans craved for their sweet tooth to be appeased (Mintz 1985). As a result of this boom in sugar demand as well as supply, chocolate confections too became sweeter to match this changing palate and desire for sweetness. By using Henri Nestlé’s powdered milk, Daniel Peter was able to mix the first milk chocolate bar, which decreased the bitterness of the chocolate and became a sweeter way to enjoy chocolate, while also using less cocoa. With Rudolphe Lindt’s process of conching allowing chocolate to be smoother, more consistent, more flavorful, and all around more appealing to the consumer, the work of Fry, Nestle and others could now be fine-tuned into gourmet chocolate bars. A final major advancement in chocolate occurred in 1879, when Jean Tobler discovered how to fill a chocolate bar with other candy fillings. This invention continues and indeed personifies the trend of a greater desire for sugar, as now bars were not limited to

This graph shows the modern leaders in chocolate sales, and as the list is topped by companies known for chocolate confections(rather than pure chocolate bars) showing the importance of Tobler’s invention, and the far reaching implications of it. *Numbers marked with an asterisk include net sales of the company, not just of confections.
This graph shows the modern leaders in chocolate sales, and as the list is topped by companies known for chocolate confections(rather than pure chocolate bars) showing the importance of Tobler’s invention, and the far reaching implications of it. *Numbers marked with an asterisk include net sales of the company, not just of confections.

choclate only but could contain any number of sugary treats such as nougat, caramel, Turkish delight, and countless other delicious fillings. Throughout the twentieth century, Tobler’s discovery and the candy that could be produced as a result would come to dominate the market, and in the public mind would partially represent what chocolate is, something with far more put into it than cacao beans.

Evolving drastically from how chocolate was originally enjoyed by Europeans, chocolate making techniques developed throughout the nineteenth century changing chocolate from a drink to a treat that could be enjoyed in solid form, greatly expanding the amount of people that could consume chocolate. This evolution also reflects the growing usage of sugar and how chocolate was refined and altered to fit this palate, leading to an idea of chocolate as being more than cocoa, but also a combination of many other sugary treats. This idea continues into the modern day, where the majority of chocolate is eaten in the form of confections which contain minor amounts of chocolate surrounding other sweets and substances, which reflects the infatuation mankind has developed with sugar, as has the development of chocolate.

Multimedia Sources:

Works Cited:

  • Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.
  • Green, Matthew. “The Surprising History of London’s Lost Chocolate Houses.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 13 Dec. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.
  • Mintz, Sidney Wilfred. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York, N.Y.: Viking, 1985. Print.

Chocolate and Change: How the Molinillo Represents Cultural Transmission

Traditional process of frothing chocolate by Maya (Princeton Vase, c. 750 ce)
Traditional process of frothing chocolate by Maya (Princeton Vase, c. 750 ce)

Although both the Spaniards and Mesoamerican Natives thoroughly enjoyed and were even addicted to chocolate, artifacts from the period such as the molinillo, help to show both some of the similarities and differences in the two cultures. As the original cultivators and consumers of chocolate, the mesoamericans had a long history of customs and traditions centered around the chocolate beverage, and specifically the foam on top. This foam, which was thought by natives to nourish the soul, was usually achieved by pouring the drink continuously from one vessel to another repeatedly. The Spanish also came to hold chocolate as a delicacy and specifically the foam, however as they preferred their chocolate hot, they invented the molinillo – a wooden instrument which froths a chocolate drink while allowing the beverage to retain its heat. Far more than a small innovation to gain foam, the molinillo is part of, and represents, a mixing of cultures and genes on a grand scale between the Spanish and the natives of Mesoamerica.

Three simple modern molinillos.
Three simple modern molinillos.

Having been revered by natives for over a millennium, when Europeans first arrived in America the natives could not understand how the new world explorers did not covet chocolate as well. In fact, to many early explorers such as Girolamo Benzoni chocolate “seemed more a drink for pigs, than a drink for humanity” (qtd. in Coe&Coe 110). In time, the cacao plant would not only win over conquistadors, but the entire old world and eventually the entire planet. The way in which chocolate drinks were prepared at Benzoni’s day  were not palatable to the Europeans, but once the drink was hybridized to include tastes appealing to a European tongue, chocolate’s popularity quickly grew. Different ingredients were used, as well as different instruments such as the cup and saucer, which highlight differences in the two cultures. With the addition of sugar, chocolate became a sweet drink to be enjoyed by the elite of Europe, and then the entire world (Mintz 6). The molinillo was born out of necessity by the Spaniards, who greatly desired foam on top of their beverage, but preferred to drink it warm. It was held between both hands, placed through the top of a pot and spun repeatedly with the notched end in the drink, frothing the drink and creating a thick layer of foam while maintaining its temperature.

Although only one of many changes made by the Spaniards to mesoamerican chocolate and the process to make the beverage, the molinillo is a good representations of this hybridization as well as the hybridization of South America. This is because it shows a hallmark of European colonization – taking all of what is in their eyes good aspects of the native culture,

Woman using molinillo to froth chocolate beverage.
Woman using molinillo to froth chocolate beverage.

and using them to their own benefit, often in different ways from the original use. The molinillo is just one example of this, as the Spaniards adopted the positive aspects of the mesoamerican chocolate beverage and changed it to their liking. Although changing the frothing procedure, the metate remained in use, as well as many other indigenous customs which further illustrates the adoption of beneficial customs by the Spanish.  At the crossroads of two very different worlds, chocolate serves as a way by which we can learn about those two cultures, and the interactions that took place between them. It can also help us to see the roots of modern South America, and how the similarities and differences between the Spanish and Native peoples led us to the vibrant and hybrid culture we see today where the Maya, Aztec, and other indigenous people once lived.

Multimedia Sources:


Works Cited:

  • Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.
  • Mintz, Sidney Wilfred. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York, N.Y.: Viking, 1985. Print.