Category Archives: Multimedia Essay 1

Hershey, PA: Too sweet to be true?

Since the founding of The Hershey Company 124 years ago, the Hershey brand has influenced and infiltrated places all around the globe. Yet, since 1903, the company’s physical and symbolic base has remained in the exact same location ― the town of Hershey, PA. The creation of an entire town from the ground up reflected the power and success of The Hershey Company and seemingly served as a manifestation of Milton Hershey’s progressive impulses. As this town came to represent how far the company had grown up to that point, it was also a tool to craft a better brand image for the future. The utopian vision of the Hershey town created by Milton Hershey connected the production of chocolate to quintessential American ideals and aspirations of happiness, efficiency, equality, and nature. However, the happy appearance of Hershey, PA disguised less than savory truths about the outsized power and control of Milton Hershey.

The services offered by the town characterized The Hershey Company as a benevolent corporation that promoted personal growth and the pursuit of happiness for employees. Michael D’Antonio notes in his book  Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams that Milton “saw the town and the factory as a single project” (D’Antonio 120). Since town residents were workers in the factory, whatever services were provided to the residents were essentially employee benefits. The town included “men’s and women’s clubs, five churches, the free library, the Volunteer Fire Department, [and] two schools” (Coe and Coe 235) All of these services and institutions were grounded in education, community, and security, all ultimately facilitating personal enrichment. The characterization of Hershey, PA as a place of growth and happiness, is illustrated by this promotional video:

The video includes scenes of a child riding a bicycle, the busy streetfront of a school, the factory, and a water park. Important lines include “Happy, younger generation”, “Keep up the community spirit”, and “Pleasant place in which to live.” Thus, in the outward imagery and promotion of the town, youth, leisure, happy families, and quality of life become defining images while the factory holds an almost secondary role.

Furthermore, when the factory is mentioned, it is often characterized as highly efficient, organized, and clean; essentially, it is portrayed in a similar utopian light as the town and as representing the epitome of American manufacturing. Milton Hershey has been compared to the great Henry Ford as the new Hershey factory in Hershey, PA was “Hygienically spotless…Everything was mechanized, with machines and conveyor belts organized into a true assembly-line operation” (Coe and Coe 237). With the use of advanced technology and sophisticated organization, Milton Hershey and the Hershey factory appeared to embody the success and dominance of American entrepreneurship and manufacturing.

In fact, the efficiency in production (enabled by the new factory in Hershey, PA) further boosted the benevolent image of Milton Hershey, as it sufficiently lowered the cost of chocolate candy and therefore promoted its mass appeal and a sense of equality. While chocolate was for a long time considered a luxury treat, the increase in efficiency stemming from mechanization and assembly-line techniques at factories like Hershey’s turned it into an affordable five-cent confection (D’Antonio 114). Due to this fact, Milton Hershey was widely seen as “a kind of Santa Claus, distributing happiness in a wrapper” (D’Antonio 114). As chocolate was associated with happiness, by enabling lower classes to afford chocolate, The Hershey Company seemed to further promote equality and joy simply through constructing an advanced manufacturing plant.

Despite this focus on industrialism, Milton Hershey was still able to tie his town and company to nature and to the American idealization of an agrarian society. One New York reporter wrote that Hershey, PA was “a civic perfection that would return mankind to ‘Nature’ and promote the social, physical, and moral well-being of its people” (D’Antonio 116). Hershey was located in the Lebanon Valley, relatively far away from large cities. Its parks further contributed to its identity as a ‘natural’ place. The town was so separated from major urban areas that its residents and workers were even described as “Provincial” (D’Antonio 124). Even though the factory was certainly a centralized production center, the company purchased 60,000 gallons of fresh grass-fed cow milk from local farmers every day (Coe and Coe 236). Therefore, there were many aspects of Hershey, PA that connected to the agrarian ideal argued for by Thomas Jefferson, as residents lived in a relatively natural environment working at a company that supported local, individual farmers.

Although all of these features of the town and the factory seemed to embody greater American ideals and benefit workers, they ultimately supported Milton Hershey’s selfishness and greed. In fact, one story in particular that was frequently told by Hershey is indicative his character.

“He met [a man] on the street who didn’t have the fare to ride the trolley, [Milton Hershey] gave the man the nickel, knowing that the fare box was, essentially, his own pocket. Once the man got on board the car, Hershey had his money back. The tale, which Milton told with pride, revealed the genius in the system he had built. It was a businessman’s version of a perpetual motion machine” (D’Antonio 120)

The story of this interaction characterizes Hershey’s true motive behind what outwardly seemed like benevolence and generosity: personal gain. Since Milton Hershey ultimately held a monopoly on services and owned many buildings in the town, residents were essentially forced to play into his system. Even when he appeared to selflessly help a resident, Hershey evidently knew that helping others would ultimately benefit himself in a society where he essentially acted as ruler.



Hershey Family’s High Point Mansion



The Hershey’s house also symbolizes Milton Hershey’s status and relationship with the rest of the town. Quite fittingly, their large mansion was named High Point, located at higher elevation looking down on the rest of the town; it has been described as imposing (D’Antonio 124, Coe and Coe 235). Due to their growing wealth, the Hershey family frequently traveled, going to New York in particular to purchase fine furnishings and decorations for their mansion (D’Antonio 124). The globetrotting Hersheys stand in stark contrast with their employees who as previously mentioned, were described as provincial.

hershey strike
The sit-down strike at the Hershey factory in 1937 eventually became violent


A key moment that illustrates the length Milton Hershey went to deceive people and maintain his positive persona, while actually serving his own agenda, was his handling of a factory strike in 1937 (Blakemore). During the Great Depression, Hershey began cutting bonuses and limiting work hours in order to reduce costs. Combined with layoffs and a growing distaste for Hershey’s paternalistic attitude, workers initiated a sit-down strike on April 2, 1937. On the 5th day, “Thousands of farmers, joined by loyal employees, stormed the factory and assaulted the strikers with fists, shoes, clubs, improvised weapons and even ice picks” (Blakemore). Although the violence against strikers was initially reported to be a spontaneous event orchestrated by individual farmers, in reality, the Hershey Company hired strikebreakers and coerced farmers to participate (Blakemore, New York Times). Thus, under the rouse of a grassroots, independently organized backlash to the strike, Hershey used his manipulative power to quell the dissent against him.

While so much of Hershey, PA from the services, to the new factory, to the connection to nature painted a picture of a near-utopian community, they hid the true power and greed of Milton Hershey who ultimately created a town and society that primarily benefitted his own interests.


Works Cited

Blakemore, Erin. “Hershey’s Once Violently Suppressed a Strike by Chocolate Workers.” July 28, 2017. Accessed March 17, 2018.

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

D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey Milton S. Hersheys Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. Simon & Schuster, 2006.

“SCORE HURT IN RIOT; C. I. O. Strikers, Cut and Bones Broken, March Out in Surrender.” The New York Times. Accessed March 17, 2018.



From cacao to chocolate: Cacao as a Mesoamerican Artifacts

In today’s modern society, when Westerners things of chocolate, images of it’s solid sweetened form is likely the first thing that comes to mind. A more in depth look at the history of cacao shows that nine tenths of the time it was consumed in liquid form not eaten (Coe & Coe, 2013, p. 12). The story of how cacao developed from a sacred drink to the industrialized food that is is today is a rich history that dates back thousands of years to the Amazon basin. As more knowledge about cacao and its history is uncovered, it is important to note the significance that historical linguistics, written documents, and archaeological artifacts play in revealing the ancient uses and significance of cacao. Even the word cacao itself has a disputable lineage. Today, words such as chocolate, cocoa, and cacao float around and are often used interchangeably when in fact they are quite different products. It is useful then to example the word cacao, referring to the unprocessed material that is used to create both chocolate and cocoa.  

First, the historical linguistics of the word cacao should be considered part of and a type of Mesoamerican artifact, for the word itself has helped elucidate the development of modern chocolate as it is now known. The scientific name of chocolate before processing is known as Theobroma cacao, which comes from Greek and means “food of the gods”, aptly names in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus (Coe & Coe, 2013, p. 18). Even from the naming of cacao, it is evident that history of chocolate was written and known mostly from a western-centric point of view and that influence must be considered.

The word cacao was taken by Spanish invaders and their first real knowledge of cacao came from the Maya people of the Yucatan Peninsula and close by parts of Central America. They used the word chokola’j, or ‘to drink together’. Going back even further, the Olmec civilization from the lowlands of the Mexican Gulf Coast, known for their Colossal Head mounds, left no writings behind but research shows that the word cacao originated from kakawa of the Mixe-Zoquen language dating back to 1000 BC  (Presilla, 2009, p. 10-12). Further, there are many word diffusions that came from Uto-Aztecan languages. For instance, classic Nahuatl used the kakaw-atl or cacautl. In addition, there are other known words with similarities to Mesoamerican languages that use versions of the word cacao as Professor Carla Martin of Harvard University and the Founder and Executive Director of the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (FCCI) discussed in her Harvard Extension School Course on the topic. As she explained, there are many variations of the usages and origins of cacao which include: The proto-Mixean used kakaw, the Nahua used kakawa-tl, the Mazahua used kakawa,the proto-Mayan, Totonac, Salvador Lenka people had the word kakaw, the Paya/pech people used kaku, the Purhépecha used khe´kua, and Hondura used kaw (Martin, 2018b, slide 19).

As the above illustrates cacao did not have its start in Europe, a common misconception from the vantage point of the western elite who have colored the history of cacao in their image. Examples of our current understanding on the Aztec and Maya people in relation to cacao is explored in the general over stereotyping of these cultures through generic and inaccurate hieroglyphs and word use. The Larabar and Rawcholatl examples (Martin, 2018, slide 22,24) below were especially telling for this propagated understanding of what the Aztec and Maya people actually represented and how they lived. Many do not understand the falsity of these representations when it comes to actual history.


In reality, the Mesoamerican region where cacao’s influence can be seen in societal, political, and religious aspects among Preclassic Maya which lasted lasted from 2000 BC-AD 200  to late classic times of AD 200-700. The increasing number of archaeological artifacts discovered and analysed reveal and even deeper history with cacao. For instance, research done at the Hershey Food Technical Center by Jeffrey Hurst detected three types of alkaloids important to cacao in samples that were taken from archaeological ceramics that date back almost 40 centuries, predating even the Olmecs (Coe & Coe, 2013, p. 36). There were many words for cacao throughout the region, which not only further demonstrating its importance as an linguistic artifact but also its widespread use and importance to those civilizations through centuries of history well before europeans decided on the anglicized word chocolate used today.

This linguistic artifact use and misuse can then be viewed in the few remaining written documents of the time. Documents such as the Dresden Codex, Madrid Codex, and Paris Codex are good examples of this. These documents are extremely rare pre-Columbian Maya books written in hieroglyphics that often depict cacao being consumed by gods in ritual activities. They build on and solidify the linguistic Mesoamerican artifact history of cacao.

When Yuri Knorosov deciphered the phonetic part of the Dresden Codex, he made it possible to read its text and from that we learn that ritual activities show Gods with cacao pods and beans. It is written that, “On a Dresden page dealing with the New year ceremonies so important to Post-Classic Yucatan, the Opossum God travels a sacred road to the edge of the town carrying the Rain God on his back, while the associated text tells us that “cacao is his food [kakaw u hanal]”” (Coe & Coe, 2013, p. 42). This is pictured below.


The cacao-containing vessels, or “chocolate pots”, became recognized as powerful social objects unto themselves for the Maya and Aztecs as well.David Stuart, the epigrapher was the one to deciphered the hieroglyphic for cacao. This was an important step in the Primary Standard Sequence (PSS) in gaining better understanding of glyphs of classic ceramics, one such pictured below (Coe & Coe, 2013, p. 44) kakaw

Once the cacao symbol was determined, when other types of vessels were found and  had the cacao hieroglyphic on them, it provided further linguistic proof that these vessels once contain cacao.
To conclude, the word cacao has a fundamental significance that can be traced back through linguistics, written documents, and archaeological artifacts directly linked to a powerful and long standing Mesoamerican history.

Works Cited:

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. (1996).  The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson.

Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 1 Jan. 2018. Class Lecture.
Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate Revised. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, CA, 2009. Print

All images used from: Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 1 Jan. 2018. Class Lecture.

Tied to Sugar Production: The Haitian Revolution

The Haitian Revolution that took place in the late 1700s often serves as a source of pride for many Haitians today. Through that revolution, Haiti was able to become the “first independent Black republic in the world” (Girard 61). Haiti was a big exporter of sugar and thus deeply entrenched within the clutches of the powerful French empire. The fact that the Haitian slaves were able to rally together, and defeat Napoleon and his French army have oftentimes been viewed as a miraculous feat. While this revolution was a great victory in terms of winning the pride and freedom of the slaves, it ultimately crippled the country due to its deep-rooted identity as a sugar-producing slave colony.

The history leading up to the Haitian Revolution shows how Haiti’s identity was structured around it being a slave colony—a colony fully devoted to using slaves for the benefit of a mother country. Haiti was originally known as Saint-Domingue, the French colony on the island of Hispaniola (Girard 18).

782px-map_of_hispaniolaA map of Hispaniola. The western third would go on to be known as the French colony of Saint – Domingue.

The slaves on Haiti were packed into large plantations for the main purposes of growing and exporting goods such as sugar. In fact, Haiti was Europe’s “largest supplier” of sugar (Ross 240). The sugar market’s reliance on Haiti as a producer was so evident that after the Haitian Revolution sugar prices spiked (Ross 240). Haiti was seen as a prized colony because of how much it was needed to supply sugar on a global scale. What further contributed to Haiti’s identity was the fact that a large part of the population within Saint-Domingue were slaves evidenced by the fact that by 1790 the “slave population topped 500,000” (Girard 24). Therefore, Haiti was not only externally identified by the slave-produced sugar, but it was also internally identified by its number of slaves. This identity combined with the seeds of dissent among the slaves by their inhumane treatment ultimately led to a revolt that sought to strip the country of its identity that was over one century in the making.

Leading up to the revolution, slaves and freedmen of color alike had many reasons to be angry with the white colonists. People of color were often “victims of scorn and fear, and often of violent attacks” (Geggus 13). What’s more is that there were external pressures from France.


A copy of the “Black Code”

The picture depicts the “code noir” which translates to “black code.” This was a code for dealing with “Negres dans les Colonies Françoifes” which means “Blacks in the French colonies.” The code was actually an “enlightened piece of legislation for its time” as it sought to pave ways to give respect to the slaves (Girard 25). Unfortunately, the colonists of Haiti did not care about this code and “simply ignored it” (Girard 25). Ultimately, much like in the Americas, blacks were treated as subhuman in Haiti, regardless of whether or not they were slaves. This, combined with Haiti’s large slave population stirred a pot that was ready to explode. By 1791, the revolution was underway and in 1804, impendence within Haiti was announced to the world (Geggus 179).

With the revolution won, Haitian leadership took the next steps to rid themselves of their identity as a slave colony, opting to do so in the most brutal ways possible. Under the rule of Jean Jacques Dessalines, Haitians committed what was close to a genocide as they purged the country of whites in hopes of separating themselves from a history and identity as slaves (Girard 60).


As can be seen in the image, not even women and children were spared. This massacre was obviously not looked upon well by the other countries. The narrative that was painted was that Haiti’s first diplomatic act as an independent black country was to murder all foreigners (Girard 62). This would undoubtedly be the first blow to Haiti’s “economic development” (Girard 62). Haiti would continue to grapple with how it could decouple itself from its history. Many plantations were burned down during the revolution and in its aftermath (Girard 65). Ultimately, many leaders rose up within Haiti which resulted in a fractured and divided country. In fact, after a particular series of civil wars, Haiti was divided between the north and the south where the north was sympathetic to the plantation system while the south did away with it, opting for sustenance farming instead (Girard 66). Sugar plantations continued to take massive hits until sugar exports completely ceased after Haiti was reunited (Girard 67). Haitians chose happiness while being poor over continuing to be big sugar producers (Girard 67). Of course, there are arguments that if Haiti would have stuck to sugar production they would have still gone down a bad path (Girard 68). However, the point in all this is that Haiti was focused on ridding themselves of a dark past and this ultimately proved to be problematic to their economic stability as it hindered them from looking forward to the future.

Today, Haiti is still a proud and loved country, but it has its issues. A lot of poor people in Haiti continue to eat a traditional type of sugar, showing that Haiti hasn’t caught up with increased standards of sugar production (Ross xx). When we look back to the Haitian Revolution we see a great victory for the Haitian people and a momentous occasion in our world’s history. However, in retrospect, we realize that Haiti’s deep ties to an identity of forced labor and sugar production resulted in a brutal reaction that sought to rip all ties to that identity. Instead of looking to see how they could put their country in a position to dominate the future, Haitian leaders felt it necessary to look back at their history, and we can hardly blame them for doing so.


Works Cited

Code Noir. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web.

Geggus, David Patrick. The Haitian Revolution: a Documentary History. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2014.

Girard, Philippe R. Haiti: the Tumultuous History–from Pearl of the Caribbean to Broken Nation. Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

Haitian Revolution – Blacks murdering white civilians. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web.

Map of Hispaniola. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web.

Ross, Clark G., and Sidney W. Mintz. “Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History.” Ethnohistory, vol. 34, no. 1, 1987, p. 103., doi:10.2307/482268.


The Great Wall of Chocolate: Barriers Against Chocolate in China

As the gates of the Chinese market began to open in 1978 through Deng Xiaoping’s Four Modernization Policy, western industries began scrambling to access the 1 billion prospective customers within China’s borders. The chocolate industry in particular made a noticeable effort in trying to alter the Chinese diet so that it could include the massive quantities of the sweet treat that western societies have grown so fond of. However, despite their efforts throughout these years, the average person in modern day China only consumes about “1.8 ounces of chocolate annually”. In comparison, Switzerland consumes “22 pounds per person” and the U.S. consumes “11.7 pounds per person” annually (Allen, 28). But what factors in China have contributed to this stark difference? This blog will address how cultural barriers and distrust in dairy products have deterred the spread of chocolate within China’s rapidly growing populace.

The disparate cultural layout of China’s provinces has proven to be difficult for chocolate companies to maneuver. For starters, although the Chinese ethnic diversity is mainly homogenous with “92 percent” of the population being Han Chinese, the culinary traditions are not. For example, the north prefers “salty” foods, while the south favors “sweet and fresh”; “spicy” is the ideal flavor in the east, as opposed to the west, which adheres to “sour” flavors (Allen, 23). This amalgamation of preferences has made it difficult for chocolate companies to create products that would satisfy the majority of the population and make lasting impressions on anyone that is willing to go out of their comfort zone to purchase the exotic confectionaries.

Furthermore, older generations of Chinese were accustomed to a “limited range of foods” due to the tough economic times of the 40’s and 50’s. This caused monotony in the citizens’ diets, as their palates became accustomed to eating the same salty foods well beyond the moment China’s borders opened to foreign lands. As a result, the introduction of chocolate into the Chinese diet in the ‘80’s was not well received because “the sweetness of chocolate [was] too foreign and too extreme” (Allen, 27). This deterred people from consuming it in their daily lives due to how abnormal it was when compared to the average Chinese foods at the time; thus, it was considered a luxury to eat chocolate, which could be equated to how westerners view fine wine. This also proved that traditional marketing methods that worked on average westerners would not function with the Chinese populace. To account for this, the exotic and sweet treat was introduced as something one would give as a gift during a special occasion rather than for self-consumption. The following Chinese Dove Commercial is a perfect example of this practice. During the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, chocolate as a gift accounted for “over half” of the sales in China, but so long as chocolate continued to be viewed as a gift, it would never reach the heights that we see in the west. Younger generations of Chinese citizens, who have grown up eating the popular dessert, have been known to be more likely to purchase it for self-consumption. According to a study by the New York Times, modern Chinese chocolate consumers mostly consist of young people ages fifteen to twenty-four, which shows that there is still hope for chocolate as a commodity in China’s future.


Gifts like the one in this picture would often be given along with chocolates and red envelopes, traditional Chinese gifts that usually contain money. This exemplifies the combination of western consumerism with Chinese traditionalism.


One other reason why Chinese people have avoided chocolate and other dairy-based products has been because of a general distrust in the quality of Chinese milk. One incident, in particular, caused Chinese trust in milk products to dwindle. According to a Harvard Business School case study, in 2008, Sanlu, a milk provider, started adding increased amounts of melamine in their products in order to maintain protein content standards. These increased chemical levels killed six infants and made 300,000 other people sick. This article by Forbes gives more details on how this incident has effected the Chinese dairy industry. After this incident, many other milk brands were found to have this exact same problem with their products, thus, causing widespread skepticism towards Chinese dairy. Chocolate in China, which contains at least 15% milk powder, took a major hit within this scene. One article from Reuters recalls how on September 29, 2008 Cadbury had to shutdown eleven of its Chinese chocolate products due to the suspicion that they were contaminated by melamine. Eventually, the company was forced to close three of its chocolate factories within China. Below, you can find a chart to visualize how much of the Chinese chocolate market the top companies had during the year of 2008. As expected, Cadbury was not doing so well after the milk scandal.

chocolate charts

As a result of this scandal, the confectionary industry has since slowed down, but the Chinese government has imposed tighter regulations on the milk industry in order to regain customer loyalty and trust. For instance, in 2009, the government passed a series of legislation that mandated dairy product producers to raise industry standards, bolster the barriers of entry, and promote the development of large-scale dairy farms, which tended to have higher quality products than their smaller counterparts. These tight regulations allowed for our favorite confectionary treat to make a comeback in the country years later. In 2012, CNN declared that chocolate sales in China grew about 19%, which accounted for $1.9 billion in sales, so we can see that chocolate is here to stay in the long run and is slowly making its way into the Chinese hearts and stomachs.


Works Cited

Allen, Lawrence L. Chocolate Fortunes. American Management Association, 2010.

Burke, Samuel. “Who Consumes the Most Chocolate?” CNN, Cable News Network, 17 Jan. 2012,

Jones, David, and Tan Ee Lyn. “Cadbury Withdraws China Chocolate on Melamine Concern.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 29 Sept. 2008,

Kirby, William and Dai, Nancy Hua. (2016) Yili Group: Building a Global Dairy Company. 9-317-003. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School.

Shen, Samuel. “Chocolate Makers Try to Satisfy a Picky Chinese Palate.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 July 2008,





Cacao From Hands to the Machine

The sourcing and production of chocolate had a direct effect on its place in the social hierarchy in different societies and cultures across time. It is possible to see this by going in depth into three chronological time periods in different places in the world where the allure of cacao had spread. By an early exploration of Mayan chocolate production to Venezuelan plantations ending at the discovery of the Cocoa press in the Netherlands.

Mayan Chocolate Making 

Mayans revered chocolate, it played an essential role in their stories of origin and cosmology. It was used in burial rites and great ceremonies. Cacao was grown agriculturally by the Mayans 1.

Maya Vase

One of the only direct evidence discovered about how Mayans made their chocolate is found in this vessel on the right-hand side which shows a lady pouring chocolate drink from a height into another cup. This was to create the foam that was extremely prized in the Mayan culture; it was thought to be the breath of the Gods.

Maya Princeton Vase

This Maya Princeton Vase is evidence for the heavy usage and importance of cacao in the Mayan culture. It has engraved hieroglyphics for the word cacao coupled with cosmological depictions.

The Maya had many ways of using Cacao to make food.

Chacau haa – This is hot chocolate drink.

Tzune – This is a mix of cacao, maize and sapote seeds.

Saca– A gruel made from cooked maize, water, and cacao.

The flavoring that was commonly used was vanilla and ‘ear flower’2. These different ways of cooking show a creative and vibrant diversity in the usage of the cacao pod. It is highly developed and adaptable. It shows cacao to be an essential part of the Mayan culture and diet.

The remnants of traditional Mayan way of making chocolate drink are still alive today in certain parts of Mexico among the Mayan communities. This video highlights and explains the traditional ways women make the chocolate drink in these Mayan communities.

This video shows us how labor intensive and time consuming it was to make chocolate drink in the Mayan style. The cacao beans have to shelled, roasted, dried in the sun, ground and after this long process mixed with water ready to be consumed.

Venezuelan Cacao Boom

The high-quality strain of Criollo cacao is native to Venezuela. It started being produced agriculturally at the turn of the seventeenth century. The first recorded shipment is in 1607 from La Guaira to Spain 3. This was under the influence of Hispanic colonization, those working on these plantations were slaves and laborers 4.

Here the cacao was so abundantly grown it was consumed on a regular basis by everybody, from slaves to lords. There were three different styles in consuming the cacao 5.

Cerrero– ( rough and ready, bitter ) This was just plain cacao dissolved in water with no added flavorings or sweeteners. It was widely drunk by people in the interiors.

Chorote– Made by creating solid chocolate balls which are dissolved in water, added to this is muscovado sugar. The chocolate balls were created by boiling ground cacao to separate the fats and solids. This was drunk by people in the cities as well as given to slaves and laborers for lunch and dinner.

Chocolate– Made by mixing balls of ground chocolate mixed with sugar or honey, toasted corn, seasonings such as cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. This was consumed by the Spanish elite at morning and noon meals.

The mass production led to cacao being available for everybody to consume. However what marks the social classes is by what process they made their cacao and what was added to it. Also the number of cacao beans used in the food and the time and effort of making it.

Development of industrial techniques of cacao processing

Conrad Johanes Van Houten discovered, along with his father the Cocoa press and Dutch process chocolate 6.

Conrad Johanes Van Houten

This created a fast and easy chocolate producing technique. It was adopted by big industries to use in their ways of chocolate production. This created a speedy and cheaper way of making good tasting chocolate.

Another process invented was the conching of chocolate. This was invented by Rudolfhe Lindt in Switzerland 7.
. It created smoother chocolate and covered the origins and original flavors and textures of the cacao bean, hence a bean sourced from anywhere of any strain could be used. The image below portrays the process of creating smoother chocolate.

Image from page 148 of "Cocoa and chocolate : their history from plantation to consumer" (1920)

These invented process allowed for the anonymity of cacao in the chocolate drink and bar. It became possible to mass produce chocolate without knowing of the origins and sourcing of the cacao bean that went into the chocolate. This created a lot of distance between the agriculture of growing cacao, strains and qualities of the pod and the consumer of the chocolate.


Mass Chocolate Production Today

This kind of mechanized industrialized mass production allows for a lot of chocolate to be produced. When chocolate production moved to such a mechanized way of being made, it became widely available for the average consumer. In today’s world chocolate is a regular household good with a large gap between knowledge of the sourcing and production of chocolate and the regular consumers of chocolate. The intensive agricultural development of cacao with the support of slave exploitation and the inventions of chocolate processing in Europe led to chocolate as is known today.


1- Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The true history of chocolate. Thames & Hudson, 2013.

2- Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The true history of chocolate. Thames & Hudson, 2013.

3- Presilla, Maricel E. The new taste of chocolate: a cultural and natural history of cacao with recipes. Random House Digital, Inc., 2009.

4- Romero, Simon. “In Venezuela, plantations of cocoa stir bitterness.” The New York Times (2009): A04.

5- Presilla, Maricel E. The new taste of chocolate: a cultural and natural history of cacao with recipes. Random House Digital, Inc., 2009.

6-  Presilla, Maricel E. The new taste of chocolate: a cultural and natural history of cacao with recipes. Random House Digital, Inc., 2009.

7-  Presilla, Maricel E. The new taste of chocolate: a cultural and natural history of cacao with recipes. Random House Digital, Inc., 2009.


Cadbury Bros. and the Chocolate Islands Scandal

Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (28)
Image displayed on page 28 in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management by Isabella Beeton. The image shows an early Cadbury’s Cocoa advertisement. Printed in 1907 version. By Isabella Beeton. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1908, a report by Cadbury Bros. agent Joseph Burtt detailing practices of slave labor in the Portuguese-owned “chocolate islands” of Sao Tome and Principe began circulating in Britain (Satre 73); and in March of the following year, the Quaker-owned firm announced its decision to cease the purchase of cocoa from the islands (Higgs 148). These announcements were met not with acclaim but coldness (Higgs 152-153); an article in the Standard attacked Cadbury’s policies, and Cadbury’s libel suit against the paper won them only a farthing in damages (152). The problem? The firm had known about the existence of slave labor on the chocolate islands for upwards of six years before Burtt’s report was ever made available or the boycott instated (Satre 32, 98)—and thanks to already-aired evidence (Satre 20), including a series of articles by journalist Henry Nevinson, so had much of Cadbury’s political peerage (Satre 12, 82; Higgs 152; Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, 566–568.) The firm’s disregard of evidence and lengthy delays (Satre 76) led to accusations of hypocrisy (Higgs 143, 152-153; Satre 78, 82), inaction (Satre 76), and greater concern for international politics than for the plight of those who provided their livelihood (Satre 75), all of which threatened to render null Cadbury’s righteous core. The story sheds a troubling light on the conflict between good business and good ethics (Higgs 165), and leaves open dark questions about how Western culture treats its less-seen, less-valued workers.

Cadbury's Cocoa advert with rower 1885
“Drink Cadbury’s Cocoa” advertisement with rower and lady friend – B&W engraving – 1885. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Cadbury became aware of slave labor in practice on the island of Sao Tome in 1901, by “an offer of a plantation for sale … that listed as assets two hundred black laborers worth £3555” (Satre 18). Lowell J. Satre marks this bill of sale as the initial point of concern for William A. Cadbury, then in charge of purchases for the company (18); but “ample” evidence was available to William through his connections with England’s Anti-Slavery Society (20)—reports describing starving workers, ships full of bought men and women, and brutal death rates of “servicaes” (Grant 1), or indentured servants, on the plantations (Satre 22-24). Cadbury Bros. was a Quaker company founded on Quaker ideals (Satre 14), with close ties to the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines’ Protection Societies (Satre 21) and a reputation for taking care of its workers at home (15-16), even building the Bournville Village Trust for factory employees (15-16), in addition to which the Cadbury-owned Daily News had run stories railing against slavery-like work conditions and “sweated trades” (16). Their treatment of the prospect that the plantations from which had come 45% of its beans in 1900 (Satre 19, 24) were practicing an evil they had long publicly opposed would have heavy implications for their hold on their moral high ground. Would the company apply the same stringent ethics they championed at home, and against other countries and trades, to matters that affected their own business? William Cadbury aired on the side of patient and cautious inaction; he never published the bill of sale, citing the document’s vagueness (as Satre icily puts it, his reasoning made “little sense, as the document specifically identified human beings as property”; Satre 19), and continued to dither in the face of distressing accounts. This silence would stretch until 1904 (22-24), when with new Portuguese labor legislation, and permission from the company’s board, William hired Joseph Burtt to travel to the Portuguese West African colonies (Satre 30-32) and investigate whether the whole unsavory matter had been put to rest on its own.

The beginning of Burtt’s journey to Sao Tome overlapped with the end of journalist Henry Nevinson’s (Satre 32); Burtt would return to England in 1907 (Satre 32, 73), by which time Nevinson’s articles and subsequent book (A Modern Slavery, 1906) about what he had seen in the islands were already two years published and on the market (Satre 32, 73). Burtt produced what Nevinson declared “an abstract of my book and no more” (Higgs 137), which nevertheless echoed Nevinson and the reports William Cadbury had heard: slavery, under a euphemistic title and technical obfuscations (Satre 76, Grant 1, Higgs 136-137), was producing the chocolate that Cadbury Bros. was buying (Satre 74). The onus was now on Cadbury, and its industry peers and allies, to put pressure on the Portuguese (78, 79)—but while the Aborigines’ Protection Society demanded an immediate boycott of the islands’ chocolate, international politics (one wonders if the companies’ bottom line and need for product didn’t also figure in) begged for another solution (Satre 81-82). William Cadbury’s decision to carry out the wishes of the Foreign Office (Higgs 135) by delaying Burtt’s report in lieu of a diplomatic meeting between the chocolatiers and the Portuguese planters (Higgs 134, Satre 75) nearly started a full-blown war with the outraged H.R. Fox Bourne of the APS (Higgs 134-136, Satre 78-80). The meeting with the planters took place in late 1907, with ineffective compromises, pleasantries, and technicalities exchanged (Higgs 141-142); it was followed by further negotiation the next year (143), by which William ended up taking a personal trip in October to Principe, Sao Tome (145) and the coast of Africa (146) to see if reform had been instated – and to look at the construction site of a railroad on the Gold Coast.

Cadbury’s almanack for 2,000 years – a literary & useful curiosity
Print shows a young boy dressed as a chef carrying a tray on which are a steaming ewer and cup of “cocoa essence”; also shows various graphics around the central motif and states that it is “Registered”. Digital file from original print. No known restrictions on publication. Manchester, England: Henry Blacklock & Co., [1885?] Via Library of Congress.
After meetings with reasonably cooperative planters and recalcitrant officials (146), William finally recommended the long-in-limbo boycott in January 1909, and in March Cadbury ceased buying cocoa from the chocolate islands – but not before the firm had purchased fourteen acres of land on the Gold Coast, near the new railroad, for a factory (147). Inaction, compounded by desire to maintain positive relations with the Portuguese in spite of the colonies’ violent and oppressive practices (Satre 77, 81), had forestalled the boycott for eight years; and though the guilt of the islands was off the company’s hands, and something of a backup plan in place, more sticky consequences had been set in motion. Cadbury Bros. was fighting a veritable media circus, demanding apologies from multiple papers for articles questioning the company’s actions regarding the islands (Higgs 143). By the time William left for Africa in 1908, a libel suit against the Standard was underway for a blistering (though hardly hypocrisy-free) article wondering “why the solicitude for the ‘white hands of the Bournville chocolate makers’ seemed not to extend to ‘African hands’” (Higgs 145).  William returned home in plenty of time to testify at the trial, which ruled in favor of Cadbury—awarding them all of a quarter-penny (152). Letters from Cadbury customers delivered their version of this scathing verdict—one addressed the company as “You pious Frauds,” “You Anointed Hypocrites” (152-153).

Cadbury’s Quaker morals, so intact in their home country, were proven by the chocolate islands scandal to be shaky with regard to their business dealings and their concern for what Fox Bourne phrased as “putting an end to a monstrous evil, for the tolerance and development of which Great Britain is to a large extent responsible” (Satre 77). William Cadbury taking earlier action might have been risky, but his caution and protection of trade interests in the face of oppressive practices led him to conflict and embarrassment. A review of Nevinson’s A Modern Slavery published in 1908 reads: “After reading Nevinson’s most interesting book one cannot doubt that slavery is still a tremendous problem, and that its origin and continuance are due to the fact that, for the present, peculiar … conditions have appealed to the selfishness of the Portuguese so strongly as to overcome all scruples” (Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, vol. 40, no. 9, 567-568). In light of the long years it took to acknowledge and boycott the slavery that gave them their cocoa, such a statement could well be applied to Cadbury Bros.

Grant, Kevin. A civilised savagery: Britain and the new slaveries in Africa, 1884-1926. Routledge, 2005.

E.H. “Bulletin of the American Geographical Society.” Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, vol. 40, no. 9, 1908, pp. 566–568. JSTOR,

Satre, Lowell Joseph. Chocolate on trial slavery, politics, and the ethics of business. Ohio University Press, 2006.

Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate islands: cocoa, slavery, and colonial Africa. Ohio University Press, 2013.

“Cadbury’s almanack for 2,000 years – a literary & useful curiosity.” Library of Congress, Image. Accessed March 11, 2018.


The Myth of Separation

The Aztec culture is notorious for their often bloody rituals, which are now widely thought to be egregiously barbaric. We look upon Aztec sacrificial practices as evidence of a sadistic and morally bankrupt culture, of a people who are terrible in ways we could never be; but assuming this inherent separation keeps us from exploring the breadth of human connection and commonality.

In The true history of chocolate Coe & Coe explain that the view of Aztec society as barbaric is handed down to us by the Spanish conquistadores as an excuse for their terrible treatment of the Aztecs (Coe, 65). While the Spanish had their own motivations to portray the Aztecs as barbarians, it’s easy to imagine that they might have also felt genuine shock at Aztec practices which included ritual human sacrifice.

An example of one such ritual, which was carried out yearly, proceeded as follows: A slave was chosen to be dressed and treated as the god Quetzalcoatl for 40 days, after which he was told that he would be killed the following day. He was then required to dance with perfect happiness, as a sorrowful response was thought to be a bad omen. If he was not able to remain cheerful he would be given a drink of chocolate which was mixed with bloody water from the washing of sacrificial knives. This drink, known as itzpacalatl, was said to bewitch him and bring about renewed happiness and dancing (Coe, 103). One fascinating element of this ritual is the importance placed on the sacrifice’s happiness (or at least the display of it). Another fascinating element; the function of nourishment and fortification from the chocolate having a transformative role in the experience of being sacrificed.

It is important to note that bloody Aztec rituals were not done merely for sadistic entertainment. In “The Aztec Ritual Sacrifices,” Izeki explains that sacrifice was integral to Aztec religion and considered necessary for maintaining order in the universe. It was believed that humans were created to give their lives to the gods in order to maintain creation. Izeki notes, too, that death was not thought to be permanent but rather cyclical— the Aztecs believed “that sacrificial victims became divine beings after being slain, that the dead lived an afterlife, and that each part of a soul went back to its provenance”(Izeki).

Solely looking voyeuristically at Aztec rituals as evidence of barbarism allows us to foster a comforting sense of moral superiority. However, this sense of superiority and separations may be a misconception. When we study the history of chocolate we uncover a deep historical connection with the Aztecs. This connection can be seen first through the consumption and ritualization of cacao.

800px-valentines_chocolates1Like the Aztecs, we love chocolate, and like the Aztecs, we imbue it with symbolism. The Aztecs sometimes used cacao pods to ritualistically symbolize the human heart— we sometimes gift heart-shaped boxes of chocolate to symbolize love (Coe 103).

Might there be a connection even in the dark specifics of the discussed ritual to aspects of our culture today? In her thesis Revulsion and Palatability, Angie Wheaton explores the topic of rituals surrounding the death penalty, with a special focus on the ritual of giving the condemned a choice of last meals. This ritual has been the subject of several art projects, like the one shown in the below image.

5430175617_6328bbd2d7_z-1Wheaton explains that this ritual of providing nourishment and comfort to those we put to death in the form of favorite foods has a longstanding tradition, and is still common practice in most places (one notable exception being Texas) (Wheaton, 6). This tradition has much in common with the Aztec ritual of providing sacrifices with the culturally favored form of nourishment, cacao. Wheaton argues that in the context of the death penalty, “rituality has helped cushion the revulsion that is inherently present when taking the life of a human being” (Wheaton, v). Might this effect also be one explanation for the specifics of Aztec rituals?

The use of chocolate as an intoxicant in the discussed Aztec ritual is somewhat perplexing. Though cacao beans do contain caffeine and theobromine which cause a stimulant effect, this effect is moderate and insufficient to cause extreme euphoria. Despite this, there are also people today who consume chocolate in ritualistic settings for the purpose of intoxication.


In the Business Insider article “San Franciscans are obsessed with ‘cacao ceremonies,’ where they claim to get high on chocolate,” author Melia Robinson details currently trendy rituals where people gather to drink concentrated cacao drinks. Participants report “a wide range of reactions, from feelings of connectedness and ecstasy to hallucinations” (Robinson).

The common concept of superiority and separation between people today and the Aztecs is a myth. Through the lens of chocolate, food, and ritual, we can uncover striking similarities between these cultures. These common threads of practice and perception between the people of today and the Aztecs may serve to remind us that however different we might like to think ourselves from those that commit atrocities, we are more alike than we are different. We are all human and capable of both great things and terrible ones.


Works Cited:

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The true history of chocolate. 3rd ed., Thames and Hudson, 2013.

Wheaton, Angie. Revulsion and Palatability: The Staying Power of Death Penalty Rituals – Last Meals and Beyond, Eastern Kentucky University, Ann Arbor, 2013, ProQuest,

Robinson, Melia. “San Franciscans are obsessed with ‘cacao ceremonies,’ where they claim to get high on chocolate.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 19 May 2017,

Izeki, Mutsumi (2014) The Aztec Ritual Sacrifices, Performance Research, 3:3, 25-32, DOI: 10.1080/13528165.1998.10871623

Last Meal Photo credit John Dalton on Flikr, Creative Commons license

Cacao Drink Photo credit Julie Gibbons on Flikr, Creative Commons license

Other images in public domain


The Evolution of American Chocolate: From Beverage to Bar

It is perhaps unsurprising that chocolate did not arrive on the shores of Plymouth Rock wrapped in Hershey’s labels or moulded in the shape of Ferrero Rocher spheres of deliciousness. Chocolate’s evolution in the United States is unique, and it has been shaped by multiple cultures across hundreds of years. The journey of modern chocolate in the United States begins with Jews in Spain and Portugal in the 1400s. Centuries later, liquid chocolate would transform into a solid candy delicacy coined by the Swiss. Their ingenuity would be adopted by Milton Hershey himself, catapulting the United States to the forefront of a chocolate empire.

Chocolate’s importation to the American colonies was started by Jewish merchants residing in Brazil and the West Indian colonies. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella initiated the expulsion of Jews in the late 15th century (Grivetti 2809), causing an influx of Jewish populations to the New World. Concurrently, Hernando Cortés arrived back in Spain in 1527 with cacao and the recipes and tools of the Aztec peoples. As Jews continued to leave Spain and Portugal for the New World, they carried with them knowledge of cacao production (Grivetti 2815). Later on, the Portuguese conquered the Dutch colony of Recife, a present-day large cosmopolitan area in the northeast portion of Brazil. Jews residing in Recife were forced to flee. Some went to Amsterdam, some to the West Indies, and 23 arrived in New Amsterdam in the mid 1600s (Grivetti 3006). New Amsterdam is presently the southern tip of the island of Manhattan. Around the same time, Jews also moved to present-day Newport, Rhode Island.

1664 initiated the English conquering New York, making Jews English subjects (Grivetti 3016). Jews did not have the right to participate in retail trade, so instead of selling cocoa, they began importing it from the West Indies to New York (Grivetti 3090). Around the same time, some prominent traders from Jamaica arrived in New York, bringing with them knowledge of the cocoa trade. Jews were granted the right to participate in wholesale trade in 1685. Importantly, they traded cocoa, chocolate, and used chocolate themselves (Grivetti 3021). One prominent Jewish trader – Nathan Simson – was responsible for the trade of 150,000 pounds of cocoa from Venezuela to Curaçao during the three months between February and May 1722 (Grivetti 3026).  In the first quarter of the 18th century, letters reveal hundreds of cocoa transactions between Simson and other Jewish merchants and manufacturers (Grivetti 3045). Evidence of bidirectional trade routes emerged in the 1730s. In 1748 an Annapolis newspaper advertisement read “John Campbell… makes and sells as good Chocolate as was ever made in England” (Grivetti 3106). Aaron Lopez, a Portuguese and Jewish immigrant, came to Rhode Island in 1752. An immensely successful merchant, Lopez had thousands of pounds of cocoa shipped to a black man named Prince Updike, who would take raw cocoa and return it to Lopez as ground chocolate for profit. Records of this business transaction between Lopez and Updike appear throughout the late 1760s, such as the one depicted below (Grivetti 3178, fig. 5.4).

Aaron Lopez ledger with details on work with Updike (page 3178)
Lopez ledger, 1766

Consumable chocolate in the late 17th century was in the form of ground lozenges or chocolate powder cakes. Cakes were flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon, sugar, red peppers, and cloves (Grivetti 6441). The cake would be grated to a powder and incorporated with other aromatics. Cooks would incorporate eggs to encourage frothing, an intriguing example of pre-Columbian customs set forth by indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica. Drinking chocolate was reserved for the American elite through the mid-18th century. Many families possessed silver drinking pots for chocolate, which are extremely rare nowadays (Grivetti 6525).

Chocolate Pot
Silver and wood chocolate pot

The chocolate pot above is a rare example of silverware used to house chocolate beverages. This piece was constructed by renowned silversmith Edward Webb between 1707 and 1718 in Boston (“Chocolate Pot”). It is apparent how highly colonial Americans regarded chocolate by the money and craftsmanship spent creating vessels such as the one above.

Colonial chocolate rose in popularity in the mid-17th century. Chocolate had medicinal purposes, often being marketed to cure the sick, help hangovers, and aid digestion (Grivetti 6402). Drinking chocolate was deemed very difficult and complicated to make. The process involved grinding the cocoa cake, boiling it with water, and whisking constantly to ensure smoothness. Chocolate in the colonies arrived as ready-made nibs imported from the West Indies. No roasting or grinding of the beans was done in the colonies for the most part (Grivetti 6430). Early reference to chocolate mills appeared in 1751 in a newspaper advertisement for Joseph Palmer and Richard Cranch (Grivetti 6436). The chocolate industry was permanently altered with Dutch chemist Coenraad van Houten’s invention. Van Houten developed lower fat, alkalized chocolate that could more easily be made to a powder and mixed with other liquids (Grivetti 6769). The alkali relaxed the harsh flavors of chocolate, making chocolate sweeter and more palatable.

Liquid chocolate stayed in American fashion until the end of the 19th century (Grivetti 8615). The move from liquid to solid chocolate consumption was initiated by Henri Nestlé’s invention of powdered milk and Swiss chocolate manufacturer Daniel Peter’s idea to combine this powdered milk and chocolate to construct the first milk chocolate bar in 1879 (Coe and Coe 549). Concurrently, Rudolphe Lindt developed the process of conching – using heavy rollers to smooth cocoa until it attained a high degree of smoothness (Coe and Coe 551). Europeans and Americans alike developed a taste for the smooth and mellow flavors of solid milk chocolate. These advancements undoubtedly inspired the original American king of Chocolate: Milton Hershey.

Hershey, by the early 1890s, was a successful confection manufacturer; his company crafted caramels of various types (D’Antonio 60). In 1893, Hershey traveled to Chicago to attend the World’s Columbian Exposition – a fair meant to showcase the most up-to-date technologies of the time. At the fair, Hershey took note of the J.M. Lehmann company’s exposition. They set up a full-scale operation to show off their ability to make chocolate bars. Hershey went day after day to investigate, to learn, to mimic, and to taste the delicious product they could produce. Hershey purchased the necessary equipment, shipped them to Lancaster, and began what would become one of the largest chocolate producing conglomerates in the world (D’Antonio 69). The below image depicts Milton Hershey in front of his first chocolate producing facility in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

hershey plant 1901
Hershey plant, 1901-1904

The path to the American chocolate bar took centuries to come to fruition. From the exodus of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula to the New World, to the elitist drinking chocolate of the 17th century, chocolate evolved slowly and assuredly to the profitable, affordable, and delicious delicacy that we know today.


Sources Sited

“Chocolate Pot.” The Museum of Fine Arts Boston. 24 February 1993.

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013[1996]. The True History of Chocolate. 3nd edition. London: Thames & Hudson.

D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. Paw Prints, 2008.

Grivetti, Louis Evan., and Howard-Yana Shapiro. Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage. A John Wiley Publishing, 2009.

“Milton Hershey’s Experimental Plant, 1901-1904.” The Hershey Story, 11 Mar. 2018,


The Not so Sweet Truth About the Chocolate Industry


Many of us are familiar with the devastating history of the African slave trade and yet how often do we think about how that history directly affects us today? Some associate the slave trade with the production of bulk crops such as cotton, tobacco, or sugar, but few understand the role chocolate production and consumption played in the vast exploitation of indigenous people that in some regions persist today.

The transatlantic slave trade that operated from the late sixteenth century to the early nineteenth century linked Britain to Africa and to the New World. Goods were sold to Africa, African slaves to the Americas, and American commodities such as sugar were imported to Britain (Mintz, 1985). This trade triangle was responsible for the enslavement of somewhere between 12 and 15 million people (Martin, January 2018). Deemed as “critical” to meet the demands of luxury items such as coffee, tobacco, and chocolate, the abolition of slavery was very slow to appear (Martin, February 2018). In 1834 the British Slavery Abolition Act abolished slavery throughout most of the British Empire. French and Danish colonies followed suit in 1848; and the13th Amendment finally abolished slavery in the United States in 1865 (Martin, February 2018).

The question remains, did slavery really end or has it just changed and become more hidden? The Cadbury chocolate company is one of many companies that was forced to come to terms with its treatment of workers. In the early 1900s a British journalist by the name of Henry Nevinson did an investigation and found that slavery was ongoing in Africa despite the abolition some 40-60 years earlier (Martin, February 2018). Cadbury investigated on their own and found this practice still in place (Martin, February 2018). Although it was nearly a century later, Cadbury was the first large chocolate operation to go fair trade in 2009 (Glover, 2009). The web organization has noted that several other companies have promised the same and have yet to follow through on those promises.

Regrettably, the world continues to be full of stories of cacao workers that are still not being compensated appropriately for their work and working in unsafe and sometimes inhumane conditions. Workers are typically paid 2 times a year; therefore, no work no wage, and a culture of feast or famine abounds with many workers needing loans in between harvest seasons (Martin, January 2018). Most of them make between $0.50 and $0.84 per day which is well below the poverty level (Martin, January 2018).

Sadly this exploitation of workers is not limited to adult workers. Children as young as 5 years old are regularly forced to work extreme hours earning slave wages that are significantly lower than the adult workers (Raghaven et al. 2001). Many of them never have the opportunity to attend school which in turn means they are never able to break the cycle and explore other career options(Payson Center for International Development and Technology Transfer, 2011).

What can be done by our society as chocolate consumers? Those wanting to ensure their sweet treats have not been made with slave labor might turn to small companies such as the Dutch-based company, Tony’s Chocolonely. In the short film below (Appiah, 2017), CNN reported on Tony’s business practices.

Chief chocolate officer, Henk Jan Beltman explained that the process begins with sourcing their chocolate exclusively from their farm cooperatives in West Africa ensuring that ethical harvest practices are in place (Appiah, 2017). The production process that follows in the plant involves meticulously isolating Tony’s cacao beans from any other companies’ beans that may have not been harvested with the same care. Tony’s hopes their example will influence other chocolate producers and the industry in general (Appiah, 2017).

For the chocolate industry to change, we as consumers must first change and demand transparency in the production processes and treatment of all cacao workers. According to the website, large chocolate companies such as Nestle, Hershey, Cargill, and more, have admitted to brutal labor practices and committed to making changes over 14 years ago and yet little changes have been made. Our support of small companies like Tony’s ensures their success and encourages other companies to follow suit and discontinue their shameful treatment of workers. To get more information on how you can help end cacao slavery, please visit one of these excellent websites:


Appiah, L. (2017, June 07). Slave-free chocolate: not-so-guilty pleasure. Retrieved            March 09, 2018, from

[Child with Cacao Pods]. (n.d.). Retrieved March 9, 2018, from            98&ei=j1SjWvGhM6GYtgXwzrqwCQ&q=cacao child slave labor&oq=cacao        child slave             labor&gs_l=img.3…2824.8720.0.9296.….0…1ac.            1.64.img..2.12.1103.0..0j35i39k1j0i8i30k1j0i24k1j0i10i24k1.0.FHhR7K3rEY8#i   mgrc=CEI8VA9kp5ud6M:

Glover, K. (2009, March 05). Cadbury Chocolate Brand Goes Fair Trade. Retrieved          March 10, 2018, from         goes-fair-trade/

Martin, C. D., Ph.D. (2018, January 26). Introduction to Chocolate, Culture and the           Politics of Food. Lecture presented at Harvard Extension School, Cambridge,      Massachusetts.

Martin, C. D., Ph.D. (2018, February 28). Slavery, abolition, and forced labor. Lecture presented at Harvard Extension School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Mintz, S. W. (1985). Sweetness and Power. New York City, NY: Penguin Books, p. 43.

Payson Center for International Development and Technology Transfer.  March 31, 2011.            “Oversight of Public and Private Initiatives to Eliminate Worst Forms of Child             Labor in the Cocoa Sector in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.” Tulane                    University. 3846#search. (2/25/14)

Raghavan, Sudarsan, and Chatterjee, Sumana. 2001. “How Your Chocolate May be           Tainted.” Knight Ridder             Newspapers (2/21/14)



“Chokola’j”, History of Chocolate Popularity on the Rise

The Mayan Society of Mesoamerica drank chocolate together and called this popular social act “Chokola’j” (C. Martin, Mesoamerica and “the food of the gods”). History is often written through landmark events that shaped it, but often without the mentioning of the common human who made it, this is especially true about the history of chocolate. The significance of chocolate came from the captivating ability of chocolate to touch hearts and transcend social, cultural, lingual, and physical barrios and dovetail the Americas and Europe with a power even mightier than that of the military and economic powers, the social power of chocolate. In Sweetness and Power, Sidney W. Mintz argues that the simple decision of the common human in post-colonial European societies to consume Mesoamerican commodities made history through changing the meaning of labor, self-identity, and commodity: “In understanding the relationship between commodity and person, we unearth anew the history of our selves” (qtd by C. Martin, Slavery Abolition and Forced Labor, Mintz, 1985, page214). Mintz is right, for unraveling the history of Chocolate’s popularity unravels the western hemisphere’s origins of wealth distribution, social habits, economic relationships, and self-identities. More importantly it can define our future path towards what is responsible, just, and right for a prosperous chocolate future that involves all stakeholders and shareholders. The beautiful moments of happiness, comfort, and love passing through the lives of millions of people eating and drinking chocolate every day lure intellectual curiosity to trace what key factors, trends, ideas, and technologies contributed to the rise of chocolate’s popularity over time.

Chocolate(Chocolate, a stack of the different kinds of chocolate, dark, milk and white) (André Karwath aka, Feb, 2005.)

In The True History of Chocolate Sophie and Michael Coe explain that “It was the Maya who first taught the Old World how to drink Chocolate, and it was the Maya who gave us the word “cacao.” They deserve recognition in the culinary history of Theobroma Cacao.”(Coe and Coe, P.66). Archeological records of historical Mayan documents and artifacts like the Maya Princeton Vase of the 8th century stands testimony to the ancient Mayan chocolate-socializing habits, it depicts a Mayan royal palace with people seated in a scene with a woman preparing chocolate (Coe and Coe, P.50). Over time chocolate spread from the Mesoamerican elites to European elites and amplified in popularity among the masses. Chocolate and coffee houses were a part of the English life in 17th century England where the Italian Lorenzo Magalotti who lived in England between 1668 and 1688 AD described these houses: “…Where coffee is sold publicly, and not just coffee, but other drinks, like chocolate.”(Coe and Coe, P.171).

800px-Maya_vase(Mayan Vase, the Princeton Vase depicting chocolate) (Unknown, Between circa 600 and circa 900 AD)

Chocolate-house-london-c1708(Socializing inside the English: White’s Chocolate House, London) (Unknown Artist, 1708)

It is academically imperative to narrate the historical change that transpired through time over what contributed to the increase in chocolate’s popularity and spread from the Mesoamerican and European elites to the different classes of society in Europe, the Americas, and transversely the world. In order to interpret colonial military, economic, and social factors that contributed to the spread of chocolate it is necessary to mention the documents, encounters, and records found in Rio Ceniza Valley, located in today’s El Salvador ( C. Martin, lecture 3 “Chocolate Expansion”, 2018). The 17th century’s “Recordation Florida of Antonio Fuentes y Guzman” was imperative as it revealed the cocoa beans-based Nahua counting system that was used by the Mayans as their local currency, which was a mammoth economic factor behind the Spanish military colonization campaigns triggered by the Spanish desire to adopt that currency system and demand part of the Mesoamerican crops (C. Martin, Lecture 3, “Chocolate Expansion”, 2018).The other significant document to illuminate on the social power factor that contributed the most to increased popularity of chocolate was the original chocolate recipe found in Rio Ceniza ( C. Martin, Chocolate Expansion). A European style drawing in the 16th century Codex Tudela shows us an Aztec woman foaming Chocolate evoking similarities to the Mayan Princeton Vase, which depicted a woman foaming chocolate eight centuries earlier (Coe and Coe, P.88).The factor of the transfer of Mesoamerican recipes will be the most powerful of all because the chocolate recipe that we know traveled through European colonists to Europe and created anew the trend of the chocolate commodity consumption in Europe. Chocolate recipes were first moved by elite catholic clergy into Spain, Italy, France, and Britain. In 1636 Antonio de Leon Pinelo, a Spanish catholic wrote a book debating the morality of chocolate and its inclusion into European diets and religious traditions (Coe and Coe, P. 152). Coe and Coe explain that “Lion Pinelo gives details on production as well as recipes for the drink, he is also extremely knowledgeable about cacao, chocolate, and various writers on chocolate.” (Coe and Coe, P.152)


(European styled drawing of Aztec Lady Preparing Chocolate, Mujer Vertiendo Chocolate – Codex Tudela) (Anonymous, circa 1553)

Knowledge of chocolate and its recipes got adopted by the masses and spread along European colonial societies including North America. In The History of Classic American Dessert, Carla Martin explains that “Newspaper advertisements for chocolate sales in the colonies have been traced back to the early eighteenth century, as have customs logs and diary entries mentioning chocolate” (C. Martin, 2012). In The New Taste of Chocolate, M.E. Presilla reveals the Xocolat familiar: “Contains recipes written in an elegant 19th century hand, giving precise measurements for chocolate blends prepared especially for local families.”(M.E. Presilla, 30, 2009). Based on the above literary and material sources it is evident that the Mesoamerican chocolate traditions were adopted by Europeans and North Americans, which induced significant change defining labor, social, and economic change. It cannot go unstated that this steered an ever increased demand, which brought about the tragedies of slavery, colonization, massive inequality in distribution of prosperity and wealth, and went all the way to restructuring the sense of western world Norms, struggles, and identities .

In The New Taste of Chocolate, M.E. Presilla reveals the 1874 invention of the Melangeur:” The Melangeur is one of the most versatile and long lasting inventions of the industrial revolution of chocolate manufacturing.” (M.E.Presilla, page 28, 2009). Historic literary and material sources evidence shows an entire technology developing from traditional Mayan recipes of preparing and processing chocolate. Images of the Mesoamericans preparing the drinks can be seen today in their thriving societies as in the historical depictions of 15 surviving documents of Dresden Codex pre-colonial documents and the ambiguous Popol Vuh, colonial documents (C. Martin, “ Mesoamerica and the “ food of the gods”). The preponderance of social power that steered the increased popularity of chocolate were driven by chocolate’s ability to touch hearts, penetrate feelings, and create taste.

Chokoversum_MelangeurChokoversum Melangeur (An-d. Nov, 2013).

Chocolademachine_Mol_D'ArtModern Chocolate Machine (Right: Oriel. Chocolate Machine, n.d.)

Knowing the key factors, trends, ideas, and technologies contributed to the rise of chocolate’s popularity over time enable us to draw the future. The social power of chocolate is galvanized to serve the powerful managerial chocolate corporations today. What is needed is a balancing approach that enables the corporations to get galvanized behind the social power of chocolate. This is especially important to achieve in Ghana and the Ivory Coast where 72% of the worlds Cocoa production is produced, often under dire circumstances (C, Martin Lecture One). Going back into these historic changes can guide us to successfully adopt changes in the future inclusive of all its stakeholders and shareholders.

This Video is mixing some historic facts, some of which were mentioned in the blog, and interestingly reasoning them with fun facts in trying to explain the ever rising popularity of chocolate.

(Talltanic Surprising facts about Chocolate video from January 16th, 2018). (Talltanic, 2018)


References-Works Cited
An-d. Chokoversum Melangeur. Wikimedia Commons. Web. 22 November 2013, 18:22:53

André Karwath aka. Chocolate. This image shows a stack of chocolate, including milk chocolate, nut chocolate, dark chocolate, and white chocolate. Wikimedia Commons. Web.13 February 2005.
Anonymous. Mujer vertiendo chocolate – Codex Tudela. Español: Mujer azteca espumando cacao, reproducción perteneciente al folio 3-r del Códice Tudela. Source/Photographer: Wikimedia Commons. Web. circa 1553.
Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Third Edition. Thames & Hudson Ltd: London, 2013. Print.
Martin, Carla D. 2012. “Brownies: The History of a Classic American Dessert.” Retrieved from
Martin, Carla D. “Introduction.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 24 Jan.2018. Class Lecture.
Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 31 Jan.2018. Class Lecture.
Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Expansion.’”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 07 Feb.2018. Class Lecture.
Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, Abolition and Forced Labor.’”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 28 Feb.2018. Class Lecture.
Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power, The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Viking Penguin Inc. Penguin Books: New York, 1985. Print.
Oriel. Chocolademachine Mol D’Art. Chocolate machine. Wikimedia Commons. Web. N.D.
Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate Revised. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, 2009. Print.
Talltanic. (Jan 16, 2018). Surprising facts about chocolate. 2018. Taltanic. (Video file). Retrieved from
Unknown Artist. English: White’s Chocolate House, London. Wikimedia Commons. coloured lithograph published by Cadbury. Note: Not a contemporary 1708 illustration (late 19th-century at earliest) Web. circa 1708.
Unknown. Photograph of a Maya vase. Wikimedia Commons. Art from late Classic c. 600 – 900 AD, per book “The Blood of Kings, Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art” by Linda Schele, Mary Ellen Miller, Justin Kerr, Kimball Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1986, plate 115 Mechanical reproduction of art more than 1,000 years old. Web. Between circa 600 and circa 900 AD