Food History: Chocolate | Summary and Q&A

May 27, 2020
Mental Floss
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Food History: Chocolate


Chocolate has been enjoyed for centuries and has a rich history, from being a sacred beverage in ancient civilizations to becoming the sweet snack it is today.

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Key Insights

  • πŸ’ Chocolate originated in Mesoamerica and was initially consumed as a bitter beverage.
  • πŸ’ The Maya civilization played a significant role in the early history of chocolate, fermenting cacao beans to develop its flavor.
  • πŸ’ Chocolate was considered a luxury and a gift from the gods in ancient civilizations.
  • 🍫 The Dutch chemist Van Houten's invention revolutionized chocolate-making, leading to the creation of modern chocolate bars.
  • πŸ’ The rivalry between Cadbury and Fry's shaped the chocolate industry in Europe.
  • πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ Milton Hershey played a pivotal role in popularizing chocolate in the United States.
  • πŸ’ The debate over what qualifies as chocolate continues, particularly with regard to white chocolate.


in 2017 two members of a Russian crime syndicate were charged with the transport and sale of 10,000 pounds of stolen chocolate confections the indictment didn't mention whether the thieves took a few bites for themselves but if they didn't have a sweet tooth they'd hardly be alone Napoleon Bonaparte was a fan of chocolate which was said to be his d... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How did chocolate transform from a beverage to a solid snack?

Over time, people began adding sweeteners and spices to the bitter chocolate drink, and eventually solid chocolate bars were created by mixing melted cocoa butter with cocoa powder.

Q: Why was chocolate popular among the elite in ancient civilizations?

Chocolate was considered a luxury and was enjoyed by rulers and priests. It was also used in religious ceremonies and featured in weddings to symbolize union.

Q: What role did the Dutch chemist Conrad Johannes Van Houten play in chocolate's transformation?

Van Houten discovered a way to remove cocoa butter from chocolate liquor and treat it with alkaline salt, which led to the creation of a new kind of powder. This invention eventually paved the way for modern chocolate bars.

Q: How did the rivalry between Cadbury and Fry's impact the chocolate industry?

The two companies had a dispute over the supply of South American cacao beans, leading to a bitter feud between the families involved.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Chocolate has a long history, including being consumed by historical figures like Napoleon Bonaparte and Thomas Jefferson.

  • The cacao tree, originally native to the Americas, is the source of all chocolate products.

  • The process of making chocolate involves fermenting, drying, roasting, and grinding cacao beans into a paste called chocolate liquor.

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