It is no wonder that the Aztecs believed that the cacao beans were a gift from their God of Wisdom. Can you imagine being among the first to discover that the cacao bean could produce a cup of chocolaty goodness? Of course, the Aztecs’ preference was for the unsweetened variety – they initially drank their brew quite bitter, mixed with spices and corn puree of all things. Despite their bitter preference for the tasty chocolate-producing bean, the Aztecs, Incas, Mayans and Olmecs all agreed that it was a crop worth growing and harvesting.
The cacao beans became so sought after in the 1500s that they started being used as currency. This is what you could purchase back in the good ol’ days.
- 1 cacao bean – 1 avocado/1 tomato/1 tamale
- 3 cacao beans – 1 turkey egg
- 30 cacao beans – 1 small rabbit
- 100 beans - 1 turkey hen/1 hare or forest rabbit
It wasn’t until the cacao beans arrived in Europe when the sweetened version of hot chocolate became all the rage. The Spanish added cane sugar and cinnamon although it was mainly consumed by the nobility at the time maintaining a high price tag. Cacao bean meets sugar is a match made in heaven in my humble opinion.
However, when Maria Theresa of Spain wed the French King Louis XVII in 1615 she brought her love of chocolate over to France, and it spread from there. Chocolate became more affordable and everyone could enjoy it.
In 1828, a Dutch chemist by the name of Coenraad Johannes van Houten invented the cocoa press which could squeeze out the fatty cocoa butter. His invention left behind a dry paste which could then be used in liquids and other foods.
I guess it was only a matter of time before the chocolate drink became a chocolate bar. It was in 1847 when Joseph Fry made his first chocolate bar. Two years later John Cadbury got into the act. The two men eventually joined forces. The first chocolate bars were still not as sweet as we like them today. When Henry Nestle came on the chocolate scene, he began adding milk to his chocolate concoctions and so many more followed his lead. And, I guess the rest, as they say, is history.
What is your favourite chocolate bar?