From Currency to Beverage to Bars: The Story of Chocolate

From boxes of assorted chocolates to chocolate covered pretzels, when we think of chocolate today, we think of a sweet and flavorful confection that we eat. But what many chocolate lovers don’t know is that throughout much of history this gourmet delight was a beverage, not a food. Grown near the Equator, cacao trees grow large pods that are filled with cacao beans. And it is these beans that were brewed to create the much loved and sought after beverage that gave chocolate the power to even control currency.

Food of the Gods

Theobromoa cocao, the Latin name for the cacao tree, means “food of the gods” and that is exactly what chocolate was to the ancient civilizations that first drank this bitter, brewed concoction. A beverage reserved for the upper class, chocolate has been popular since pre-Columbian cultures like the Olmec resided in present-day Mexico. More information can be gleamed about people’s love of chocolate from the Aztec and Mayan cultures that used cacao beans as a form of currency and in rituals associated with birth, marriage and death.

Spanish Secret

According to legend, it was Montezuma himself who introduced Hernando Cortez to chocolate, which Cortez brought back to Spain with him in place of the gold and silver he had hoped to find in the New World. Mixed with cane sugar, honey or cinnamon, the popularity of chocolate beverages spread across the country quickly and became a favorite drink of Spanish royalty. A sign of wealth and privilege in Spain, this delectable concoction was kept within the country for almost 100 years before heading to France with Anne of Austria, the oldest daughter of Philip III of Spain, when she was married to King Louis XIII of France in 1615.

Chocolate became a favorite beverage in royal courts across Europe, leading powerful nations like France and England to send men to South America to stake their claim on the land and cacao trees that grew in abundance near the Equator.

chocolate fudgeThe First Solid Chocolate

Mass production of chocolate beverages did not occur until the late 1700s, and it wasn’t until 1847 that the first solid chocolate bar was developed. Made from cocoa butter, cocoa powder and sugar, this candy delight was made by Joseph Fry. In the years to come, companies like Cadbury, Nestle and Hershey worked to improve the candy bar’s formula, making their own chocolate creations and discovering the sweet taste of milk chocolate.

Here at Hilliards Chocolates, we are proud to offer a wide variety of homemade milk and dark chocolates for our customers. After hearing all this talk about chocolate and chocolate drinks, we recommend taking some time to indulge in your favorite gourmet chocolate confections. Whether you are craving a mug of our rich hot chocolate or some almond turtles, the choices are endless at Hilliards. Place your order with us online or visit one of our three Massachusetts locations to pick out your favorite milk or dark chocolate delicacies.