In my Girl Who Fell books (LINK BELOW) the hero Blanka is addicted to chocolate! And, in fact, for over three thousand years chocolate has been the most desired food in the whole world! Read the “Brief History of Chocolate” here…
The earliest known use of chocolate was by the Olmec civilization of Mesoamerica around 2000 BC. The Olmecs would ceremonially drink it hot from tecomates, a special round jar, but it was a bitter brew!
The Mayans used tall cylindrical cups for drinking chocolate and these had elaborate text on the rim.
Much later, from around 1400 AD, it was the Aztecs of Mexico who first consumed chocolate in cold form, and they had richly decorated tall beakers specifically reserved for enjoying the prized drink, and impressing others in their society that they had the status to consume it.
It was in the Aztec Empire, etymologists believe, that their names for the cacao bean — “cacahuatl” and “xocoatl” — formed the basis for the word “chocolate” which is now a favourite luxury food consumed in every country in the world.
Xocoatl was drunk by the Aztec upper classes, and consumed after meals.
Citizens of poorer classes enjoyed it mixed with maize gruel at important events such as weddings, but many scholars maintain that the pure xocoatl drink was an exclusive status symbol of the nobility.
However, it was also given to favoured sacrificial victims as a final treat before they departed this world.
The Aztecs associated xocoatl with the god Quetzacoatl, whom they believed had been condemned by the other gods for sharing chocolate with humans.
But they were not able to grow the cacao bean themselves, and imported it from more southerly nations which they conquered. The Aztecs created a tax, a “tribute,” which the subject peoples were required to pay — in cacao beans. The cacao bean thus became a form of currency.
When the Spanish conquistadors and Catholic missionaries arrived from Europe, they made records of the value of the cacao bean, noting for instance that 100 cacao beans could purchase a canoe filled with freshwater, or a turkey hen.
Spain began importing chocolate from South America in 1585. No one quite knows the complete story of how chocolate got to Spain, but it quickly became a much-loved indulgence of the Spanish court.
But European palates weren’t satisfied with the traditional bitter Aztec xocoatl-chocolate drink recipe, and they soon started seeking a sweeter version, making their own varieties of hot chocolate with cane sugar, cinnamon and other common spices and flavorings.
In 1828, Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten discovered a way to treat cacao beans with alkaline salts to make a powdered chocolate that was easier to mix with water. The process became known as “Dutch processing” and the chocolate produced was called “cacao powder” or “Dutch cocoa.” This was the beginning of chocolate no longer being a luxury just for the rich.
In 1847, British chocolatier J.S. Fry and Sons created the first chocolate bar — molded from a paste made of sugar, chocolate liquor and cocoa butter.
Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter is generally credited for adding dried milk powder to chocolate to create milk chocolate in 1876.
Chocolate had come a long way during the 19th century, but it was still hard and difficult to chew!
The final chapter of the story makes my hero Blanka quiver with excitement! In 1879, a man — who Blanka regards as nothing short of an awesome god — another Swiss chocolatier — Rudolf Lindt, invented the conch machine which mixed and aerated chocolate giving it the smooth, melt-in-your-mouth consistency that blended well with the other ingredients, and which we all know and love today!
“Bim, bam, boom!” Blanka says. “Maybe Villanelle loves chocolate as much as me. Let’s hope we find out in Killing Eve Season 3!”
That was a brief history of chocolate.
Read the Girl Who Fell books…
Hail the Queen…