Here at Cocoa and Heart, we’re fascinated by all things chocolate. And chocolate itself and how it was first cultivated in Central America as a bitter hot chocolate drink and then brought over to Europe and gradually developed into a chocolate bar for eating, has a fascinating history all of its own.
Here are some of the key dates in the History of Chocolate Timeline.
1,500 BC: The people of Central America begin to drink chocolate. The cacao tree may have been cultivated earlier than people first thought. Linguistic links to the words cacao and chocolate can be traced back to the Olmec peoples which pre-dates Maya and Atzec civilisation by several hundred years. Cocoa beans are full of interesting facts and the cacao tree is a very special plant that needs specific climate and environment to prosper.
900 AD: Maya Civilisation: Pottery cups found in the tombs of Maya nobility contain symbols for cacoa and images for its preparation.
1500s: Since cocoa beans are difficult to harvest, the Aztecs drink chocolate rather than eat it. The drink was made by mixing the roasted, ground cacao beans with water, flavouring it with herbs or spices (chilli was common) and then stimulating the mixture until foamy by pouring it from one vessel to another. The drink is bitter tasting and not sweet in any way. In this form, the drinking chocolate, consisting of pure cocoa was very healthy and full of nutrients.
1540s: An Aztec document containing a list of price equivalents designated the value of a tomato as one cacao bean, while an avocado was worth three, and a “good turkey hen” was worth 100 “full” or 120 “shrunken” cacao beans. Since there is only about 60 cocoa beans in one cocoa pod, this was a great amount of currency.
1500s: The Spanish bring chocolate back to mainland Spain. The Spanish find chocolate too dark and bitter and start to add cane sugar to chocolate. They also infuse chocolate with vanilla and other lighter spices to give the finished chocolate a sweeter taste.
1600s: Later chocolate drinking spreads to other parts of Europe.
1657: A chocolate house opens in England where you can buy a drink of chocolate. Diarist Samuel Pepys makes regular mention of visiting chocolate drinking houses.
1753: Scientific Classification. The Swedish biologist, Carolus Linnaeus gives the botanical name Theobroma cacao to the chocolate tree. Theobroma, in Latin, means “food of the gods,” while cacao refers to the native word for the plant. The cocoa tree grows around the equator, where the most important cocoa beans producing countries are based.
1765 The first chocolate factory in America opens. Using an old grist mill, Dr Baker and Mr Hannon ground cacao beans into chocolate liquor and pressed the paste into cakes meant to be made into drinking chocolate. After Hannon was lost at sea on a cacao buying expedition, Baker’s family continued production until the firm was bought out by General Foods in 1927.
1795 Steam engines are used to grind cocoa beans making chocolate cheaper, as part of the Industrial Revolution and James Wyatt’s invention of the steam engine in 1765.
1828 The Invention of Dutch Cocoa. Inventions are made that will result in chocolate becoming a commodity to be eaten as well as drunk. Coenraad Van Houten develops a process for making chocolate powder by using hydraulic pressure to remove almost half of the cocoa butter from chocolate liquor.
1847 The first chocolate bar from the list of many chocolate bars is made by Quaker Joseph Fry.
1854 Cadburys receives a Royal Warrant to be the sole purveyor of cocoa and chocolate to Queen Victoria. In 1866, Cadbury’s sons, Richard and George, who had taken over the business, purchased a Van Houten machine for the factory and began to market their own cocoa powder.
1868: Cadbury markets the first box of chocolate candies in 1868; decorated and packaged in a sentimental Victorian style.
1875: Milk chocolate is invented by Henri Nestle, initially from a formula meant for babies for sweetened condensed milk .
1880’s: Lindt invents the conching machine which makes chocolate smooth and starts making chocolate fondant. It also means that chocolate can be better tempered.
1890’s: American Milton Hersey starts production coating his original caramel and candies with chocolate.
1899: Queen Victoria sends every one of her soldiers fighting in the Boer War a chocolate bar
1905: Dairy Milk is introduced
1908: Toblerone goes on sale developed by Jean Tobler, in its famous triangular shape after the Swiss Mountains where he lived.
1910: Walnut Whip goes on sale
1913: Swiss chocolatier, Jules Sechaud develops the filled chocolate bonbon.
1915 Milk Tray goes on sale
1920 Flake goes on sale
1921 Fruit and Nut goes on sale
1923 Milky Way goes on sale in the USA
1926: Belgian Godiva Chocolatier first goes on sale (you can read more about Belgium chocolate here)
1929 Crunchie goes on sale
1930’s: Ruth Wakefield invents chocolate chip cookies after running out of baking chocolate. Originally, the chopped up improvised Nestle chocolate bar was supposed to blend into the mixture, rather than standing out and being visible.
1930 Snickers and Freddo go on sale
1932 Mars Bar goes on sale. So does Terry’s Chocolate Orange and All Gold.
1933 Whole Nut goes on sale. So does Black Magic.
1935 Aero and Kit Kat are introduced
1936 Nestle are the first chocolate company in the world to produce white chocolate bar, by excluding the cocoa mass from the chocolate coverture and increasing the amount of milk powder and sugar. It’s called ‘Galak’ and it’s still sold by the Nestle company to this day.
1936 Maltesers and Blue Riband go on sale. Dairy Box and Quality Street also go on sale.
1937 Smarties, Rolo and Milky Bar go on sale
1938 Cadbury’s Roses go on sale.
1941-1945: US military servicemen issued with three, four-ounce chocolate bars, containing around 600 calories per bar.
1953: End of chocolate rationing in the UK – a full eight years after the end of the 2nd World War.
1960: Galaxy goes on sale
1962: Topic goes on sale. After Eight goes on sale.
1963: Toffee Crisp goes on sale
1967: Twix goes on sale
1971: Yorkie, Double Decker and Lion Bar go on sale
1983: Wispa goes on sale
1980s onwards: Valrhona introduces the concept of the single origin chocolate bar, making their first with beans exclusively from South America. The 70% cacao bar is named Guanaja in honor of the island of Guanaja, off Honduras, where Christopher Columbus first tasted chocolate almost 500 years earlier. They call it a Grand Cru chocolate
2000: The Ivory Coast in West Africa becomes the world’s largest producer of cacao beans’ mostly harvested from smallholdings.
2014-19 the 4th type of chocolate – ruby chocolate is developed by Callebaut.
2017: The average Briton ate 11.2kg (24.7lb) of chocolate – the equivalent of munching through 266 Mars bars. This accounted for almost a third of the European market. In total, its estimated that the UK consumed 661million kg of cocoa-based products last year.
Whatever the future holds for chocolate one thing is certain; the History of Chocolate timeline is sure to hold yet more fascinating cocoa facts.