World Chocolate Day … time to celebrate
Happy World Chocolate Day! This most-delicious of occasions occurs annually on 7 July and it’s traditional to commemorate the significance of the day by consuming chocolate. If this sounds like the kind of event you can definitely support, you might want to read on to learn more about the history of chocolate; hey you’ve got to do something while you’re eating all that chocolate!
Anthropologists have found evidence that chocolate was produced as early as 1900 B.C. by the ancient Mesoamericans who first cultivated cacao plants and fermented, roasted and ground the cacao beans into a paste that was mixed with water, vanilla, honey, chilli and other spices to brew a drink.
Ancient civilisations believed that chocolate contained mystical and spiritual properties due to the effects that it had on their mood. By the 14th century cacao beans were being used as a currency, and in the 1500s Spanish explorers brought chocolate back to Spain where it was sweetened with cane sugar and cinnamon and enjoyed by the elite. When a Spanish princess married French King Louis XIII in 1615, chocolate made an appearance in the French court and quickly spread to other European courts.
In 1828 Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten invented the cocoa press which revolutionised chocolate making, and was the beginning of its popularity spreading from the elite to the masses. The press could squeeze the fatty cocoa butter from roasted cacao beans, leaving a dry cake that could be ground into a powder to mix with other ingredients and poured into moulds to make chocolate.
In 1847, the British chocolate company J.S. Fry & Sons created the first solid edible chocolate bar from cocoa butter, cocoa powder and sugar. By 1879 Rodolphe Lindt had invented a machine which produced chocolate with a velvety texture and superior taste. Other advances followed that allowed for the mass production of chocolate and a significant drop in the price that made it more attainable for the middle classes.