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The History of Chocolate is a Record with Centuries of Appreciation

The history of chocolate doesn't mention the delicious confectionery's source until the ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures came upon and recognized the value of the cacao plant. Chocolate makers used the products of the plant for currency and units of calculation. The first cocoa plantations were said to have been in northern South America where the Mayans migrated in about 600 AD.

Christopher Columbus reportedly brought the valuable beans back to King Ferdinand after his fourth visit to the New World. These beans and their value were overlooked at the time in the shadow of numerous other treasures Columbus had found.

The first notable recognition of chocolate was when Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez attended the court of Emperor Montezuma of Mexico. Cortez brought the treasured chocolate back to the royal court of King Charles the Fifth. The King had Monks that were hidden away in Spanish monasteries process the cocoa beans and was able to keep chocolate a secret for almost a century. This created a profitable industry for Spain who then proceeded to plant cocoa trees in its overseas colonies.

Finally, an Italian traveler by the name of Antonio Carletti came upon the valuable chocolate and introduced it to other parts of Europe. The first chocolate house was reported to have been opened in 1657 in London by a Frenchman. Chocolate was considered to be a beverage strictly for the upper class and was priced accordingly.

Chocolate didn’t make its way to the United States until 1765 when it was introduced by Irish chocolate-maker John Hanan who imported cocoa beans from the West Indies into Massachusetts, and refined them with the help of an American Dr. James Baker. Together they set up America’s first chocolate mill and by 1780 were making the now famous Baker’s ® chocolate.

The Dutch came up with the cocoa press which simplified the process of making chocolate and lowered the price making it more accessible to everyone. Not long after Joseph Fry and Son made a discovery by adding back in some of the cocoa butter removed in processing as well as sugar. They were left with a paste that could be molded and voila, the chocolate bar was born. That was in 1859. From there chocolate production just got tastier, better and became one of the most popular gifts for any occasion. (see: )

Nicole Martins is a contributing author and publisher to, an online buyer’s guide for sending unique food gifts.

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