With the days getting longer and Spring in the air, chocolate lovers know that Easter is around the corner! Supermarket shelves are bursting with chocolate of many varieties – but where did chocolate originate from, and what led it to become one of the nations favourite pleasures that it is today?
The Ancient Mayans are believed to be the first civilization to consume chocolate, but it was originally a bitter chocolate drink rather the bars of chocolate that we now today. They referred to it as ‘the food of the gods’ believing that it had special mystical powers and was an aphrodisiac. It was a highly prized delicacy and reserved for noble people and honoured warriors. When the Aztecs started to dominate the region, they also wanted some of this tempting delicacy. They would trade with the Mayans for the cocoa beans and the coveted beans were used as currency in their culture.
In the 1500s, the region was discovered by Spanish explorers hoping to discover gold and silver – but instead returning to Spain with a far greater treasure – chocolate! The Spanish, like the Mayans and the Aztecs couldn’t get enough of it, but like the Mayans, the exquisite treat was only enjoyed by the Royal and wealthy. The Spanish also changed it slightly – sweetening it by adding can sugar and cinnamon to the recipe, but still drank it like the Aztecs and the Mayans. The Spanish kept chocolate their secret for over a century, until in 1615, the daughter of the Spanish King Married the French King Louis XIII – spreading the love of chocolate all across the aristocracy of Europe.
The Europeans set about harvesting the cocoa beans by using the native people of Central America as slaves, until diseases brought over by the Europeans wiped out the native population. They then started to import slaves from Africa to work on the plantations. Despite the vast amounts that were being imported, chocolate was still an expensive delicacy reserved only for the wealthy. In 1828 however, all that changed. An invention by Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten – the chocolate press – revolutionised the production of chocolate, lowering production costs and making it available to the masses.
From then into the 19th century, well known chocolate companies were formed that are still as popular as ever – including Cadburys! All chocolate enthusiasts would love a trip to Cadbury world – stay at http://www.8waterloostreet.co.uk/ serviced apartments in Birmingham, and head to Cadbury world to witness the story of chocolate and treat yourself to a few goodies along the way!