What started as a small bean has become a favorite ingredient, dessert and snack for people worldwide. For thousands of years, chocolate has held a special place in the heart of ancient people, powerful historical figures and, eventually, the modern household. While stores worldwide now sell chocolate for us to enjoy, learning about the history of chocolate is essential for understanding the delicacies of this once-rare flavor.
Discover where chocolate comes from and how candy manufacturers make it today for a history lesson unlike no other.
Chocolate starts as a plant and, through careful harvesting and processing, transforms into the delicious sweet flavor we adore today. Farmers and chocolate manufacturers go through the following intricate steps to develop the finished product for stores worldwide.
Chocolate starts with a cacao pod. These football-sized pods grow on trees primarily in West Africa, Indonesia, India, Brazil and the Dominican Republic. Farmers who grow these plants can spot a ripe pod by its yellow color and surrounding white flowers.
Inside each pod, white pulp surrounds 30-40 cacao beans. Farmers harvest both ingredients to create the famous sweet dessert.
Farmers place the contents of each pod into a massive pile, letting the beans and pulp soak in the high temperatures and humidity to undergo fermentation.
Fermentation takes about a week to complete. During this process, yeast and bacteria begin to grow in the pile and eat some of the sugar and acid in the ingredients. Farmers will finish by drying the beans in the sun to let the excess water surrounding the ingredients evaporate.
Chocolate manufacturers roast the beans at high temperatures for about an hour to eliminate more of the acidic compounds from the original plants. This roasting process gives the beans the signature color, flavor and sweet, rich smell of the chocolate we know today.
After roasting, manufacturers crush the cacao beans, breaking open the outer shells to retrieve the cocoa nibs inside. After throwing away the outer layers, the manufacturers will continue to crush the cocoa nibs until cocoa butter comes out. The solids of the nibs and the liquids from the butter create a recognizable chocolate flavor.
The final step to making delicious chocolate is to add the other necessary ingredients. Manufacturers can create the tasty flavor of dark chocolate by simply letting the cocoa mixture cool. Producing milk chocolate requires adding milk, sugar and vanilla to create a smoother, sweeter taste.
Now that we know how chocolate is made today, how was chocolate discovered? The origin of chocolate dates back to over 5,300 years ago in South America. Archaeologists have found evidence that the Mayo-Chinchipe people in Ecuador used cocoa. In Central America, the Maya and Olmec people also used cacao trees’ ingredients for beverages and ritual purposes. This fascinating piece of history differs dramatically from how we consume chocolate today.
Chocolate’s popularity grew, spreading to a larger population when Europeans tried the sweet beverages that Mesoamericans admired and brought the ingredient back home. While travelers did not enjoy the flavor then, many Mesoamericans traveled to Europe, where those of high status indulged in the rareness of this ingredient.
Those with money and power were the only Europeans who consumed these beverages for centuries. It was not until the late 1700s, when industrialization made production easier, that people in many European countries and the newly formed U.S. began snacking on these treats more regularly. During this time, manufacturers began adding sugar, cacao liquor and cacao butter to each piece of chocolate to create the bars we love today.
The desire for chocolate by the elites in European countries came from the high prices of this rare ingredient. Those in power could sip these bitter drinks for the health benefits they brought and bask in the glory of obtaining this delectable flavor.
The history of chocolate changed in 1847 as the sweet treat was becoming a competitive business. Modern chocolate was invented because an Englishman named Joseph Fry discovered that melting the cocoa butter into the chocolate mix creates solidified chocolate bars.
Fry’s discovery would lead to the manufacturing of chocolate eggs and change the world’s view of chocolate from savory delicacies to sweet candies. Since he created chocolate eggs, chocolate has come to symbolize many holidays, such as Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween. He sparked a revolution in chocolate production that Nestle, Reese’s and Hershey quickly followed.
Chocolate has seen many experiments with flavor, size and added ingredients in recent years. However, dark, milk and white chocolate remain the most common chocolate types among those with a sweet tooth.
Many favorite chocolatey treats around the world include:
Joseph Fry likely had no idea of the chocolate revolution his invention would spark. Today, there are hundreds of chocolate manufacturers all over the world who provide concoctions of all kinds to the global population. Restaurants use this ingredient in their drinks and deserts, households hand it out to children on holidays and individuals of all ages give and receive it as gifts.
People’s attitude toward chocolate has changed significantly in the past century, thanks to Fry. As the world population continues to use chocolate in their favorite foods and as a savory treat, we know this ingredient will only become more prevalent in our cookbooks and hearts for many centuries.
If this history of chocolate has you craving delicious candy, Warrell Creations can satisfy your sweet tooth, fulfilling your marketing needs and delivering the flavor you desire. With over 50 years of experience creating chocolatey confections for companies across North America, we pride ourselves on our modern innovation. We provide consumers with the treats they enjoy with the packaging they will soon be looking for in grocery stores.
Your dream for the perfect tasty snack can come to life in our innovation labs. We can create your vision in various sizes, using our recipes or one of your own. Wrap up the candy creation process by packing your new treats in a private label for your brand to stand out.
Contact us today to get started on selling your candy concoctions.