The history of chocolate

A brief history of the universe (as seen by a chocoholic)

The history of chocolate

1500 BC
Cocoa beans were first grown by the Olmec Indians of Central America. The Olmec civilisation eventually gave way to the Mayans (around 500 AD), who traded in cocoa beans.

1200 AD
The Mayans start trading cocoa with the Aztecs, who restrict consumption of the beans to nobility. Spoilsports.

1492
The Aztecs introduce Columbus to cocoa beans. In return, Columbus and his cohorts introduce the Aztecs to a nasty strain of the black death.

1590
Have you heard the one about the Spanish nuns in Oaxaca, Mexico? They were the first people to sweeten chocolate with honey and cane sugar. That’s all.

1606
Antonio Carletti introduces chocolate to the Italians, who gesticulate wildly in appreciation.

1641
German poindexter Johann Georg Voldkammer introduces cocoa to his countrymen, who make a habit of sipping a cup of hot chocolate before bed.

1819
The eccentric and mysterious François Louis Callier opens the first Swiss chocolate factory. He places five golden tickets in… wait…

1849
The Cadbury brothers begin selling ‘chocolates for eating’ – in Birmingham, of all places.

1851
The Americans first get a taste for fattening foods at Prince Albert’s Exposition, where US delegates tucked into bonbons, chocolate creams, and boiled sweets. It all went downhill from here.

1930
White chocolate is first produced by Nestlé.

2011
People still like chocolate. A lot. Between 2010 and 2011, 3.87 million tonnes of cocoa grind is expected to be produced. Fears of a world chocolate shortage have been fuelled by civil war in the Ivory Coast (the world’s biggest exporter of cocoa) and global warming. If ever there was a reason for a harmonious and sustainable society, it’s this.

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