Apparently it is National Chocolate week this week. As I thought this was a made up idea by the chocolate industry to make us buy more chocolate, I did a bit of research and it is a real thing! It is so real in fact that I am actually considering attending next year.
I decided to do a bit of research into the history of chocolate and the countries which supported the development of it. I also did some research into chocolates made in different countries, it is a tough job but someone had to do it.
Chocolate comes from the Cocao (which obviously we all know already thanks to Willy Wonka) and has been cultivated for three millennia in Mexico (Aztec) and South America. It was originally used in drink form only, called xocolatl (bitter water). The beans were so valuable that they were even used as money and played a role in by both the Aztec and Maya religious and royal ceremonies. The emperor Montezuma in Tenochitian used to drink lots of xocolatl before visiting his harem of wives ( this is where the link of sex and chocolate is believed to come from)!!
It was in 1528 that Hernan Cortés conquered the Aztec Empire and brought the first cocoa, and the utensils necessary for its preparation, back to Europe. Until this point no one in Europe had heard of this popular South American drink. Within a century it had spread across Europe. However it was still being consumed as a drink only. The Europeans found it very bitter so added cane sugar and removed the chili pepper while retaining the vanilla, in addition they added cinnamon as well as other spices. Plenty of honey and cane sugar were needed to make the drink palatable to Europeans.
It was not until the eighteenth/nineteenth centuries, after the industrial revolution and the invention of the steam engine, that cocoa came into mass production and it was in 1826 when chocolate as we know it now was created.
The Swiss added milk and the Victorian British Quakers saw the chocolate drink as an alternative to the dreaded gin, and the Americans made it available to the masses. Here are some of the most famous chocolate producers in the world and their histories:
Although J S Fry& Sons were the first company to discover a way to create a solid chocolate bar, it was the Cadbury brothers who got the Royal Warrant and the rest is history.
In 1861 John Cadbury’s sons took over and decided to move production so they were closer to a railway line (for cocoa deliveries) and the canal (for milk deliveries). They purchased the Bournebrook estate and renamed it Bournville, they opened the factory a year later.
George Cadbury bought land next to the site and built 313 cottages and houses for the workers to live in. Because they were Quakers there were no pubs on the estate. The business started by selling tea, coffee and cocoa as an alternative to alcohol.
Switzerland produces some amazing chocolate – including two very distinctive brands Lindt – the gold bunnies – and Toblerone – the triangles. Toblerone was created in Bern in Switzerland in 1908. The name comes from the creators own name Theodor Tobler and the Italian name for nougat, torrone. The triangles are supposed to be influenced by the shape of the Matterhorn in the Swiss alps and this is the picture on the front of the box. However, Theodor’s sons said the triangle shape was inspired by the dancers at the Folies Bergeres who formed a pyramid at the end of the show. Toberlone was unique as it was the only milk chocolate to include nougat, almond and honey in the triangle shape.
In the early part of the 20th Century Swiss Milk Chocolate was class as a luxury product in America and could only be purchased by the rich. In 1900 Milton Hershey sold his caramel company and brought 1200 acres of farm land. Here he would be able to produce large amounts of milk that he needed to produce fine milk chocolate. In the same year he had managed to create his own formula for milk chocolate and produced the very first Hershey’s Bar. Hershey’s Kisses were developed in 1907. In 1903 he started work on the world’s largest chocolate factory and it was completed in 1905 making it possible for Hersey’s chocolate to be the first product of its kind to be nationally marketed. Like the Cadbury brothers, Hershey was a philanthropist. Surrounding the factory was farmland, houses, businesses and churches which all flourished with his help. He built a model town, complete with cheap public transport, school, dance hall and swimming pool.
Congratulations Sue Dykes who correctly guessed Brussels in this week’s Mystery Monday competition!
A £25 alpharooms.com voucher is on its way to you.