Some would say chocolate deserves a poem or even an ode, but let’s be serious, chocolate is a muse able to inspire all kind of artists and let us taste a better world, at least for a second.
Chocolate is not only a delicious experience but if you take it dark, it’s also a very good source of antioxidants. And if you want your next chocolate bar less caloric, ignore the diet/light weird stand and go for the best quality chocolate in the shop. Cheap chocolate has its natural cocoa butter replaced by cheaper vegetable oils, way more caloric and without all the benefits present in chocolate.
Spanish chocolate holds no fame, though it was brought to Europe by Hernán Cortes. Many other American produce arrived along but while potatoes or tomatoes were considered strange and took a long time to adapt, chocolate was love at first sip.
Drinking chocolate was already trendy in Spain in the 16th century, after it was sweetened with sugar cane from the Caribbean. As the Spaniards first met chocolate, it was mixed with chilies and was spicy, bitter and sweet. The word chocolate is supposed to come from Mayan xocolālt, meaning ‘bitter drink’.
The first known use of chocolate was as a beverage, but this happened in 1,400 BC in Central America where the tropical heat didn’t put you in the mood for a hot cocoa cup. Its naturally present sugar was used by Olmec, Mayans and all other Mesoamerican peoples to ferment alcoholic drinks.
And something similar happened in hot Spain, where it was served with cold milk and vanilla as a summer refreshment. From that time, they are still working a chocolate atelier in Spain, Chocolates Amatller, established in Barcelona in 1797. You can actually get a taste of chocolate history because they still make the same chocolates and candy, following the original recipes.
From Spain, chocolate lovers’ trends moved to Amsterdam. To the van Houten family we owe the Dutch process in chocolate, as father and son invented the way to put bitter out of chocolate and make it soluble in water. The invention grew fond in nearby Belgium, starting its international popularity as a chocolate destination. It’s impossible to walk around La Grand Place of Brussels without coming across a chocolate shop every two steps.
If you only have little time to enjoy chocolate shopping in Brussels, which you shouldn’t, go to La Maison des Maitres Chocolatiers Belges to find all the finest brands of Belgium in one beautiful single place. Also, find the time to visit the Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat to learn all about chocolate making process from the Mayans to Starbucks frapuccinos.
The last final stop on our journey following chocolate history leads us to Switzerland, and to some names you may recognize. Henri Nestlé had a neighbor who was experimenting with milk and the van Houten device and working together they created and marketed the first milk chocolate bar in 1875.
Rodolphe Lindt found a better way for chocolate to blend and elevated it to the category of art, raising chocolate lovers for millions. One hundred years later the trends are going back to the roots and spicy chocolate is the next experience you should try.
This post likes to end sharing with you a hot debate that started some point around 1955 by the creation of white chocolate. It doesn’t contain all the solids of cocoa butter but some like wikipedia go all the way and say ‘it is not true chocolate’, what frankly can hurt a little bit. How are we supposed to make it without white chocolate cheesecake everything? Let’s hear what you have to say!