History of Chocolate
Where It First Showed Up
The history of chocolate can be traced to the ancient Mayans, and even earlier to the
ancient Olmecs of southern Mexico. The word chocolate may conjure up images of sweet candy bars and
luscious truffles, but the chocolate of today is little like the chocolate of the past.
Throughout much of history, chocolate was a revered but bitter beverage, not a sweet, edible treat.
The Olmecs undoubtedly passed their cacao knowledge on to the Central American Mayans who not only
consumed chocolate, they revered it. The Mayan written history mentions chocolate drinks being used in
celebrations and to finalize important transactions.
Despite its importance in Mayan culture, it was not reserved for the wealthy and powerful
but readily available to almost everyone. In many Mayan households, chocolate was enjoyed with every meal.
Mayan chocolate was thick and frothy and often combined with chili peppers, honey or water.
Click Here or Images For More Information On Olmecs
Production of Chocolate
How It's Produced
- Cacao seeds are harvested by hand because machines could injure the trees. Workers remove the pods, which are orange when they are ripe, and open them with a machete.
- The seeds are placed in large fermentation trays that are stacked and covered in banana leaves, where they are left for two to seven days. Fermentation produces the chocolate flavor and aroma.
I. It also destroys the seed's embryo, preventing unwanted germination, and causes the white pulp to fall away from the seeds. After fermenting, the beans dry out on sunny platforms.
Workers turn them several times a day for three to five days to complete drying. The beans can dry faster in rotary driers but sun-dried beans taste the best.(See Image Right)
Next, the beans are taken to the chocolate factory, where they are cleaned and debris is removed.
The beans are roasted in large, rotating ovens.
I. The roasting draws out flavor and removes the beans from their hulls.
The remaining part of the bean is called the nib. Nibs become chocolate. The nibs are ground down under a series of
rollers. This process results in a thick paste called chocolate liquor.
I. Chocolate liquor does not contain alcohol (however, chocolate liqueur does).
It is the main source of unsweetened baking chocolate, according to Pam Williams, co-founder and past president of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) and founder and lead instructor of Ecole Cocolat Professional School of Chocolate Arts.
At this stage, the type of chocolate being produced is determined. According to the FCIA, ingredients separate fine chocolate from that of average quality.
I. "Fine chocolate", as designated by the FCIA, contains only cacao liquor, cacao butter (optional), sugar, lecithin, vanilla (optional) and possibly milk fats and solids.