The History of Chocolate

 

Did you know that the scientific name for chocolate literally means “food of the gods”? Or that the first chocolate bar as we know it today was born in the Belpaese? Today, Italian Traditions tells the story of the tastiest food of all time and of its timeless success.

The cacao plant has very ancient origins, which according to botanical research, trace the plant’s existence back to more than 6,000 years ago in the Amazon and Orinoco rivers. The first people to cultivate the plant were the Maya in 1,000 A.C. According to Aztec legend, the origins of the plant are linked to the death of a princess who sacrificed her own life to avoid revealing to her enemies the position of a hidden treasure that her husband had left behind for her. Legends tells that a plant grew from the young woman’s blood. A plant whose fruit contained cacao seeds: as bitter as suffering, as strong as virtue, as red as blood. After the Mayans, the Aztecs also began cocoa cultivation and later, the production of chocolate, which was associated with Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility. Cacao was offered to the gods together with incense, and sometimes mixed with the priests’ blood. In the Americas, chocolate was also consumed as a drink, flavored with vanilla, black and chili pepper.

Its diffusion in Europe started around 1519 thanks to the Spanish conquistadores , and it is exactly during their reign in Sicily that cacao was introduced to Italy, precisely in the “Contea di Modica”, the largest courtship in the Kingdom of Sicily, where the artisanal elaboration of chocolate began, which methods have been preserved until today. Chocolate soon became one of the most popular drinks in the flourishing 18th century Venetian cafés of the time. From then on, its cultivation and consumption increased exponentially, from east to west. The first chocolate bar as we know it today, was invented in the late 19th century in Turin, by the Frenchman, Doret. Also in Turin, in 1852 the famous Gianduiotto was born, a chocolate bar made with cocoa and chopped, toasted hazelnut. Then came the equally famous Bacio Perugina and the the most well-known and well-appreciated chocolate cream in the world, Nutella.

 

In 1802 Bozelli invented a machine to purify cacao and mix it with sugar and vanilla, but it wasn’t until 1820 that it was developed, and the first commercial chocolate bar was produced in England. In 1826, Pierre Paul Caffarel began the production of chocolate in large quantities, thanks to a new machine capable of producing more than 300 kg of chocolate a day. In 1828, the Dutchman Conrad J. van Houten patented a method of extracting fat from cocoa beans, turning it into cocoa powder and cocoa butter. The same old Aztec method is still used today in Modica to produce chocolate. The chocolate that we find today on the market is the result of lots of production experiments which successfully managed the extraction of the cocoa seed, mixing it with other ingredients. This production has been made possible thanks to the broad diffusion of this product among the public from the early nineteenth century.

Soft and smooth, delicate and seductive. Give yourself a divine cuddle, a sweet trip on our IT5 of the week.