The word "chocolate" can refer to raw or processed food that is made of the seeds of a tree called Theobroma cacao. It's been at least 3000 years since cacao has been cultivated in Mexico, South and Central America. The earliest documented use of cacao dates as far back as the year 1100 BC. Even the Aztecs made a beverage known as "xocolātl", which in the Nahuatl language means "bitter water". Because the cacao seeds are extremely bitter, they need to be fermented in order for them to get the flavor we all know.
After the beans are fermented, they are dried, cleaned and roasted. The shell is removed in order to produce nibs of cacao. These nibs are then ground into a cocoa mass. Due to the fact that the cacao mass is then turned into liquid and mixed with other ingredients, it is called chocolate liquor. This liquor can also be processed into cocoa butter and cocoa solids. Bitter chocolate is sugar free kind of chocolate which is made of varied proportions of cocoa butter and cocoa solid parts. However, the majority of the chocolate consumed nowadays is the so-called sweet chocolate which combines sugar, other fats, cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Milk chocolate is still sweet chocolate, but with condensed milk or milk powder. White chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids, only milk, sugar and cocoa butter.
Cocoa solids are made of alkaloids like phenethylamine or theobromine. These two have physiological effects on the human body. These effects have been linked by some researchers with the levels of serotonin in the brain. Apparently, the word "chocolate" came from Spanish. There are many various theories about how the word got into English from Spanish. Regardless of the origin of its name, as a drink, chocolate has been used for almost its entire history.
In the year 2007, some archaeologists unveiled the results of their evidence findings regarding some of the oldest uses and cultivation of cacao, at a Puerto Escondido site called Honduras. These pieces of evidence dated as far back as about 1100-1400 BC. According to the residues discovered on some sort of vessel, cacao was more than a simple beverage - in fact, it was even used in alcoholic drinks.
People from the Maya civilization used to grow cacao trees in the backyard, and apparently used cacao seeds in order to produce a bitter kind of drink. Some Maya hieroglyphs attest that chocolate was used for certain daily ceremonies. Throughout the pre-Columbian age, cacao beans were sometimes used as currency, because they were regarded as some sort of luxury products. Thus, the Aztecs used to pay one hundred cacao beans for one turkey, and three cacao beans for one fresh avocado. Both in Europe and in South America, cocoa was largely used since hundreds of years for treating cases of diarrhea. Since all the Aztec-ruled areas were asked to pay a tax, those who cultivated cacao beans ended up giving cacao seeds as a means of payment.
But the European continent did not find out about this now tremendously popular drink until the sixteenth century. It was only after the Aztecs got conquered by the Spanish that chocolate got the chance of being imported to the European continent. The Spanish Royal court soon began to completely adore this delicious product. It then took only a century for chocolate to spread all across Europe and gain more and more fame. In their desire to keep up with the growing demand for the new drink, the Spanish went so far as to begin turning Mesoamericans into slaves in order to make them work for producing cacao. Although harvesting cacao turned into a normal, regular kind of business, still only the wealthy ones could take the privilege of enjoying this expensive import product. But the Spanish soon started to grow cacao plantations and used African people to work for them.
As far as England was concerned, it was only in 1657 that the first chocolate house was opened in the fancy London city. Later on, in 1689, we have knowledge of a physician called Hans Sloane who managed to develop a special kind of milk chocolate drink. This drink was developed in Jamaica and was used at first by apothecaries, and in 1897 was bought by the notorious Cadbury brothers.
So as we can clearly see, chocolate has been in people's lives since ancient times, and still keeps on hitting the market with new, improved and always delicious products.