The word 'chocolate' comes from the Nahuatl language of Central Mexico. The word might have been derived from xocolli meaning bitter and atl meaning water. According to a theory by the Mexican philologist, Ignacio Davila Garibi, Spaniards coined the word chocolate as a combination of the Mayan word chocol suffixed with the word atl. The Mexicans believe that the word chicolear, means 'to beat, stir'. In olden times, chocolate was served with beater sticks. This was the association between 'beating' and 'chocolate'. Whatever the studies may show, what most of us are interested in, is eating chocolate. It's ultimately the chocolaty taste and feel that tempts us all.
We know that the basic ingredient of chocolates is cacao. Cacao beans are the product of cacao trees. Some think that the cacao tree originated in the Amazon while others argue that it is originally either from Orinoco Valley of Venezuela or from Central America. A mature cacao tree is 15-25 feet tall. It bears fruit having green- or maroon-colored pods. Rich brown colored cacao beans are removed from the pods.
It has been found that the earliest use of cacao dates back to 1100 B.C. The people of Puerto Escondido in Honduras might have used it as an alcoholic beverage. The Aztecs linked chocolate to the Goddess of Fertility. Locals consumed chocolate in a drink known as xocoatl. Vanilla, chili pepper, and annatto were often added to the drink. Some other chocolate drinks of the olden days contained maize gruel and honey.
Christopher Columbus brought cacao beans to Spain and the Spanish introduced cacao to the Europeans. By 1585, cacao beans had come to Europe. The Europeans added milk and sugar to cacao and seasoned it with vanilla. This brought a dramatic change to the taste of chocolate, making it one of the luxury items among the Europeans.
Towards the culmination of the 18th century, Doret invented a solid chocolate in Turin. Pierre Paul Caffarel sold this form. In 1819, the first Swiss chocolate factory was established. Dutchman Coenraad Johannes van Houten devised a method for extracting fat from cocoa beans and making cocoa butter and powdered cocoa. He designed a method to treat chocolate with alkali to get rid of its bitter taste. Joseph Fry made the first edible chocolate in 1847. Two years later, that is in 1849, Cadbury Brothers followed. Till date, this company continues to rule the chocolate industry. In 1875, Daniel Peter, assisted by Henri Nestle, came up with a milk chocolate. Rodelphe Lindt introduced the process of conching, the technique of heating and grinding chocolate solids for obtaining an evenly blended liquid.
Since olden times, xocoatl was believed to relieve a person from fatigue, owing to its theobromine content. The South Americans and the Europeans used cacao to treat diarrhea for centuries. In the pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, cacao beans were used as currency. This was the value that chocolate had attained in common man's life.
During the second half of the seventeenth century, people of England were fortunate to greet chocolate to their country. In 1657, a chocolate house opened in London, for the first time ever. In the 1700s, mechanical mills began to be used for squeezing out cacao butter. This helped in the making of hard chocolate that was durable. Industrial revolution boosted the popularity of chocolate, taking it all over the world in very less time.