Inside a Chocolate Factory: How the Production Goes

The story begins some two millennia ago in the tropical rainforests of the Americas. Although the cacao tree had been around for some time, the natives had never used the beans inside the pods for food. Upon discovering that the seeds could be processed and used as a drink, it quickly caught on with these primitive people. The first people known to make chocolate from the cacao beans were the ancient cultures of Central America and Mexico. They would grind the beans and mix them with different seasonings and spices and then whip the beverage by hand until it was both frothy and spicy.

The Olmec Indians are believed to be the first culture magic mushrooms chocolate bars for sale  to grow the beans as a domestic crop, between 1500 and 400 B.C. From 250 to 900 C.E., the consumption of the beans was restricted to the elite class of the Mayan culture. Throughout these years, the drink was consumed unsweetened. Apparently the Mayan people valued the beans so highly that they planted them in their personal gardens so that they had easy access to them.

Around 600 A.D., the Mayans migrated into the northern regions of South America and began the earliest recorded plantations of cacao trees in the Yucatan. They used the beverage that they made in betrothal and marriage ceremonies.

Once the Aztec culture was able to abscond with some of the beans and learn how to make the beverage from them, they used them for medicinal purposes and in ceremonies such as weddings and religious rites. They believed that the beans were a gift from their gods. They are also the first known culture to tax the beans. Their name for the beverage that they made was “xocalatl”, translated to warm or bitter drink. The beans also began, at that time, to be used as currency by the Mesoamerican cultures. They were not used to make chocolate until they were too worn to be used as currency.

The first European to learn of chocolate was Christopher Columbus. He encountered a huge Mayan trading canoe piled high with the valuable beans. When the Spaniards invaded the Yucatan in 1517 and Mexico in 1519, they quickly caught on to the monetary value of the precious beans. They were not fond, however, of the warm, bitter and unsweetened drink which they received from the local people. It took some time, but they learned to adapt their taste buds to the drink and began to enjoy it.

The most popular story of the introduction of chocolate to Europe is that which credits Dominican friars with taking a delegation of Mayan nobles to the court of Prince Philip of Spain. As one of the many gifts which the nobles presented to the Prince, they gave him several jars of already processed cocoa which was ready to drink. The Spaniards did not, however, share this much loved beverage with the rest of Europe for nearly a century!

Sometime during the 16th century, the Spanish people began adding flavoring like vanilla and sugar cane to the chocolate drinks. Thus, sweetened chocolate was invented. And recorded history shows that the popularity of the beverage grew to the point that regular shipments began from Veracruz, Mexico to Seville, Spain in 1582.

The records are not completely clear on how chocolate was introduced to the rest of Europe. It’s thought that quite possibly it was distributed through monasteries and convents which were linked with Latin America. Jesuit Society members were major consumers of the drink and had become cocoa traders as well. A French Cardinal popularized the beverage in France and when Louis XIV married Maria Theresa of Spain in 1615 she, chocolate lover that she was, began a custom that spread like wildfire among the French aristocracy.