Second in a Series–Part one is here
Chocolate is a thousand year old mystery whose appeal is obvious but elusive. The flavor and texture as it melts in your mouth, the arousing of the senses. There is no substitute. It’s perfection, but, why?
Scientifically chocolate is a complex substance with a multitude of complex compounds. Fortunately you don’t need an advanced degree in pharmacology to love chocolate. Chocolate does make us happy when we eat it. It contains the highest concentration in any food of phenyl ethylamine, the chemical produced in the brain when a person is in love. Perhaps it’s this sensory experience combined with the chemical effects that initiates the affair.
More than 3,000 years ago, the Mayans and Aztecs enjoyed chocolate. Cocoa and hot chilies where combined to make a drink called "chocolatl". It was cold and bitter. Legend tells us the Aztec emperor Montezuma drank 50 cups of chocolate a day. It should also be noted that Montezuma drank a golden goblet of cacao beverage prior to entering his harem where he encountered a new partner every night. It may be here that the rumors of chocolate’s aphrodisiac qualities began.
The gold-seeking Spanish explorer, Hernando Cortez, came upon this drink during his travels and believed the drink had special powers, which could make people stronger. It was at this time that the conquering Spaniards changed the name of the emperor’s “cacahuatl” to “choolatl” and over time the name has evolved to what we know it as today. The following is taken from "Magic and Medicine Plants" by Readers Digest published 1986:
"In 1519, the Spanish explorer Harnando Cortez and his soldiers witnessed a strange ceremony at the court of the Aztec emperor, Montezuma. Seated high on a golden throne, observed by his subjects with reverent awe, the "living god" repeatedly drank from a golden goblet containing a beverage called chocolatl.
When the Indians honored the Spanish by offering them the bitter, dark brown drink, they explained that the beans from which it was made had come from paradise, and so each sip would bring wisdom and knowledge. So valuable were the beans to the Aztecs that they served as a form of currency: 4 beans could buy a wild turkey; 100 could purchase a live slave.”
Cortez praised chocolate effusively in a letter to the Spanish ruler, Charles V, and brought a supply of the beans home with him. Enthusiasm for the new drink, now made more palatable with the addition of sugar and vanilla (an improvement said to have been made about 1550 by the nuns of a Mexican cloister), spread to the French court. There it was considered an aphrodisiac and happily imbibed by those who could afford it. It was the English who added milk and sugar and dropped the chilies in the 17th century; with this new blend the drink quickly became popular with the social elite, who indulged themselves in fashionable chocolate houses, as did the Dutch, where aristocrats sipped the heavenly drink in privacy.
American’s fascination first began in 1765 when John Hanan brought cocoa beans back from the West Indies to Dorchester, Massachusetts to refine them along with the help of Dr. James Baker. It was here that the first chocolate factory in the country was established.
With growing interest and demand for chocolate among the American public the business of chocolate began. According to Nestle, these beginnings in the 1800s were successful not only due to popularity of the sweet but also attributed to four main factors: the introduction of cocoa powder in 1828; reduction of excise duties, improvements in transportation to facilitate the moving of the product from plantation to factory and the invention of chocolate suitable for eating.
The first chocolate came in tablets made of coarse-ground chocolate and sugar and possessed a bittersweet taste. This chocolate was sold to chocolates and pastry makers. The Cadbury Brothers are credited with displaying eating chocolate in 1849 at an exhibition in Birmingham, England. Three years later at Prince Albert’s Exposition in London citizens of the United States received their first tasting of bonbons, chocolate creams, hard candies, and caramels.
Although candy bars first appeared in England in the middle of the nineteenth century, it wasn’t’t until the last quarter of the century that the taste was refined for general eating. English Quakers offered drinking chocolate—along with beer—as a temperance drink. Some of the most famous names in chocolate were Quakers including Rowntree, Fry, Cadbury and Terry’s. Eventually the Swiss took over the market with their innovations in technology and commercial expertise from
Continue on for more / Snickers Cheesecake recipe
Image: Global Classroom