Chocolate candy has an interesting and very long history. 90% of this history occurs in the New World where chocolate was a favored drink among the Aztecs who loved the drink so much that they required tributary payments from conquered peoples in the form of cacao beans. This was not chocolate candy by any stretch of the imagination, this drink was very bitter and was often spiced with vanilla and chile peppers, a distant cousin to our modern, super-sweet chocolate candy!
Europeans took awhile to catch on to the delicious qualities of chocolate, but once they did they fell for it hook, line and sinker. Chocolate drinks became fashionable among the upper classes in the 18th century (the first chocolate house in London opened its doors in 1657), these Europeans sweetened their bitter chocolate with sugar and milk, sort of like a chocolate tea.
Chocolate candy as we recognize it, in solid form, wasn’t invented until 1819 when the first Swiss factory opened its doors. The owner of the factory had patented a new method for taking the fat out of cocoa beans to make cocoa powder and cocoa butter, the ingredients that bring us the modern chocolate bar. This is called the “dutch process” of chocolate making and persists to this day!
The Swiss torch was passed on to legendary choclatiers such as the Cadbury brothers and Henri Nestle who pioneered delicious products that would spread delicious chocolate candy to all the corners of the world.
Today two-thirds of the world’s cocoa production comes from western Africa with the Ivory Coast accounting for a full 43% of the world’s cocoa! Life can be tough for cocoa farmers who have to maintain very low costs to remain profitable. The Chocolate Manufacturer’s Association acknowledged in 2001 that children are a major source of labor for cocoa farmers. There are many organizations trying to improve life for these children though. Check out the DIV Kinder website, and consider helping them out with a small donation if you can!
Chocolate candy has delighted millions of people the world over for many, many years and will continue to do so for years to come! In the mean time, if you’re looking for a historically delicious chocolate bar, try “The Aztec:” dark chocolate with ground chili and bourbon vanilla!
For more information on the transformation of cocoa from bean to bar check out this article!