Christmas and chocolate: a history

Christmas and chocolate go hand-in-hand. It all began with the chocolate log. Back in the Middle Ages, roaring log fires would warm houses during the chilly winter months. Later on, these logs became decorative and eventually took on the chocolate taste of today.

But how much do you know about the history of chocolate? Here are some key dates (and famous names):

1000 B.C.: Cacao is discovered in Ecuador, where locals made a bitter hot chocolate-type beverage from cacao beans.

400-900 A.D.: As well as eating cocoa, the Maya use it as currency to trade and barter for goods: for example, 10 beans would buy you a rabbit. The Maya also had a cacao god and would bury the dead alongside jars full of cocoa.

1600s: After cacao spread to Europe, people begin to see the benefits of eating the beans, as a caffeine hit and an aphrodisiac. Machines were invented to speed up the production of chocolate, and people begin eating and drinking it for energy. It was the beginner’s version of coffee.

1850s: An Englishman named Joseph Fry discovers that using more cocoa butter creates a solid form of the delicious bean. The chocolate bar is born.

1861: Chocolate becomes a Valentine’s Day treat when Richard Cadbury creates the first heart-shaped chocolate.

1879: A new machine arrives to make modern-day chocolate. The first chocolate bar was rough and grainy, until Rodolphe Lindt invented the conche machine, which rolls and refines the cocoa to create the creamy texture we’ve come to enjoy today.

1895: The Hershey Bar is born as Milton Hershey produces the first Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar, followed by Hershey’s Kisses. This is also the time when cocoa production costs drop, making chocolate much more accessible to the entire population.

1930: Nestlé begins making white chocolate (originally named Galak) primarily from cocoa butter, sugar and milk.

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