Cocoa tree

About chocolate

History of chocolate

The birth of chocolate dates back to the period of the Maya, who used to live in the area of today's Mexico. They drank an aromatic, bitter and heavily spiced drink made of cocoa beans and such spices as chili. With time it became an integral part of their culture and religion, and started to be used during ritual ceremonies. The Maya passed the rite of making and drinking chocolate on to the Aztec, who then developed the drink by adding various ingedients: red pepper, vanilla or flower petals. The Aztec valued cocoa beans so much, that they decided to turn it into a circulating medium.


Cocoa beans were brought to Europe in 16th century by Ferdinand Cortez. Initially, the bitter drink gained little popularity, however, it changed after some sweet ingredients like honey were added to chocolate. During the first century after the discovery of cocoa, it was reserved mainly for the Spanish court and due to high price, only the richest could afford it. Popularity of chocolate grew in 17th century, after the substance reached the court of the French king Louis XIV, and then other European ones in Vienna and London. At the beginning drinking chocolate was a pastime for the rich because in countries like England authorities put high taxes on it. This changed in the middle of 19th century when cocoa beans and drinking chocolate became cheaper and easier accessible.

The first chocolate bar was produced in 19th century for army. Soon afterwards, milk chocolate was developed by mixing cocoa with powdered milk. Adding various ingredients like nuts, raisins or almonds in an Italian innovation.

Cocoa trees from a cocoa plantation in Ghana
Harvesting cocoa beans

The meaning of word "chocolate"

Etymology of the word chocolate is not obvious. Some sources say that the name comes from the word xocolatl, which literally means bitter water and comes from the language used in central and western Mexico. Others claim it derives from the Mayan word chokolhaa which denotes liquid or hot drink.

How chocolate is produced

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans. Cocoa trees are grown in the tropical forests of the equatorial zone in South and Central America, as well as Africa. Currently, the largest plantations are located in Africa - Ivory Coast and Ghana. Cocoa tree (Lat. Theobroma cacao) takes 6 years from planting until first fruit can be collected. Its flower grows straight from the trunk and turns into a fruit after 6 months. This is why one can see both fruit and new flowers on a single cocoa tree. Beans grow all year round, though harvesting takes place only twice a year. Mature fruit are then opened and beans are taken out from sweet pulp.

Proper character, colour and taste are achieved through fermentation, during which first flavours are developed. Beans ferment for some week, mixed in a special way every 2-3 days and then died, packed in jute bags and sent to purchase. Chocolate manufacturers select and roast the beans in order to develop their flavour and smell. After separation from rind, the fragmented and roasted beans are turned into liquid cocoa pulp. Then, fat is extracted from the pulp and afterwards the solid dry mass (known as presscake) is ground into powdered cocoa. Chocolate is made from all the three ingredients: cocoa pulp, cocoa butter and powdered cocoa.