The history of chocolate can be divided into three periods: the Mesoamerican period, the European period and the period from a drink to eating chocolate.
The history of chocolate starts in the Central and South American region. Before the arrival of Europeans, it was called Mesoamerica and covered the area, where we find Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua today.
The Mesoamerican period
In this period, the Olmecs (1500-400 BC) used cocoa beans with other foodstuffs, such as corn, chilli and beans. They probably called cocoa: Kakawa.
The Mayans arrived and created a highly developed society where cocoa or kakaw, as they called it, was not just a luxury commodity. It was also used as a means of payment.
Around 900 AD, the Toltecs built a society on the remains of the fallen Mayan realm. They believed that the cocoa tree was a gift form their priest god, Quetzalcoatl, who according to tradition lived on cocoa.
The Toltecs where outmanoeuvred by the Aztecs, who controlled the entire region in the 13th century. They also took control of the cocoa and the gold.
The European period
The history of chocolate continues in Europe, in 1502, after Christopher Columbus encountered cocoa on the island of Guanaja, which is part of Honduras today. Chocolate was used as a currency here.
The Spaniard, Hernán Cortés, took the trip across the Atlantic in 1519 and met the Aztec king Montezuma himself. According to legend, Montezuma was the second coming of the god Quetzalcoatl, but he was proven wrong. In 1521, Cortés challenged Montezuma and took control, as the first Spanish governor in the New World. He planted cocoa trees several places across the Carribean and presented cocoa to the Spanish king in 1528.
For the next hundred years Spain monopolised the cocoa market, where the new beverage was adjusted to European tastes. It developed into an elitist drink at court.
During the 17th century, cocoa spread to a number of other countries. In England, coffee, tea and cocoa arrived almost simultaneously and the trend of coffee houses emerged where the upper middle class had the opportunity to enjoy the new beverages. In Denmark, cocoa presumably made its entrance in the 18th century and for many years it was found only in pharmacies. Trojel and Meyer were both pharmacists and founded Toms, although this happened in 1924.
From beverage to real chocolate
The history of chocolate took a drastic turn in 1828, when the Dutch Van Houten invented a method for pressing the cocoa mass, removing a large portion of the cocoa butter (55% cocoa butter in cocoa beans). It gave a cocoa powder that was far more manageable for hot cocoa. Without knowing it, Van Houten had created the basis for making chocolate - accessible cocoa butter in its purest form.
The first chocolate bar was cast in Bristol, England in 1847, by Joseph Storrs Fry. To create the chocolate bar, extra cocoa butter had to be added to the sugar and cocoa mass.
Peter Daniel from Nestlé continued development by adding milk powder to chocolate and the first milk chocolate was made in 1875.
Chocolate resulted in a giant increase in demand for cocoa beans and cultivation spread. Africa, with Ghana and the Ivory Coast as leaders, became significant producers. Today, these two countries account for more than half of the global production.
Chocolate meant that a range of manufacturers established themselves in the latter half of the 19th century. Anthon Berg in 1884 and Galle & Jessen in 1872 just to name a few.
After two World Wars with scarcity of raw stuffs, chocolate production exploded in the sixties and hereafter. Chocolate was not restricted to special occasions but became an everyday treat.
In the last few years, a new trend has emerged, where consumers want more sophisticated chocolate. To a lesser degree, our economy sets the cap, the main restricting factor is the calorie budget - most possible enjoyment per calorie is the crave. It makes it more exciting to be a manufacturer and Toms is rejoicing for the increased passion that chocolate is enjoying.