History of Chocolate
The first evidence of chocolate can be traced in the vocabulary of the Olmec civilization in 1500- 400 B.C. Nevertheless, the discovery of chocolate is officially attached to later civilizations of Maya and Aztecs.
The first ones who made a bitter liquid out of cocoa beans were the Maya. Advanced Maya civilization connected cacao with many of their rituals, they even attributed a special god to cocoa. In the honour of gods, the Maya also celebrated the feast of planting in which they sacrificed a dog or be celibate for thirteen nights. The fourteenth night they spent with their wives and after they planted the cocoa.
Chocolate was prepared by crushing sun dried cocoa beans while mixing them with a little bit if water. Maya also added vanilla, Aztects liked chocolate more with the strong ingredient of exotic fruit, bitter almonds, rough pepper or even honey.
In 1505, Christopher Columbus encountred cocoa drinks on his fourth journey. Even though neither he nor his crew liked it, Columbus took some cocoa beans with him on his journey back to Europe. Not until the 16th century did the misionaries in Mexico add sugar to the cocoa, thus creating the not only nutritious but also tasty drink. This drink became very popular with the Spanish aristocracy and later its fame spread throughout Europe.
The first chocolate factory was established in 1815 by Dutch company van Houten. Thirteen years later, the Dutch also patented the production of cocoa powder. In 1847, the workers of J.S. Fry & Sons discovered that the combination of cocoa powder, sugar and melted cocoa butter creates chocolate in solid state. This new invention was very popular and spread in other European countries including Belgium. The first milk chocolate bar appeared in 1879 and first filled chocolate pralines in 1913.
The chocolate pralines, predecessors of the Belgian pralines, were also praised by Luis XIV. The name Belgian pralines is associated with gourmand and military legend Count du Plessis-Praslin, a French marshal. It was the marshal’s chef, Lasagne, who invented the chocolate pralines. The praise, however, went to his master, the marshal. Nonetheless, if you visit Montargis, where Lasagne retired, you will learn the true story. Additionally, Lasagne established the Maison de Pralines (House of Pralines), which is still there today.
Nowadays, chocolate is a common consumer product that takes many different shapes and flavours.