15th Century BC to Present
WorldwideChocolate is a preparation of roasted and ground cacao seeds that are made in the form of a liquid, paste, or in a block, which may also be used as a flavoring ingredient in other foods. The earliest signs of use are associated with Olmec sites (within what would become Mexico’s post-colonial territory) suggesting consumption of chocolate beverages, dating from 19 centuries BCE. The majority of Mesoamerican people made chocolate beverages, including the Maya and Aztecs. The word chocolate is derived from the Spanish word chocolate, deriving in turn from the Classical Nahuatl word xocolātl.
Ceramic vessel with residues from the preparation of chocolate beverages has been found at archaeological sites dating back to the Early Formative (1900–900 BC) period. For example, one such vessel found at an Olmec archaeological site on the Gulf Coast of Veracruz, Mexico dates chocolate's preparation by pre-Olmec peoples as early as 1750 BC.
Christopher Columbus encountered the cacao bean on his fourth mission to the Americas on August 15, 1502, when he and his crew seized a large native canoe that proved to contain among other goods for trade, cacao beans. His son Ferdinand commented that the natives greatly valued the beans, which he termed almonds, "for when they were brought on board ship together with their goods, I observed that when any of these almonds fell, they all stooped to pick it up, as if an eye had fallen."
The new craze for chocolate brought with it a thriving slave market, as between the early 17th and late 19th centuries the laborious and slow processing of the cacao bean was manual. Cacao plantations spread, as the English, Dutch, and French colonized and planted. With the depletion of Mesoamerican workers, largely to disease, cocoa beans production was often the work of poor wage laborers and African slaves.
1729 - The first mechanic cocoa grinder was invented in Bristol, UK. Walter Churchman petitions king of England for patent and sole use of an invention for the “expeditious, fine and clean making of chocolate by an engine.” The patent was granted by His Majesty King George II to Walter Churchman for a water engine used to make chocolate. Churchman probably used water-powered edge runners for preparing cacao beans by crushing on a far larger scale than previously. The patent for a chocolate refining process was later bought by J. S. Fry & Sons in 1761.
Wind-powered and horse-drawn mills were used to speed production, augmenting human labor. Heating the working areas of the table-mill, an innovation that emerged in France in 1732, also assisted in extraction. The Chocolaterie Lombart, created in 1760, claimed to be the first chocolate company in France, ten years before Pelletier et Pelletier.
Lindt & Sprüngli AG, a Swiss-based concern with global reach, had its start in 1845 as the Sprüngli family confectionery shop in Zurich that added a solid-chocolate factory the same year the process for making solid chocolate was developed and later bought Lindt's factory. Besides Nestlé, several chocolate companies had their start in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.