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Chocolate Facts
History of Chocolate

History of Dark Chocolate 

Dark chocolate history goes back at least 3000 years.  What began as a bitter drink in the pre-historic tropics of South America has become one of the world's most popular treats.  For most of this time, dark chocolate was the only form.  So chocolate history is really the history of dark chocolate.

Native American Drink

Throughout the tropical areas of Central and South America, a room-temperature drink made from cacao seeds has been enjoyed for several thousand years, with the earliest documented usage between 1400 to 1100 BC.  Pre-columbian societies, through the Maya and Aztec, used the drink for ceremonial and medicinal purposes, and also as a luxury for the elite.

This drink was very bitter, and was laced with various additions such as vanilla, chili pepper, sometimes alcohol, other spices, and corn meal.  It was served warm, with no sugar or other sweetener, and would not be particularly recognizable today.

Spanish discovery

Columbus was exposed to the native chocolate drink, but was unimpressed.  It was not until Hernando Cortez arrived that the value and possibilities in Spain were recognized.

The Spanish added cane sugar, or sometimes honey, to the formula, and also started serving the drink hot.  For almost 100 years the secrets of chocolate belonged exclusively to the Spanish, but then spread throughout Europe.  At first, chocolate was available only to royalty and the nobility, but was later made available in coffee and chocolate houses to any who could afford the expensive luxury.

Until this point, all chocolate was dark chocolate, so the history of chocolate was dark chocolate history.  It wasn't until 1689 that milk was added to the chocolate drink by Hans Sloan in Jamaica.

19th Century Change and Innovation

During the 19th century, chocolate changed from a dark chocolate drink available only to the rich to the inexpensive, mass-produced, eating chocolate that we enjoy today.  The development and growth of large plantations and markets, and the industrial revolution and mass production techniques, led to chocolate that was inexpensive enough to be available to everyone, and developed some of the names we are still familiar with today.

In 1828, the Dutch chocolate maker Conrad van Houten invented a hydraulic press to make cocoa powder, and an alkanizing process used to mellow the ta ste, and to make the powder easier to mix with water.  This process is now known as the  "dutch process" or "dutching process".

In 1847, Fry and Sons of England created the first solid eating chocolate using a process similar to that used today.  This product was, of course, a dark chocolate.

Cadbury's began business operations in England in 1860.  Tobler was making hand-made chocolates in Switzerland in 1864.  By 1876 the Swiss were adding dry milk to the formula to make milk chocolate.  Lindt invented the conch in 1879.  Milton Hershey began operations in 1894.  And in 1899, Lindt and Sprüngli were formed, and Tobler opened its first factory.

Modern Times 

In the 20th century, mass distribution greatly increased the range and world-wide popularity of chocolate, with milk chocolate becoming the "primary", most popular form. But, by the late 20th century, and into the early 21st, dark chocolate, the original, has been regaining popularity. 


History of Milk Chocolate

There is some confusion as to when milk was first used in the manufacture of a solid milk chocolate. It is though that in 1672 Sir Hans Sloane, founder of the British Museum and physician to Queen Anne and George II, had the brainwave of adding milk to drinking chocolate. the confusion deepens as in 1672 he was only 12 years old!

It seems that while Sir Hans was traveling in Jamaica, he recognised the therapeutic qualities of chocolate. He saw malnourished, sickly babies revive after being given a mixture of cocoa, spices and water. It was after this experience that he is thought to have introduced milk with cocoa, recognizing that milk had complimentary nutritional qualities. Sir Hans was a young man of great vision, but his recipe was regarded as pure;y medicinal and milk in chocolate only became commercially available some 200 years later! It was not until 1820, when the Cadbury brothers eventually came to own the recipe, that they used it to create their highly profitable drinking chocolate market.

In 1847, in an attempt to combat the flood of chocolate that was entering the UK from the Continent (mainly from Switzerland and France), Fry and Son started to make tablets of roasted and ground beans, mixed with sugar. These were sold as eating chocolate. By 1849 Cadbury was also selling “French” eating chocolate and as this new market expanded so the original enthusiasm for drinking chocolate diminished.

In 1876 the Swiss Daniel Peter working in conjunction with Nestlé, whose creamery was next door to his factory, formulated the first commercial milk chocolate recipe. As only a minuscule amount of moisture can be used “condensed” milk. Other manufacturers were quick to follow his lead in making this milder flavoured chocolate which now dominates the chocolate market today.

Three years later in 1879 Lindt created the last major manufacturing technique to producing modern chocolate. He discovered that a much smoother textured product could be made if chocolate was repeatedly rolled from side to side, in a stone vessel . This process is called conching, and can continue for as long as five days.


Fresh milk contains approximately 88% water, so it is not practical for use in it’s raw form. Water being the great enemy of chocolate! Most manufacturers today use milk crumb, which is produced by dissolving refined sugar in milk and then evaporating the water to produce condensed milk. Chocolate liquor is mixed with the sweetened condensed milk and the whole mixture is dried. The freshness and quality of the “original” milk is very important for the keeping qualities of the finished bar.


The crushed cocoa beans are weighed and blended according to each manufacturer’s recipe – these recipes are all kept top secret! Each cocoa variety has distinctive qualities and tastes and blending determines the chocolate’s flavour. Once blended, the coarse beans are ground into a fine paste. During this process, some of the cocoa butter melts due to the heat and friction generated in the grinding. One part of the resulting cocoa paste undergoes a further pressing to extract the cocoa butter.

The remaining chocolate paste / crumb is mixed with cocoa butter and sometimes extra chocolate liquor, sugar and flavouring i.e vanilla and the mixture is ground through a series of steel rollers. This is known as refining and grinds the cocoa particles so smooth that they can hardly be felt on the tongue, this mixture tastes pleasant but lacks the fine flavour of good chocolate.

Then the liquid is placed in conching machines. These are huge shell (conch in Latin) shaped machines, which slowly roll and turn the mixture for anything up to 5 days. Extra cocoa butter and lecithin can be added to give further smoothness. This process is designed to improve the flavour and texture of the final product and to remove any bitter / astringent residues in the chocolate.

The temperature of the liquid chocolate is raised then lowered and then raised again before being poured into the moulds. The tempering process is the all important influence on the final texture, appearance and shelf–life of the product.

The use of different types of SUGAR, as well as different varieties of cocoa beans, helps to create the individual flavours in milk chocolate.

 “Chocolate is an article so disguised in the manufacture that it is impossible to tell its purity or value. The only safeguard is to buy that which bears the name of a reputable maker"– Chambers, Manual of Diet 1902

History of White Chocolate

White chocolate is a (nearly) white confection based on cocoa butter without the cocoa solids. It also includes milk, sugar, and usually vanilla. Cocoa butter is the ingredient used in other chocolates so that they remain solid at room temperature yet melt easily in the mouth. Thus, white chocolate has a texture like that of chocolate but does not have the same taste. Some, however, find the taste similar to milk chocolate.

White chocolate was first made in Switzerland after World War I. It was first popularly distributed in America in 1984 with the introduction of Nestle's Alpine White Chocolate bar, which contained white chocolate and almonds.

As white chocolate does not contain cocoa solids it does not meet the standards to be called chocolate in many countries. In the United States since 2004 white chocolate needs to be at least 20% (by weight) cocoa butter, and at least 14% total milk solids and less than 55% sweeteners such as sugar. Before this date US firms needed temporary marketing permits to sell this cocoa solids-free chocolate. In the European Union white chocolate needs to contain not less than 20% cocoa butter and not less than 14% dry milk solids.

White chocolate can be used for decoration of milk or dark chocolate confections or in any way the chocolates might be used. It is softer than regular chocolate and harder to find.