The Story of Chocolate

Cocoa Pod
Theobroma Fruit

A Brief Timeline of Chocolate History

Cocoa, the main ingredient of chocolate is said to have originated in the Amazon basin at least 4000 years ago.

1500 BC-400 BC

The Olmec Indians are believed to be the first to grow cocoa beans as a domestic crop.

250 to 900 CE

The consumption of cocoa beans was restricted to the Mayan society’s elite, in the form of an unsweetened cocoa drink made from the ground beans.

AD 600

Mayans migrate into northern regions of South America establishing earliest known cocoa plantations in the Yucatan.

14th Century

The drink became popular among the Aztec upper classes who usurped the cocoa beverage from the Mayans and were the first to tax the beans. The Aztecs called it “xocalatl” meaning warm or bitter liquid. It was often mixed with chilli in a drink.


Columbus encountered a great Mayan trading canoe in Guanaja carrying cocoa beans as cargo. Christopher Columbus was the first European to discover the beans.


Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez recorded the cocoa usage in the court of Emperor Montezuma. He recorded the Aztec emperor feasting on a cup of Xocoatl. The liquid was so precious that it was served in gold goblets and used as a form of currency.


Cortes returned to Spain and, realising the beans potential, seeded “money crops” on the West African Islands of Fernando Po, Bioko, Trinidad and Haiti. On his return to Spain he presented the beans to King Charles V. It is from these islands that the huge Cacao trade had developed which is now dominated by four West African Nations.


Dominican friars took a delegation of Kekchi Mayan nobels to visit Prince Philip of Spain. The Mayans brought gift jars of beaten cocoa, mixed and ready to drink. Spain and Portugal did not export the beloved drink to the rest of Europe for nearly a century.

16th Century Europe

The Spanish began to add cane sugar and flavourings such as vanilla to their sweet cocoa beverages.


Cocoa gained popularity as a medicine and aphrodisiac.


First official shipments of cocoa beans began arriving in Seville from Vera Cruz, Mexico.


The first chocolate house was opened in London by a Frenchman. The shop was called The Coffee Mill and Tobacco Roll. Costing 10 to 15 shillings per pound, chocolate was considered a beverage for the elite class.


Eating solid chocolate was introduced in the form of chocolate rolls and cakes, served in chocolate emporiums.


Cocoa beans had dropped in price from $3 per lb. to being within the financial reach of those other than the very wealthy.


French inventor, Monsieur Dubuisson invented a table mill for grinding cocoa beans.


Swedish naturalist, Carolus Linnaeus was dissatisfied with the word “cocoa,” so renamed it “theobroma,” Greek for “food of the gods.”


Chocolate was introduced to the United States when Irish chocolate-maker John Hanan imported cocoa beans from the West Indies into Dorchester, Massachusetts, to refine them with the help of American Dr. James Baker. The pair soon after built America’s first chocolate mill and by 1780, the mill was making the famous BAKER’S ® chocolate.


Dr. Joseph Fry of Bristol, England, employed a steam engine for grinding cocoa beans, an invention that led to the manufacture of chocolate on a large factory scale.


Antoine Brutus Menier built the first industrial manufacturing facility for chocolate.


The pioneer of Swiss chocolate-making, François Louis Callier, opened the first swiss chocolate factory.


The invention of the cocoa press, by Conrad Van Houten, helped cut prices and improve the quality of chocolate by squeezing out some of the cocoa butter and giving the beverage a smoother consistency. Conrad Van Houten patented his invention in Amsterdam and his alkalizing process became known as “Dutching”. Several years earlier, Van Houten was the first to add alkaline salts to powdered cocoa to make it mix better with water.


A form of solid eating chocolate was developed by Joseph Fry & Sons, a British chocolate maker.


Joseph Fry & Son discovered a way to mix some of the cocoa butter back into the “Dutched” chocolate, and added sugar, creating a paste that could be moulded. The result was the first modern chocolate bar.


Joseph Fry & Son and Cadbury Brothers displayed chocolates for eating at an exhibition in Bingley Hall, Birmingham, England.


Prince Albert’s Exposition in London was the first time that Americans were introduced to bonbons, chocolate creams, hand candies (called “boiled sweets”), and caramels.


Richard Cadbury created the first known heart-shaped candy box for Valentine’s Day.


Cadbury mass-marketed the first boxes of chocolate candies. In 1824, John Cadbury opened a grocery shop in Birmingham, England where, as part of the business, he roasted and ground his own cacao beans. Soon, realising that it surpassed all his other items in profitability, he decided to concentrate on manufacturing chocolate. By 1854, Cadbury had received a Royal Warrant to be the sole purveyor of cocoa and chocolate to Queen Victoria. In 1866, Cadbury’s sons, Richard and George, who had taken over the business, purchased a Van Houten machine for the factory and began to market their own cocoa powder.


Daniel Peter of Vevey, Switzerland, experimented for eight years before finally inventing a means of making smooth milk chocolate for eating. In 1867, Henri Nestlé (also Swiss) was working on a concentrated infant food formula, which required that he find a way to treat milk so that it would not spoil while in storage but could be quickly reconstituted for use. The result of his efforts, a sweetened condensed milk, turned out to be perfect for Peter’s purposes; the low water content made it possible to mix it with the chocolate into a bar that did not spoil. By 1879, Peter and Nestlé had joined to form a company. Nestlé has become the largest food company in the world.


Rodolphe Lindt of Berne, Switzerland, produced a more smooth and creamy chocolate that melted on the tongue. He invented the “conching” machine. To conch meant to heat and roll chocolate in order to refine it. After chocolate had been conched for seventy-two hours and had more cocoa butter added to it, it was possible to create chocolate “fondant” and other creamy forms of chocolate.


Canadian, Arthur Ganong marketed the first nickel chocolate bar. William Cadbury urged several English and American companies to join him in refusing to buy cacao beans from plantations with poor labour conditions.


Swiss confiseur Jules Sechaud of Montreux introduced a machine process for manufacturing filled chocolates.

1926 Belgian chocolatier, Joseph Draps starts the Godiva Company to compete with Hershey’s and Nestle’s American market.