Chocolate has, as we see and consume it today, undergone centuries of makeovers. From the first form as a bean beverage, to a medicine, to beyond just a confectionary in the present day, chocolate has been put to umpteen uses by different civilisations in the past, and the innovations aren’t stopping anywhere.
Cocoa beans were widely used in barter by the Mexican civilisations. They were used as currency to procure animals, meats, fruits and vegetables, and even the various services of people.
Earlier civilisations firmly believed in chocolate as a source of vitality and vigour. Its energy-enhancing and fatigue-fighting powers led to its consumption by kings, noblemen, and warriors.
The addition of sugar to cocoa took place in the 1500s, when nuns tried to satiate the Spanish sweet tooth and invented new recipes. Sugar was added for the first time, and so were spices such as cinnamon.
The Spanish, in early 1700s, manufactured chocolate in a refined manner. Cocoa beans were roasted, husk was removed and beans were ground. Sugar, vanilla,cinnamon, musk and even pepper were added, and blocks were formed. The blocks weren’t eaten though, and chocolate still remained a drink.
Much like the Mayans and Aztecs, doctors and monks revered chocolate’s medicinal values. It was believed to possess aphrodisiac properties, aid fertility and even help wither away gloom. The French were introduced to chocolate first as a medicine, and later as an indulgence. Gaining popularity as a wholesome food, it was even consumed as tablets by fasting monks and nuns.
A Dutch chemist introduced a machine that extracted much of the fat in cocoa, called cocoa butter, ensuing a refined, brittle residue. This was ground to a fine powder (popularly called cocoa powder or essence ever since), which could be mixed with water or milk for a delectable drink.