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1700 - 1900

When, in the 18th century, empiric scientists like Pascal and others laid the basis of modern science, the medical potential of chocolate faded into the background while its nutritious and delicious values gained ground. The recipe for the chocolate drink at the same time became simpler and more purified: cocoa, sugar, vanilla and milk or water became the major players, while musk, amber and medical ingredients were left out.
chocolate girl

Enjoying the taste of good chocolate became more important than its potential for curing ailments of all sorts.

”Chocolate girl”, A.H. Paine (painting from Jean-Etienne Liotard) 1702-1789 AD

chocolate china

Many chocolate museums today show beautiful collections of 18th century chocolate china. A logical conclusion from this would lead us to say that drinking chocolate must have been very popular then. The reality was quite the opposite: its consumption stayed far below that of the already popular coffee and tea and was limited to rare occasions and – because of its very high price – it could only be enjoyed in the highest ranks of society.

Chocolate jug, cup and sugar pot from Paris, 1730-1760 AD

A complete set of chocolate china was nothing more than a means of displaying one's wealth since it meant that one could afford regular chocolate consumption. So chocolate consumption remained very limited in those days and chocolate china served as a kind of barometer for the family assets.

1725: Botanist Henry Sloane dedicates the first complete monograph to the cocoa tree.

1726: King George I raises taxes on chocolate sales and consumption.

1728: The family Fry sets up the first chocolate factory in Bristol, UK, using hydraulic machinery and equipment to process and grind the cocoa beans.

1732: The French artisan Debuisson invents a table to grind cocoa. It still needs manpower but it makes the processing more efficient and the hard work a little more comfortable.

1737: The cocoa tree gets an official Latin botanical name from Linnaeus: Theobroma cacao. The name refers to the mythical background of the tree and means literally: “cocoa, food of the gods”.

Although cocoa originates from the Americas, the United States only got to know chocolate in 1765. It was John Hannon – an English state commissioner – who first introduced it there. Together with Dr. James Baker, they built the first chocolate factory in Massachusetts. 

1778: In France, Doret built the first machine that automatically ground cocoa beans.

1822: Global cocoa demand is on the rise as the world gets more and more excited about chocolate. But political instability grows in Latin America and plantation workers become scarce. Therefore cocoa traders seek new soil in which to grow the precious tree, which they find in Ecuador, Brazil, Asia and Africa. It will take quite a few attempts, over decades, in Africa though, before cocoa really becomes a success. As a consequence, the cocoa trade gradually shifted from the ancient to the newer plantations.

Van Houten cocoa press, 1828 AD Van Houten cocoa press, 1828 AD

In 1828 the Dutchman Coenraad Van Houten established a very important invention that would have an impact on the rest of the history of cocoa and chocolate: the cocoa press. This press makes it possible to separate cocoa solids from cocoa butter. In fact, with this innovation Van Houten was the first to establish a defatted cocoa powder that becomes much easier to dissolve in water or liquids.

In 1840 the first pressed chocolate tablets, pastilles and figures are produced in Belgium by the chocolate company Berwaerts.

Historians still argue about who produced the first ever chocolate in solid form, as the hard and shiny chocolate we are familiar with today. However, the British family Fry claims to have marketed the first ever solid chocolate bar in 1846: an important, historic step. We must not forget that chocolate was originally consumed mainly as a drink, as a liquid. It was processed in some cookies and cakes, but never consumed in solid form. Progress in cocoa and chocolate production and industrialization made it possible to give chocolate creative and innovative shapes that would forever change its appearance.

After Baker and Hannon, another important name in the American chocolate history is Ghirardelli, an Italian confectioner. He often traveled to Peru and started exporting beans to San Francisco to sell them to the gold prospectors. By 1860, Ghirardelli discovered by chance how to produce almost completely fat-free cocoa powder. One of his employees had put some leftover ground cocoa beans in a cotton bag and left them overnight. The following morning Ghirardelli discovered that the cocoa butter was absorbed by the bag and had seeped onto the floor. Ghirardelli later engineered a way to extract cocoa butter from ground cocoa to create a very soluble cocoa powder.

In 1865 chocolate was first mixed with hazelnut paste in Italy: the first gianduja was born. It became a very popular recipe that even led to the major success of “gianduietti”, small bonbons of pure gianduja.

In many European countries at the end of the 19th century chocolate became legally protected because it had by then become the subject of a wide-scale fraud: many manufacturers produced cheap chocolate by replacing cocoa with cocoa shells and cocoa butter by other fats. At the same time, many governments developed a growing sense of responsibility for safety and purity of foodstuffs. In the main parts of Europe, chocolate could only be labeled as chocolate if it contained at least 32% of pure cocoa solids. In Belgium, the government determined it at 35% in 1894. Strict control and legal prosecution of food forgers led to an overall quality improvement of chocolate.
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