Timeline of Chocolate Throughout History

Cacao fruit, cacao seed and chocolate being prepared

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Chocolate has a long and fascinating past, as delicious as its taste. Here's a timeline of notable dates in its history!

  • 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.
  • 1502: Columbus encountered a great Mayan trading canoe in Guanaja carrying cocoa beans as cargo.
  • 1519: Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez recorded the cocoa usage in the court of Emperor Montezuma.
  • 1544: Dominican friars took a delegation of Kekchi Mayan nobles 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 flavorings such as vanilla to their sweet cocoa beverages.
  • 1570: Cocoa gained popularity as a medicine and aphrodisiac.
  • 1585: First official shipments of cocoa beans began arriving in Seville from Vera Cruz, Mexico.
  • 1657: 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.
  • 1674: Eating solid chocolate was introduced in the form of chocolate rolls and cakes served in chocolate emporiums.
  • 1730: Cocoa beans had dropped in price from $3 per pound to a price within the financial reach of those other than the very wealthy.
  • 1732: French inventor, Monsieur Dubuisson invented a table mill for grinding cocoa beans.
  • 1753: Swedish naturalist, Carolus Linnaeus was dissatisfied with the word "cocoa," so renamed it "theobroma," Greek for "food of the gods."
  • 1765: 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.
  • 1795: 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.
  • 1800: Antoine Brutus Menier built the first industrial manufacturing facility for chocolate.
  • 1819: The pioneer of Swiss chocolate-making, François Louis Callier, opened the first Swiss chocolate factory.
  • 1828: 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.
  • 1830: A form of solid eating chocolate was developed by Joseph Fry & Sons, a British chocolate maker.
  • 1847: 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 molded. The result was the first modern chocolate bar.
  • 1849: Joseph Fry & Son and Cadbury Brothers displayed chocolates for eating at an exhibition in Bingley Hall, Birmingham, England.
  • 1851: 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.
  • 1861: Richard Cadbury created the first known heart-shaped candy box for Valentine's Day.
  • 1868: John Cadbury mass-marketed the first boxes of chocolate candies.
  • 1876: Daniel Peter of Vevey, Switzerland, experimented for eight years before finally inventing a means of making milk chocolate for eating.
  • 1879: Daniel Peter and Henri Nestlé joined together to form the Nestlé Company.
  • 1879: Rodolphe Lindt of Berne, Switzerland, produced smoother and creamier 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.
  • 1897: The first known published recipe for chocolate brownies appeared in the Sears and Roebuck Catalogue.
  • 1910: 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 labor conditions.
  • 1913: Swiss confectioner 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.

Special thanks go to John Bozaan for the additional research.

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Your Citation
Bellis, Mary. "Timeline of Chocolate Throughout History." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/culture-of-the-cocoa-bean-1991768. Bellis, Mary. (2020, August 27). Timeline of Chocolate Throughout History. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/culture-of-the-cocoa-bean-1991768 Bellis, Mary. "Timeline of Chocolate Throughout History." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/culture-of-the-cocoa-bean-1991768 (accessed June 10, 2023).