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    The Belgian Chocolate Makers - Thursday 24 March 2021

    From Xocolat to Belgian chocolate

    The Theobroma Cacao, or the food of the Gods, is what we all know as the cocoa tree. Its origins can be traced back to the rainforests of America. This tree was first grown by the Mayans in 300 AD. And it is obvious as well that the Aztecs had their chance to cultivate it in 1100 AD.

    However, they didn’t turn it into candy bars back then. Instead, they brewed the powder in a similar way to how we are making coffee nowadays. This special drink called Xocolat was also made with chilies, anise seeds, vanilla, cornmeal, and a few other spices. Served in single-use gold cups, only the wealthy could enjoy Xocolat, while the common man could only dream about this delicacy.

    How the Europeans discovered chocolate

    It is said that a shipload of coconut beans was intercepted by Columbus, who allegedly ordered the cargo to be destroyed because it was "nothing but sheep’s droppings". Luckily, he amended his error and took the first shipment of coconut beans back to Spain when he returned from America. But nothing much about coconut or chocolate could be heard for quite some time until some Spanish monks discovered the taste of crushed coconut beans in the form of a hot drink.

    The expense of importing cocoa limited the enjoying of chocolate only to the rich and it soon became a status symbol among the Spaniards. It takes chocolate 100 years to find its way over the rest of Europe. Chocolate companies opened all over the continent, still offering the treat to a very wealthy clientele.

    Grinding the roasted coconut bean was a costly labor-oriented affair. However, the industrial revolution helped mechanize coconut grinders, leading to a dramatic drop in the price of ground coconut, the mother of all chocolates.

    Chocolate crossed the Atlantic ocean

    At the end of 1700s, chocolate was sold in the form of cakes, rolls and sundried chocolate coated pastries and desserts. All these delicious sweets were sold by the chocolate companies mentioned above and also cooked in the homes of the wealthy by their servants.

    Back across the Atlantic, the business that began the process of mass-producing chocolate was called Bakers Chocolate Company. This was about ten years before the American revolutionary war broke out, in 1775.

    When the chocolate became popular...

    No other condiment in modern memory has been as popular as chocolate. Some also thought that it contained medicinal qualities and that one of the reasons behind the success of Bakers Chocolate Company was that its products had therapeutic properties.

    A process known as dutching was invented in Amsterdam. The dutching process chocolate involves the extraction of the cocoa butter from the chocolate, resulting in a smoother texture of the still-popular beverage.

    The birth of chocolate candies

    It wasn’t until the middle of the 1800s that chocolate could be produced in a molded form and the chocolate bar was born. If the Dutch chocolate was sweetened and then added back into the cocoa butter, it became a delicious sweet that could be molded. With the birth of the candy bar, soon came milk chocolate candy and Swiss chocolate.

    Valentine’s Day was already a popular day, but when Cadbury came out with a heart-shaped chocolate box, it turned into a great success. Today we know what an important moment it was in the history of chocolate!

    Chocolate in the modern day

    From the day chocolate set its foot on American soil, people fell for it, creating thousands of goodies with chocolate as the main ingredient. Enthusiasm soared so high that a Belgian confectioner founded the Godiva factory in Brussels, back in 1926, and the company is still growing strong today. Since that time, hundreds of other chocolate companies, including The Belgian Chocolate Makers, opened their doors and never stopped to expand!

    What does it take to make chocolate?

    Elisabetta Passafaro

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