Would you rather eat your chocolate, or drink it? (Thinkstock)
Would you rather eat your chocolate, or drink it?
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What do you picture when you hear the word chocolate? A candy bar? A box of bonbons? An Easter bunny? When we think about chocolate, we probably think of eating it, not drinking it. And we would describe its taste as sweet.

But chocolate was a drink for most of its long history. And no one would have called it sweet.

"Its the best-known food that nobody knows anything about," says Alexandra Leaf. She calls herself a "chocolate educator. She runs a business called Chocolate Tours of New York City.

The food we call chocolate is made from a plant called cacao. The word "chocolate" probably comes from the Aztec word xocoatl." This was a bitter drink made from cacao beans. Many historians estimate that chocolate has been around for 2,000 years or longer.

We don't know exactly when people first ate or drank chocolate. But it's clear that it was prized from the start. For several centuries in Latin America, cacao beans were valuable enough to use as money. According to a 16th-century Aztec document, people could trade one bean for a tamale. And 100 beans could buy a good turkey hen. Both the Mayans and Aztecs believed the cacao bean had magical qualities.

Sweetened chocolate didn't appear until Europeans discovered the Americas. They tasted the native food and drink. According to legend, the Aztec king held a feast for the Spanish explorers. It included chocolate drinks.

By the 1600s, chocolate was drunk throughout Europe. It was believed to be healthy for people. But only the rich could afford it until the late 1700s, when it became mass-produced. In 1828, a Dutch chemist found a way to make powdered chocolate. The first chocolate bar was created in 1847. By 1868, the Cadbury was selling chocolate candies throughout England.

In America, chocolate was valued during the Revolutionary War. It was included in soldiers' meals and used as wages. Today the U.S. chocolate manufacturing industry earns more than $4 billion. The average American eats at least half a pound of chocolate each month.

In the 1900s, the word "chocolate" began to include less expensive treats. They contained more sugar and other ingredients than cacao. But more recently, there's been a "chocolate revolution," Leaf says. People are more interested in high-quality, handmade chocolates. Major corporations like Hershey's have expanded their chocolate lines. They have bought smaller producers known for high-quality chocolates. Examples include Scharffen Berger and Dagoba. Meanwhile, independent chocolate companies continue to flourish as well.

"I see more and more Americans doing incredible things with chocolate," Leaf says. "Although, I admit that I tend to look at the world through cocoa-tinted glasses."

Critical thinking challenge: How did mass production allow more people to enjoy chocolate?

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COMMENTS (31)
  • fultonb-Jud
    2/11/2015 - 10:36 a.m.

    I like to drink and eat chocolate. I really like to drink chocolate milkshakes, but on the other hand I like to eat the chocolate.

  • ashlyns-Jud
    2/11/2015 - 10:36 a.m.

    I would rather eat my chocolate than drink it. I would eat chocolate instead of drink it because I wouldn't like the bitter taste of drinkable chocolate.

  • carolineb-Jud
    2/11/2015 - 10:37 a.m.

    I would rather eat my chocolate then drink it. I think it tastes better and some chocolate milk does not have enough chocolate in it it just tastes like milk.

  • ashleyi-Jud
    2/11/2015 - 10:38 a.m.

    I think I would rather eat my chocolate, because it is more filling and just seems like you are getting more when you eat it rather than drink it. However, sometimes if I eat too much chocolate I will get a headache. I also like chocolate milkshakes. I guess I like both equally.

  • samuelw-Hyl
    2/11/2015 - 11:59 a.m.

    I liked this article because I did not know that chocolate been around for about 2,000 years. I also like this article because I love chocolate. THIS ARTICLE WAS AWESOME TO LEARN ABOUT CHOCOLATE!!!!!

  • emilianar-Hyl
    2/11/2015 - 11:59 a.m.

    It is very interesting to learn about chocolate from the past. Butt I do not think that the way of drinking it is OK but they say that it tastes bad. Also what about in the future they go back to drinking chocolate.

  • kaylal-Hyl
    2/11/2015 - 12:01 p.m.

    I love this article. I like how they tell us a little bit about the history of chocolate. Like how they told us that chocolate has been around 2,000 years or more. I also like how they tell us how chocolate is made from a plant called cacao. Hope you in joyed my comment.

  • jr1999princess
    2/11/2015 - 01:09 p.m.

    The mass production allowed more people to enjoy chocolate by manufacturing sweetened chocolate and selling it.

  • aliciac-Hyl
    2/12/2015 - 12:01 p.m.

    I would NOT want to drink my chocolate. Unless its Hershey chocolate. Speaking of chocolate I can't wait til Valentines day. I am making my Valentine day cards. Yay!!!

  • caitlynnk-Hyl
    2/12/2015 - 12:05 p.m.

    I never knew that cholcet Had such a great history. The thing that i found shocking was that they served chocolate in the meal in the Revolutionary war. To me this was a very informatively article. People should read this article. I found it informational and interesting at the same time which i love. Also i can not believe they think chocoalte may have been around for two thousand years. I also like this article because it starts at the very begging of the chocolate time line. This article is good for all ages because there is a lot of things in here i bet you do not know.

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