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? Most of us picture a candy bar, a box of bonbons, or an Easter bunny. And when we think about consuming chocolate, we probably think of the verb "eat," not "drink." And we would describe its taste with the adjective "sweet."

But chocolate was a beverage for 90 percent 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 is a self-described "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. Scientists trace the origin of the word "chocolate" to the Aztec word xocoatl." It referred to a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. Many historians estimate that chocolate has been around for 2,000 years or longer.

It's hard to pin down exactly when chocolate was first consumed, 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 currency. 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 and sampled the native food and drink. According to legend, the Aztec king Montezuma welcomed the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes with a banquet. It included chocolate drinks.

By the 1600s, chocolate was drunk throughout Europe. It was believed to have nutritious and medicinal benefits. 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 chocolate company Cadbury was selling chocolate candies throughout England.

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

In the 1900s, the word "chocolate" began to include affordable treats. They contained more sugar and other ingredients than cacao. But more recently, there's been a "chocolate revolution," Leaf says. It is fueled by increasing interest in high-quality, handmade chocolates and effective cacao farming and harvesting methods. Major corporations like Hershey's have expanded their chocolate lines by purchasing smaller producers known for premium chocolates. Examples include Scharffen Berger and Dagoba. Meanwhile, independent chocolatiers 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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Assigned 368 times

  • JenniferP-Sym
    2/06/2015 - 09:44 a.m.

    It is cool that i can actually know a little bit more about my most favorite candy. Who knew that much about chocolate... its really clear that lots of people knew how chocolate was invented and where it originated. I would like to know more about everyone ( well not everyone ) favorite candy.

  • blairew-Sch
    2/06/2015 - 11:43 a.m.

    I think that this story is a secondary source. This story is written from facts and notes on how to do something. Secondary sources are based on facts and evidence and other stories that already happened.

  • Kaylab-5
    2/06/2015 - 12:22 p.m.

    This article is about how chocolate was not always a food. When it was first discovered, it was made into a bitter drink. It was a very popular drink and it was discovered about 2000 years ago. I never knew that chocolate was a drink at first. That is very cool.

  • mackinzy.oneil65
    2/06/2015 - 12:41 p.m.

    This is awesome that I know a lot about chocolate, who knew so much about it? I personally would want to do both, eat it and drink it, it would be really really sweet, but it would be cool to dip your chocolate bars in melted chocolate and eat it. Now that I know more about chocolate I can tell people the background history about it.

  • dylan.goodwin34
    2/06/2015 - 12:53 p.m.

    I like chocolate any way. It is good as a drink and hard. It is cool that chocolate has been around for so long. It is crazy how much they slavered it.

  • blakeriley45
    2/06/2015 - 12:57 p.m.

    I love chocolate. The drink doesn't sound too intriguing to me though. I might drink it if I put a bunch of sugar in it to help it go down easier. Chocolate straight though, I can't resist it. I take it when I can get it. I seize the opportunity. That's what almost what everyone does when it comes to chocolate. It looks good and tastes even better

  • MikaylaStazewski-Ste
    2/06/2015 - 12:59 p.m.

    At first I was like well this is a no brainer, definitely eat. But, now that I think about it I am not too sure I can choose because chocolate can be made into so many delicious things.

    • MaxH-bru
      5/17/2019 - 08:51 a.m.

      I disagree with you on the part about not choosing to eat it over drink it because I believe a chocolate drink would be too sweet and hard to drink if it is just straight chocolate.

  • MS01tumblr
    2/06/2015 - 01:05 p.m.

    I'd rather eat chocolate. I really honestly don't like chocolate but I'd rather eat it then to drink it. It's like asking people would they rather have money or food.

  • GD2000marinecorp
    2/06/2015 - 01:05 p.m.

    Mass production allowed for more people to enjoy chocolate because if there more people buying chocolate, the more chocolate producers would get paid, and the more chocolate is produced.

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