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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COMMENTS (309)
  • TM2001bball
    2/06/2015 - 01:07 p.m.

    I would rather have my chocolate as a beverage because something that sweet should be drinkable as it is edible . It would be a great investment to make a store where the chocolate is drinkable as edible

    • DavisW-bru
      5/17/2019 - 08:55 a.m.

      I would rather have my chocolate in a bar so I could eat it and I don't think it would be as good if you made chocolate into a drink. It would not be the same thing as we all like it. And it would just have a different taste. I love chocolate a lot and if you blend it together it would not look as good and it would not taste the same as it would if you didn't blend it. If you have a chocolate drink you could easily spill it and make a big mess. With a chocolate bar all, you would have to do if you made a mess would be to get a towel and get all the chocolate and tow it away. But Even though I don't agree with you I think that you made a really good explanation for your opinion.

    • LucasB-bru
      5/17/2019 - 08:57 a.m.

      I think that your opinion was well written but I disagree with you. I think that chocolate should be solid because of the fact that you can spill the liquid. If the chocolate is drinkable it just wouldn't be the same sweet chocolate we all know in love. But a chocolate bar doesn't spill and when you blend the chocolate bar with other stuff to make a milkshake it doesn't look the same as a normal chocolate bar.

  • b.m2001empire
    2/06/2015 - 01:07 p.m.

    Mass production allowed more people to enjoy it because only the rich could afford it until the late 1700's, when chocolate became a mass production.

  • bronemies
    2/06/2015 - 01:14 p.m.

    i would rather do both. I mean it's chocolate the best desert and candy that was invented adn you can actually do both. eatring chocolate is the most common way chocolate is consumed. Chocolate is food for love and happiness. Drinking chocolate has lead to sevral possible ideas: hot chocolate, chocolate milk, milkshakes, etc. This article is very interesting because it is a bout chocolate.

  • dg2002lacrosse
    2/06/2015 - 01:16 p.m.

    they made it in bars and in other ways. They also it was used for wages. There are a lot of different kinds of it and different companies that own it.

  • courtneyf-Sch
    2/06/2015 - 01:53 p.m.

    i think chocolate could go both way's but for me i would eat and drink it drink it if its chocolate milk and milkshake and from a chocolate fountain what other way is there to drink chocolate.

  • maryas-Che
    2/06/2015 - 01:56 p.m.

    I would rather eat a chocolate than drink it because i cant even stand chocolate flavored drink or , especially, ice-cream so whats the point of drinking it. I feel like they add more sugar and other ingredient inside a chocolate drink but i do agree that chocolate have nutrition and medical benefits.

  • coadyc-Sch
    2/06/2015 - 01:57 p.m.

    This would count as a secondary source, because the person, even though she is an expert, did not live in that era, or witness it first hand. She also, though, gave good details, and little to no opinions.

  • devanburritt-war
    2/06/2015 - 02:03 p.m.

    I love how the early people had chocolate I don't think I would be able to live without chocolate it is so good and Im glad that, that guy made the first chocolate bar that long ago because there have been so many new flavors of chocolate to try and enjoy!

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