Would you rather eat your chocolate, or drink it? (Thinkstock)
Would you rather eat your chocolate, or drink it?
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When most of us hear the word chocolate, we picture a candy bar, a box of bonbons or an Easter bunny. And when think about consuming chocolate, we probably think of the verb "eat," not "drink." And the adjective used to describe it would be "sweet."

But for about 90 percent of its long history, chocolate was a beverage. 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" who runs a business called Chocolate Tours of New York City.

The food we call chocolate is made from a plant that experts call cacao. Scientists trace the origin of the word "chocolate" to the Aztec word xocoatl," which referred to a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. Many modern historians have estimated that chocolate has been around for about 2,000 years or even longer.

It's hard to pin down exactly when chocolate was first consumed, but it's clear that it was cherished from the start. For several centuries in Latin America, cacao beans were valuable enough to be used as currency. According to a 16th-century Aztec document, people could trade one bean for a tamale. And 100 beans could purchase a good turkey hen. Both the Mayans and Aztecs believed the cacao bean had magical properties.

Sweetened chocolate didn't appear until Europeans discovered the Americas and sampled the native cuisine. According to legend, the Aztec king Montezuma welcomed the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes with a banquet that included chocolate drinks.

By the 17th century, chocolate was a fashionable drink throughout Europe. It was believed to have nutritious and medicinal benefits. But it remained a privilege of the rich until the late 1700s, when it became mass-produced. In 1828, a Dutch chemist found a way to make powdered chocolate, and the first chocolate bar was created in 1847. By 1868, the chocolate company Cadbury was selling boxes of 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 is a more than $4 billion industry in the United States. The average American eats at least half a pound of chocolate per month.

In the 20th century, the word "chocolate" began to include affordable treats with more sugar and additives than actual cacao in them. But more recently, there's been a "chocolate revolution," Leaf says. It is fueled by an increasing interest in high-quality, handmade chocolates and sustainable, 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 American artisans 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 (19)
  • BH-Rei
    2/10/2015 - 04:24 p.m.

    Mass production had allowed more people to enjoy chocolate because there was a lot more chocolate in stores and there were a lot more people that could afford it because there was so much more.

  • AlexisS-Rei
    2/10/2015 - 05:06 p.m.

    The productions allow more people to enjoy chocolate. The history on chocolate goes back to the 1700s. the way chocolate was first brought to the world was by a Spanish expoler named Hornandez Cortez. He went to the Aztec land were he then meet the Aztec king who greeted him with a banquet that included chocolate drinks. It remained a privilege of the rich until the late 1700s. When a Dutch chemist found a way to make powdered chocolate, and the first chocolate bar was created in 1847.In America, chocolate was valued during the Revolutionary War. It was included in soldiers' rations and used as wages. .In the 20th century, the word "chocolate" began to include affordable treats with more sugar and additives than actual cacao in them.It is fueled by an increasing interest in high-quality, handmade chocolates and sustainable, effective cacao farming and harvesting methods.Meanwhile, independent chocolatiers continue to flourish as well. Now thanks to mass production everyone can enjoy chocolate in drinks and foods.

  • AlexisS-Rei
    2/10/2015 - 05:07 p.m.

    The productions allow more people to enjoy chocolate. The history on chocolate goes back to the 1700s. the way chocolate was first brought to the world was by a Spanish expoler named Hornandez Cortez. He went to the Aztec land were he then meet the Aztec king who greeted him with a banquet that included chocolate drinks. It remained a privilege of the rich until the late 1700s. When a Dutch chemist found a way to make powdered chocolate, and the first chocolate bar was created in 1847.In America, chocolate was valued during the Revolutionary War. It was included in soldiers' rations and used as wages. .In the 20th century, the word "chocolate" began to include affordable treats with more sugar and additives than actual cacao in them.It is fueled by an increasing interest in high-quality, handmade chocolates and sustainable, effective cacao farming and harvesting methods.Meanwhile, independent chocolatiers continue to flourish as well. Now thanks to mass production everyone can enjoy chocolate in drinks and foods.

  • carolined-Jud
    2/11/2015 - 10:32 a.m.

    I prefer to eat and drink my chocolate because I like to compare the liquid forms of chocolate to the solid forms of chocolate and see how they are different.

  • tessak-bro
    8/27/2015 - 01:29 p.m.

    Mass production allowed more people to buy it because back then only wealthy people could afford the chocolatey goodness. But when it was mass produced it was sold at a lower cost so EVERYONE could enjoy the chocolatey beautiful goodness.

  • faiths-1-bro
    9/08/2015 - 09:21 a.m.

    The fact that they included chocolate in soldiers wages interests me to find out what else they included. When they had cacao beans the hens must have been scarce to trade 100 cacao beans for a good hen. That seems a little overpriced. It was very kind of England to share their brand, Cadbury,here with us in the U.S. If chocolate was bitter I wonder what else they put in it to make it sweet.

  • mckenahp-hor
    12/11/2015 - 11:54 a.m.

    The author's purpose was to inform. I learned that people used to drink chocolate and it wasn't sweet. I agree with the opinions stated in this article because it is true and proved by scientists.

  • williamm4-sch
    1/20/2017 - 01:22 p.m.

    I do not bealieve this is a healthy persue. I think this because eating or drinking choclolate is not healthy." And the adjective used to describe it would be "sweet."as you can see the idea of chocloate is good but its not the healthiest treat.

  • AvaQ-dec
    1/31/2018 - 08:12 a.m.

    This article s interesting because is states that you can have chocolate as a drink.I also found out how popular coco beans are.Who could have known that one little object could be so popular in chocolates.I also,think it would be better to have chocolate as candy and not a drink.That is my opinion and facts i found in this article.

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