Let’s look at the history of this ‘food of the gods’ that was only available to rich and famous people the world over at one stage. The industrial revolution meant that this delicious superfood gradually became readily available to all and to this day we can freely enjoy the passion that so many of us are addicted to:
The treat that now lies quietly in its wrapper carries a story of exotic places, long journeys and small families that raised delicate tropical fruit trees.
As you peel back the wrapper, you’re uncovering the cacao tree’s seed—and joining people the world over who have turned to this mysterious food for ritual, medicine and sheer pleasure for the past 4,000 years.
How do the beans in chocolate farmers’ hands become decadent sweets in yours? Let’s explore how chocolate is made … the story of chocolate:
The ancient Mesoamericans who first cultivated cacao plants found in the tropical rain forests of Central America fermented, roasted and ground the cacao beans into a paste that they mixed with water, vanilla, honey, chilli peppers and other spices to brew a frothy chocolate drink.
However, evidence suggests the fermented, roasted, and ground beans of the Theobroma cacao, can be traced to the Mokaya and other pre-Olmec people, with chocolate beverages dating back to 1900 BC. The seeds had so much value they were served to their gods in gold goblets or used for religious rituals and as a medicinal drink with no recipes for personal use. Unfortunately the Olmecs did not have a written language so little evidence remains of how the beverage was processed but it may have been fermented and served as an alcoholic beverage as early as 1400 BC.
The Aztecs believed that cacao seeds were the gift of Quetzalcoatl, the God of wisdom and the seeds had so much value they were used as a form of currency. Originally prepared only as a drink, chocolate was served as a bitter, frothy liquid, mixed with spices, wine or corn puree. It was believed to have aphrodisiac powers and to give the drinker strength.
The Mayan people, by contrast, leave some surviving writings about cacao which confirm the identification of the drink with the gods. The Dresden Codex specifies that it is the god of the rain deity Kon, The Madrid Codex that gods shed their blood on the cacao pods as part of its production. The consumption of the chocolate drink is also depicted on pre-Hispanic vases. The Mayans seasoned their chocolate by mixing the roasted cacao seed paste into a drink with water, chile peppers and cornmeal, transferring the mixture repeatedly between pots until the top was covered with a thick foam.
By 1400, the Aztec empire took over a sizeable part of Mesoamerica. They were not able to grow cacao themselves, but were forced to import it. All of the areas that were conquered by the Aztecs that grew cacao beans were ordered to pay them as a tax, or as the Aztecs call it, a “tribute”. The cacao beans became a form of currency. The Spanish conquistadors left records of the value of the cacao bean, noting for instance that 100 beans could purchase a canoe filled with fresh water or a turkey hen. The Aztecs associated cacao with the god Quetzacoati, whom they believed had been condemned by the other gods for sharing chocolate with humans. Unlike the Maya of Yucatan, the Aztecs drank chocolate cold. It was consumed for a variety of purposes, as an aphrodisiac or as a treat for men after banquets, and it was also included in the rations of Aztec soldiers.
Pueblo people, who lived in an area that is now the US. Southwest, imported cacao from Mesoamerican cultures in southern Mexico or Central America between 900 – 1400. They used it in a common beverage consumed by everyone in their society.
The word “chocolate” comes from the Classical Nahuati word xocolatl (meaning “bitter water”), and entered the English language from Spanish.
The new craze for chocolate brought with it a thriving slave market, as between the early 17th and late 19th centuries the laborious and slow processing of the cacao bean was manual. Cacao plantations spread, as the English, Dutch, and French colonised and planted. With the depletion of Mesoamerican workers, largely to disease, cacao product was often the work of poor wage labourers and African slaves. Wind-powered and horse drawn mills were utilised to speed production. Chocolate remained a treat for the elite and the wealthy until the arrival of the Industrial Revolution brought steam-powered engines to speed the processing of the bean. The first steam-driven chocolate mill was created by a French inventor named Debuisson in the early 18th century.
Now we can all enjoy the benefits of this amazing product whether it be by a drink or a bar of chocolate and after writing this I was desperately looking for some in the fridge or the pantry. Unfortunately I could not find any and after salivating for two hours I definitely wanted to have some so it did cross my mind that that I could go down to the chocolate factory that is not too far away from home, but because I had to finish off this article I succumbed to a bowl of peanuts and a coffee. Hardly a substitute for the real chocolate fix.
Factory and Head Office
20/8 Sustainable Ave
Bibra Lake WA 6163
(08) 9418 1666
(cnr Market and Cantonment Streets)
(cnr Market and Cantonment Streets)
(08) 9433 4331
Fremantle Chocolate is 100% Australian owned and operated by the founder of the Margaret River Fudge Factory. Situated in the famous wine growing region of Margaret River, the first of our two businesses was born in 1999. They now make over 300 chocolate products. Their factory is in Bibra Lake where you can visit and view their multi-award winning chocolates being handmade from their viewing gallery while enjoying free chocolate samples. Schools and other groups are welcome. Chocolate presentations are available on request from the factory and entry is free.
Their multi award winning chocolate is also available to buy from their sister company, the Margaret River Fudge Factory, down south in Margaret River.
Theobroma Chocolate Lounge
Shop 5 South Terrace lPiazza
26 – 36 South Terrace
Fremantle WA 6160
(08) 9433 3880
Shop 47 Waterford Plaza
cnr Kent Street and Manning Roads
Karawara WA 6152
(08) 9313 2060
Theobroma brings real joy to peoples lives by serving chocolates fit for the Gods. “They have created an environment where the consumption of chocolate is an experience itself”….and are proud to offer a wide range of hand made and Belgian styled chocolate products that will suit every taste, mood or occasion. They also have a sumptuous food and drinks menu featuring a variety of hot and cold chocolate sensations, delicious coffee and a wide range of snacks and full meals.
848 Albany Highway
East Victoria Park WA 6101
(08) 9355 1490
91 Market Street
Fremantle WA 6160
(08) 9336 7557
Hillarys Boat Harbour, Leederville, Mandurah, Northbrdge, Rockingham, Subiaco, Cockbu
The history of chocolate is as rich and compelling as its subject matter, full of drama and intrigue, heroes and villains, secret plots, inexplicable miracles and the eventual victory of good over evil is not finished.
Corner of Caves Road and Quininup Road
Yallingup WA 6282
(08) 9756 6689
Fine chocolate made from freshly – roasted cacao beans from around the world. Free tastings of the day’s fresh chocolate hand-made chocolate-dipped gelato bars and 5 senses coffee.
The Margaret River Chocolate Company
Perth City Store – 317-319 Murray Street
Perth WA 6000
(08) 9321 0610
Swan Valley – 5123 West Swan Road
West Swan WA 6055
(08) 9250 1588
At the Margaret River Chocolate Company they’re mad about chocolate! With factories in both the Margaret River and Swan Valley wine regions of Western Australia and a concept store in Perth City, they have been making award winning chocolate products sine 1999.
All three sites provide a fascinating insight into the world of chocolate, with free chocolate tastings and interactive displays with the two factories also providing viewing windows to watch the chocolate products being made.
The Margaret River Chocolate Company makes and sells a mouth-watering range of chocolate bars, chocolate coated delights, hand made truffles, novelty chocolates, chocolate sauces and much more. Both chocolate factories are open from 9am-5pm every day of the year except Christmas Day, while trading hours at the Perth City store mirror those of other city-based retailers.
Whistler’s Chocolate Co
18 Hubert Street
Belmont WA 6104
(08) 9475 0150
506 Great Northern Highway
Middle Swan WA 6056
(08) 9274 7777
Pure, Passionate, Taste of Heaven, Luscious, Delicious, Obsessive, Comfort, Life Without Chocolate – Unthinkable – Come to the Swan Valley.