Few products share as rich a history as chocolate. More than 2000 years ago, the Mayan Indians of Mexico and Central America created a beverage with ground cocoa beans. Cocoa beans also served as a form of money and were only consumed as they wore out.
The Spanish explorer Cortez brought chocolate from the Aztecs, in the form of cocoa beans, to King Charles V in 1528. Its formula was kept a secret to be enjoyed by nobility. Eventually the secret was revealed and the drinks fame spread. By mid-century, Spaniards were hooked on hot chocolate, mixed with honey and spices, or orange blossom water. As the Spanish royalty intermarried with other European Royalty, cocoa was given as a dowry.
By the mid-1600s, the chocolate drink gained widespread popularity in France. One enterprising Frenchman opened the first hot chocolate shop in London. By the 1700's chocolate houses were as prominent as coffee houses in England. Chocolate had reached most of the middle class throughout Europe and America, by the 19th century. Expanded sea trade and colonial plantations made raw cocoa an available commodity - and chocolate became an affordable luxury. Confectioners developed methods to make solid eating chocolate from chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar and flavorings. Thus the chocolate industry was born. Modern manufacturing methods enable retailers to sell chocolate to everyone.
For more chocolate history, check out the Story of Chocolate.