World Chocolate Day 2020 celebrated to mark introduction of food in Europe; all you need to know
chocolate has been consumed by humans for a very long time. Botanical evidence shows that the plant from which chocolate is made was first grown for food more than 5,000 years ago in the Amazon rainforest
Chocolate is one of the few plant-derived food items that are universally appreciated across cuisines and in various forms. However, the plant originally is not of western origin but was first found in Amazon rainforests and is considered native to the region. Its consumption predates 1200 BC according to some accounts.
Others say that the food was first brought into Europe by Christopher Columbus from his fourth visit to the 'New World' between 1502 and 1504.
However, more recently, 7 July 1550 is gaining currency as the World Chocolate Day, in celebration of its introduction to Europe. Even though the plant in itself is not of European origin, the 'eatable chocolate bars' as we know now were an European invention. As for its first use, there are several different theories.
According to a report in BBC, chocolate has been consumed by humans for a very long time. Botanical evidence shows that the plant from which chocolate is made was first grown for food more than 5,000 years ago in the Amazon rainforest.
The report adds that chemical residues found in ancient pottery suggest cocoa was used as food, medicine or drink by indigenous people of Ecuador.
According to a study published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, study authors from the department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver say that the plant was first used at least 15,000 years earlier than previously thought.
According to researchers, evidence from the Santa Ana archaeological site in Ecuador which was occupied between 5,300 and 2,100 years ago show cacao tree to have been a part of the diet of ancient people there.
According to a report in Hindustan Times, chocolate originated from the classical ‘Nahuatl’ word – Xocolātl. The report states that the Aztecs believed that the cacao seeds were a gift from the God of wisdom and became so popular that it started getting used as currency.
As per the BBC article, Spanish explorers in the 1520s took the cocoa beans home and spread the delicacy throughout Europe. However, early consumers of cocoa didn't care much about the plant due to its bitter taste, until someone had the bright idea to sweeten cocoa to counter its natural bitterness.
British based chocolate manufacturer Cadbury also says on its website that cocoa was first brought back by Columbus, but was popularised in Spain after his fellow explorer, the Spanish Conquistador Don Hernán Cortés, realised their commercial value. He brought cocoa beans back to Spain in 1528 and very gradually, the custom of drinking the chocolate spread across Europe, reaching England in the 1650s.
According to Wired, it was the British confectioners who figured out how to add sugar and cocoa butter to create a malleable paste that could then be packaged as eating chocolate. "The same standardised processes for extracting cocoa butter to manufacture hard, durable candy are still used today, essentially unchanged since the Industrial Revolution," the report said.
As per a report in Canberra Times, around the world, 90 percent of cocoa is grown on small family farms of two to five hectares. The report adds that just 5 percent of cocoa comes from large plantations of 40 hectares or more. As per the report, cocoa production is the major source of livelihood for around 40 to 50 million farmers, rural workers and their families in the Global South.