Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How Cacao Became Candy

So how did an ugly pod, containing beans which were dried and used as a bitter drink, valued as money in ancient times and used in religious rituals, become a favorite staple in the candy world we know today as chocolate?
Cacao was found in the residue on pottery over three thousand years old and studied recently by anthropologists. When King Montezuma of the Aztecs mistook the explorer, Hernando Cortes, for a deity, he happily served a bitter chocolate beverage at a special feast. The Spaniards observed that the drink was served to the king with great reverence.

Cacao pods {PD}
Jose de Acosta, a Spanish Jesuit missionary was unimpressed with the bitter drink, describing its taste as “unpleasant,” but observed the importance with which the Aztecs regarded it. When cacao was taken back to Spain, and the people of the royal court learned to mix it with honey or cane sugar, the love affair with the bittersweet substance began in earnest. 

By the 1700s chocolate was considered a fashionable drink, and even thought of as nutritious and medicinal. Not until late in that century, with the invention of the steam engine, could chocolate be mass produced and available to more people. 

In 1815, Conrad van Houten, a Dutch chemist, reduced the bitterness of chocolate by adding alkaline salts. He took the production of chocolate further with taking about half the cacao butter out of the chocolate liquor. Chocolate liquor is the paste left after the beans have been skinned, dried, fermented, and ground into a paste, or mass. In 1828, the product left after removing half the cocoa butter and ground into powder was called “Dutch cocoa.” This paved the way for the making of chocolate candy.

In 1847, Joseph Fry added melted cacao butter back to create a moldable chocolate. This chocolate could be made into bars, but wasn’t yet common.

As documented at The Candy Professor you will find the list of popular candies from 1857were often hard candies and came in flavors less familiar to us such as birch, clove, and rose, alongside those we know of, like peppermint, lemon, and butterscotch. It wasn’t until the 20th century that chocolate became a common candy for children.

Cadbury, an English company, began selling boxes of chocolate candies in 1868. A few years later, Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle teamed up to create milk chocolate by adding milk powder to the liquor. 

{PD} Hershey's Conche, early 20th Century
Swiss candy maker, Rudolphe Lindt, invented the “conche” in 1879, a machine that further processed cacao into the smoother chocolate we have today. Rumor had it that Lindt left on a mixer containing chocolate overnight. He was distraught over this accidental occurrence until he realized that the long mixing process had removed the grit usually found in chocolate. We’ll never know if this “accident” truly happened, but Lindt did discover the conching process, which takes the cocoa from the dry phase, to a paste, and finally a liquid phase. It also removes acids which can effect the taste. This helps create the superior smooth chocolate product used today to make the confections we love. 

From there, confectioners, such as Hershey’s went on to produce their chocolate-covered caramels late in the 19th century. By the 20th century, chocolate became more readily available in bars and other affordable treats.

{cc} Dwight Burdette, 2012

Today, Americans can find a large variety of chocolate candies in heart-shaped boxes or other packaging, to spoil their Valentine. What is your favorite chocolate treat to share (or not)? 

Kathleen Rouser has loved making up stories since she was a little girl and wanted to be a writer before she could read. She desires to create characters, who resonate with readers and realize the need for a transforming Savior in their everyday lives. Her first full-length novel, Rumors and Promises, was published by Heritage Beacon Fiction, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, in April, 2016.

Previously a homeschool mother of three, she more recently has been a college student and is sometimes a mild-mannered dental assistant by day. Along with her sassy tail-less cat, she lives in the Midwest with her hero and husband of 35 years, who not only listens to her stories, but also cooks for her.

Find her at:

Website: kathleenrouser.com 
Twitter: @KathleenRouser
Pinterest: https:/ /www.pinterest.com/kerouser/


  1. I love chocolate in many forms, haha. Peanut butter cups are the best of two fantastic worlds!!

  2. So do I, Connie! Another great combination is chocolate with almonds. Yum!

  3. Wow, Kathleen, that a lot of chocolate information. Much of it is new to me. My favorite would be toward the bitter side with nuts in it or toffee. This is making me hungry!!!

    1. LOL, I guess it is, MRW! I, too, am a fan of dark chocolate, though I was kind of missing
      milk chocolate after writing this, so have been sampling that occasionally as well. I have
      a little dark chocolate just about every day. After all, it's good for you. ;)

  4. Great history with the development of chocolate. Chocolate with peanut butter is my favorite besides a maple centered chocolate. Kathleen, thanks for sharing this informative post for chocolate lovers. Amazing enough, I can leave chocolate candy alone but do indulge at times.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Glad you enjoyed my post, Marilyn. I thought it would be a fun thing
      to write about during the month of Valentine's Day! I have to make a
      concerted effort to leave chocolate alone. I prefer to indulge--just a
      little--almost every day.