A Brief History of Chocolate and The Technology Behind It

Chocolate is the most popular sweet treat in the word. It is a perfect gift, a favourite snack and a “guilty pleasure” for some. It is a part of almost any celebration and special occasion. Kids love it, grownups love it, and even the Gods love it according to the meaning of “Theobroma cacao” (cocoa tree) in Greek which translates to “food of the gods”. Taste isn’t the only thing that makes chocolate great; it is very nutritious and loaded with powerful antioxidants. Continue reading to find out more about the history of chocolate and the technology behind the chocolate bar.

chocolate making

source: chocolate.org

Chocolate has been around for centuries. It all started with the ancient Mayans who prepared it as a drink and believed it was a gift from the Gods. It was made by grinding the beans from the cacao drink and mixing them with water. This drink wasn’t the same as the one we drink today though; it had bitter taste and was often mixed with chilli. Mayans and Aztecs used this chocolate drink after battles and during religious rituals.

Around the 16 century, chocolate was becoming the most popular drink in Europe, thanks to Hernán Cortés, a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition to conquest the Aztec Empire. He was gifted with the miraculous drink which at first he didn’t like. However, his men sweetened the drink with sugar cane and added vanilla for flavor which made it incredibly delicious. During the 18 century, hot chocolate grew in popularity among rich Europeans, but it wasn’t until 1828 that the real chocolate “craze” has begun.


source: theweek.in

In 1828, Casparus van Houten Sr. invented a method to separate the fat of the cocoa bean. This invention is known as the “chocolate press” and it is the first food processing equipment used to create the cocoa powder. Houten’s son, Coenraad Johannes van Houten treated cocoa with alkaline salts to remove the bitter taste and make the powder more water soluble.

In 1847 a British chocolate company known as J. S. Fry & Sons or just Fry’s produced the first chocolate bar. By using food equipment such as moulds and combining sugar, fat and liquor Fry’s changed the game. Soon enough, milk chocolate bars were born. Daniel Peter was one of the first chocolatiers who added powdered milk to the mix and contributed to the most popular chocolate treat we know today. Some of the major chocolate brands such as Nestle, Lindt and Cadbury started with chocolate production during this period. Rodolphe Lindt invented a food machine known as the conching machine to give chocolate bars a nice texture.

chocolate technology

source: confectioneryproduction.com

Up until 1914 chocolate has been imported in Australia from the US and Europe. Earnest Hillier claimed to be Australia’s first chocolate-manufacturing company. He opened his chocolatier business in 1914 and started selling locally made chocolate which contained a high amount of liquor. These chocolates were carefully selected and handmade because the food processing equipment Australia has to offer nowadays was unavailable at the time.

In 1922 Cadbury opened a factory in Hobart, since Australia was one of their biggest export markets, and Tasmania offered cheap provision of hydro electricity, quality dairy production and cool climate. The factory operates to this day and some of the first conching machines can still be seen on site. Cadbury’s chocolate was advertised as ‘Absolutely pure…therefore Best’ and their product brought them worldwide success.
With the advancement of technology and commercial food equipment the chocolate industry grew and there were more and more Australian chocolate factories such as MacRobertson’s Steam Confectionery Works, Haigh’s Chocolates and Darrell Lea. Nowadays Australia is the home of some of the best chocolate brands in the world.


source: theweek.in

The amazing process of turning the bitter cocoa beans into the most delicious chocolate bars starts with sorting, cleaning and roasting after they had been fermented and dried. Then, the shells of the beans are removed using a cacao winnower, followed by grinding of the nib with the use of a chocolate melanger. The next stage of chocolate manufacturing is performed with a conching machne. This process is used to give the chocolate a velvety texture. The final process is temping which results with sheen surface of the chocolate bar and a crisp bite. Some of the other food processing equipment Australia top-brands use to produce the finest chocolate is moulding wheels, coating machines, chocolate filling machines, depositors, analyzers and many more. Of course the advancement of commercial food machinery doesn’t stop here and we are yet to witness even more revolutionizing inventions in the chocolate industry.

One important segment behind the delicate process for mass-production of premium quality chocolate is supply. According to the latest reports, the industrial chocolate market size is expected to grow by 2059 tons by the end of 2023. In order to meet market demand, the industry has to solve its biggest problem – the cocoa supply chain. The supply process is extremely complicated and it has been interlaced with alarming issues such as slavery, child labor, poverty, and deforestation. One promising solution to this is blockchain technology. Blockchain offers the ability to track the cocoa beans from harvest to the final product. This way, chocolate producers can know which farmers harvested their beans and offer more money to reward them. Farmers can choose to invest their money in sustainable and safe business practices which hopefully will eventually result in eradication of the issues mentioned above.

The history of chocolate and its production are rich as its taste; hence chocolate has been an inspiration for many great film directors and writers. We have Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory from 1971, and later in 2005, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, both based on the novel by Roald Dahl. There is also Chocolat from 2000 which tells the story of a woman and her daughter who open a chocolate shop in a small French village. Maybe you can watch them next time you enjoy your favorite chocolate bar.