Chocolate. A snack that everyone knows. It lines supermarket aisles and is a popular gift on Valentines Day. Chocolate spans all age groups and can be enjoyed by everyone. However, the love affair with chocolate has gone on for much longer than is commonly thought.
Centuries ago in Central America back in 1400, the Aztec civilization treated cocoa beans as a gift of the gods and used them in religious ceremonies. They made a drink out of it, which became the first form of hot chocolate. It had such value that the Aztecs also used it as a form of currency. When the Spanish conquistadors invaded the Aztecs in the 15th century, they brought back some of the beans to Spain, where hot chocolate quickly became a popular drink. However, due to the cost of acquiring it and shipping it across the Atlantic, only royalty or the very rich could afford it.
Two centuries later in 1828, a man named Coenraad van Houten invented a device called a cocoa press. This machine allowed chocolate to be made inexpensively and thus became affordable to the general public for the first time. Capitalizing on this, companies that are well known to us today, such as Cadbury, Hershey, and Mars, ushered in a chocolate boom in the early 20th century. Today, more than $75 billion is spent worldwide annually on chocolate, and it shows every sign of increasing in the coming years.