The question of “why” is always my favorite question when it comes to food, as there’s almost always a story , or an angle to a story, that I find fascinating. You can have your “What is chocolate?”, “Where does chocolate comes from?”, or “How is chocolate made?” questions. Me? I love finding out why we are eating the stuff in the first place.
It’s not as if someone, somewhere, woke up one morning and stated “I believe I’ll invent the chocolate bar today.” No. There’s a reason why we have chocolate bars, a particular void that it filled. That void? What a tremendous pain-in-the-ass it was to make a cup of hot chocolate. For before there was chocolate: the candy, there was chocolate: the drink.
As I mentioned in a previous post, making cups of hot chocolate involved a lot of work, and required a fair bit of skill to do correctly. But it was doable. So much so, that drinking chocolate became the in fashion thing to do if one was in the upper class of Europe in the 17th century. It didn’t take long for the drinks to migrate from the Courts of Europe to the newly en vogue coffee houses of London.
The problem? While coffee (as well as tea, the other newly appreciated beverage of the British) required little overhead in regard to time and money when it came to making a drink, chocolate was both expensive, and a right pain-in-the-ass to make. For those of you who have worked food service, think back to the one dish or drink that you hated to make. In the London coffeehouses of the late 1600′s and early 1700′s, that hated item was chocolate.
Innovation was bound to happen. And it wasn’t as if the idea wasn’t already out there. The Aztecs had developed a small cocoa “tablet” that they gave to their soldiers for them to make chocolate drink. A weak and watery chocolate, but a chocolate drink nonetheless.
From 1728, when one Walter Churchman was granted Letters Patent for chocolate making by George II to make chocolate more palatable, to 1828, when In 1828 Casparus van Houten Sr. patented an inexpensive method for pressing the fat from roasted cocoa beans, the goal was to create a quicker, easier way to make chocolate drink, not chocolate candy bars.
That their results ended up with a chocolate “cake” (read – candy bar) that was edible unto itself? Well, that was just happenstance. It was this happenstance upon which many players in the chocolate world later focused their attention, names that would be recognizable today – J.S. Fry’s, Cadbury, and the Nestlé Company. These three companies all played major roles in the history of the chocolate bar. But for all of their accomplishments, the chocolate candy bar, as we know of it today, really didn’t come into being until the mid 1800′s.