How the “food of the gods” became a remedy and treat for body and soul, and found its way from the Aztecs, via the royal and aristocratic courts of Europe, to Switzerland.
As far as the Aztecs were concerned, cocoa was heaven sent. “Chat Ekchuah”, the god of the cocoa bush, made a gift of this “food of the gods” to mankind.
The drink the Aztecs prepared from cocoa, “xocolatl”, or chocolate water, was a bitter, rather salty drink.
Years later, a Spanish chronicler wrote: “This drink is so healthy and nutritious that anyone who has drunk a bowl of it can travel for a whole day without needing to eat.”
Initially, chocolate was consumed in liquid form only. It is claimed that nuns at a nunnery in Chiapas invented the sweet chocolate drink, a blend of cocoa, vanilla and cane sugar, around 1550.
The drink was long regarded as a luxury at the royal and aristocratic courts of Europe. It was Anna of Austria, the wife of King Louis XIII, who first made chocolate popular in France. She instructed Colonel Chaillion to produce and sell chocolate. He opened the first chocolate shop in Paris in 1675.
The first chocolate house had opened in London back in 1657.
Initially, in Germany, chocolate was classed as a drug, under the name “choccolata indica”, together with other plants from the New World. In 1753, the early oenologist Johann Paul Knohll, author of the work “Der Curiöse und Offenhertzige Wein-Arzt”, or “The Curious and Candid Wine Doctor”, recommended chocolate combined with other ingredients as a universal remedy for every situation. By 1800 it was already widely known that chocolate was delicious, and not just in liquid form. In Hamburg alone there were 400 confectioners who made delectable chocolate treats.
From the middle of the 20th century, the image of chocolate gradually changed from that of cure and treat for the body, to a luxurious cure for the soul.
François-Louis Cailler, Daniel Peter, Theodor Tobler
In 1819 François-Louis Cailler opened one of the first, mechanised chocolate factories in Corsier, near Vevey, Switzerland. Chocolate had thus entered the country where it was soon to find its greatest supporters and pioneers. Switzerland is the birthplace of chocolate as we know it today.
In 1875 Daniel Peter invented milk chocolate. In 1863 the butcher’s son married the oldest daughter of F.-L. Cailler and, with the help of his friend Henri Nestlé, tried to create a new product - milk chocolate. It took years of research for this to become a hit with the public.
In 1879 Rodolphe Lindt developed a process, conching, which made it possible to produce a fluid fondant chocolate for the first time.
In 1908 Theodor Tobler invented the chocolate with almond and honey nougat.