Sunday, April 01, 2007


As Easter approaches I thought we should spend some time thinking (in addition to eating) chocolate - well who doesn't.

Origin of the word:
Chocolate When the Spanish arrived in Mexico they came across the Aztecs. The Aztec language is called Nahuatl. The Aztecs had a drink which they made from a bean they called CHOCO (bitter). They would put this bean into water (ATL) to produce CHOCO-ATL (bitter water).

The TL sound is common in the Aztec language but not in Spanish. The Spaniards mispronounced the drink CHOCOLATO.

This drink was brought to Europe (with sugar added) where the pronunciation and spelling in English became CHOCOLATE.


History of Chocolate.

Interesting information about Chocolate:
The Quakers were, and still are, a pacifist religious sect, an offshoot of the Puritans of English Civil War and Pilgrim Fathers fame and a history of chocolate would not be complete without mentioning their part in it. Some of the most famous names in chocolate were Quakers, who for centuries held a virtual monopoly of chocolate making in the English speaking world - Fry, Cadbury and Rowntree are probably the best known.

It's probably before the time of the English civil war between Parliament and King Charles 1st, that the Quaker's, who evolved from the Puritans, first began their historic association with Chocolate. Because of their pacifist religion, they were prohibited from many normal business activities, so as an industrious people with a strong belief in the work ethic (like the puritans), they involved themselves in food related businesses and did very well. Baking was a common occupation for them because bread was regarded as the biblical " Staff Of Life", and Bakers in England were the first to add chocolate to cakes so it would be a natural progression for them to start making pure chocolate. They were also heavily involved in breakfast cereals but that's another story.

What is certain is that the Fry, Rowntree and Cadbury families in England among others, began chocolate making and in fact Joseph Fry of Fry & Sons (founded 1728 in Bristol, England) is credited with producing and selling the worlds first chocolate bar. Fry's have now all but disappeared (taken over by Cadbury) and Rowntree have merged Swiss company Nestle, to form the largest chocolate manufacturer in the world. Cadbury have stayed with chocolate production and are now, if not quite the largest, probably one of the best known Chocolate makers in the world.

From their earliest beginnings in business the Quakers were noted for their enlightened treatment of their employees, providing not just employment but everything needed for workers to better themselves such as good housing etc. In fact, Cadbury built a large town for their employees around their factory near Birmingham, England. Complete with libraries, schools, shops and Churches etc, they called it Bourneville. So next time you see Cadbury's chocolate with the name Bournville on it you will know where it comes from and what the name relates to.

Origin of the use of chocolate at Easter Time:
Easter Eggs

As well as adopting the festival of Eostre, the Egg, representing fertility and re-birth in pagan times, was also adopted as part of the Christian Easter festival and it came to represent the 'resurrection' or re-birth of Christ after the crucifixion and some believe it is a symbol of the the stone blocking the Sepulchre being 'rolled' away.

In the UK and Europe, the earliest Easter eggs were painted and decorated hen, duck or goose eggs, a practice still carried on in parts of the world today. As time went by, artificial eggs were made and by the end of the 17th century, manufactured eggs were available for purchase at Easter, for giving as Easter gifts and presents.

Easter eggs continued to evolve through the 18th and into the 19th Century, with hollow cardboard Easter eggs filled with Easter gifts and sumptuously decorated, culminating with the fabulous Faberge Eggs. Encrusted with jewels, they were made for the Czar's of Russia by Carl Faberge, a French jeweller. Surely these were the 'ultimate' Easter gift, to buy even a small one now would make you poorer by several millions of pounds.

The Chocolate Easter Egg

It was at about this time (early 1800's) that the first chocolate Easter egg appeared in Germany and France and soon spread to the rest of Europe and beyond. The first chocolate eggs were solid soon followed by hollow eggs. Although making hollow eggs at that time was no mean feat, because the easily worked chocolate we use today didn't exist then, they had to use a paste made from ground roasted Cacao beans.

By the turn of the 19th Century, the discovery of the modern chocolate making process and improved mass manufacturing methods meant that the Chocolate Easter Egg was fast becoming the Easter Gift of choice in the UK and parts of Europe, and by the 1960's it was well established worldwide.


1 comment:

s.j.simon said...

lol. did you know that chocolate was banned in switzerland for many years. read this