The history of chocolate begins with the discovery of the first cacao plants in Mesoamerica about 4,000 years ago. From there, chocolate had to travel to Spain, into all of Europe, and then back over to America and the rest of the world. As chocolate became more and more available it was constantly evolving, through many trials and much experimentation, to become the household staple we all know today.
1200 B.C – Chocolate in Mesoamerica
Dating as far back as 1200 B.C., the Olmecs were the first to cultivate and consume cocoa, but different from how we consume chocolate today, they actually primarily drank it.
However, like today, chocolate has always been highly revered regardless of how each culture chose to consume it. The Mayans would call chocolate the drink of the gods–sometimes mixed with chilis, honey, or water, and was enjoyed at every meal.
The Aztecs considered chocolate more valuable than gold and used cacao beans as currency. When they crafted clay pottery with ornate designs, they even featured cocoa in a broad variety of art, tools, and valued artifacts.
Even more interesting is that the Aztecs also invented and hand crafted the Molinillo, an intricate wooden tool with different style rings incorporated at the bottom. The Molinillo performed the same function as modern day milk frothers, to blend and froth the chocolate to aerate it and develop a complex flavor.
1500s- Chocolate Entering Spain
It’s not completely certain who is responsible for bringing chocolate back to the Americas, but we do know that it was introduced to Spain first. Both Christopher Columbus and Hernan Cortes have both been credited for bringing cacao beans back from their journeys of exploring the Americas in the 1500s.
The native method was too bitter for Spain and European tastes so they added cinnamon, cane sugar, and vanilla. As a result of chocolate becoming so popular, elite chocolate houses were created throughout European cities during this period as a way to serve this hot chocolate to wealthy aristocrats.
1828- Creating Cacao Powder in Europe
Cacao spread rapidly across Europe, but it remained exclusively a beverage for over 3,000 years until 1828. A Dutch gentleman named Coenraad van Houten, more than 100 years after cacao was introduced to Europe, had created the first Cocoa Press. The Cocoa Press provided a method for separating out the cocoa butter leaving what is called “cocoa cake,” which could be pulverized into a substance we now know as cocoa powder.
Van Houten, a chemist and chocolate maker, also invented the process of treating cocoa mass with alkaline to remove bitterness, mellow the taste and improve its ability to blend; the resulting product was and is still called “Dutch Process Chocolate” or “Dutched Cocoa”.
With the cocoa press and Dutching process, Van Houten went on to become the father of “Eating Chocolate” which was a method that also made chocolate more affordable for everyone to enjoy.
1876- The First Chocolate Bar
It wasn’t until 1876 that the chocolate bar was invented. Henri Nestlé (yes that Nestlé) came up with the idea and process to incorporate milk and voilá– milk chocolate was brought into the mass market.
With these new techniques and technologies, chocolate could be precisely blended to create a variety of tastes, flavor profiles, and textures, which led to the creation of the first “eating chocolate”- or chocolate bar. Following this evolution, varieties of chocolate exploded. The molding possibilities of “eating chocolate” allowed it to become used in much more creative ways and formed into the shape of chocolate that is recognizable today.
1983- Marich was Founded
Originally from Holland, Marinus van Dam founded Marich in 1983. He attended Candy Technology School in Holland until deciding to move to America to work at a small confectionery company in Ohio.
In 1959 Marinus began to build his own company and worked diligently until 1983 when the Marich Confectionery Company was officially founded.
2021- Chocolate Today
Marich remains a family business as Marinus’ sons, Brad and Troy, run the Marich factory together.
Chocolate today is readily available today and in more combinations of flavors than even Coenraad van Houten could have ever imagined. While we still enjoy a nice hot chocolate on a cold day, chocolate consumption is now favored as an edible treat rather than it’s traditional liquid form.
At Marich, we believe that making extraordinary chocolates involves tremendous amounts of care. We were raised to appreciate quality and artisanship in all things, particularly in the chocolate we use (and eat). Being purists and aspiring to the highest standards, all Marich chocolates are made of the finest ingredients that conform to the proper Standards of Identity.